Friday, December 24, 2010

The Transition: Part 1

I can split into three phases, my gradual transition into agnosticism/atheism. For this post, I will be focusing on the first phase, which was liberal Christianity. In Liberal Christianity, I had decided that the angry Christians (those that focused more on sin, judging others, and seemed to have a fetish for the Old Testament) were going about it wrong, but that the message Jesus brought to the world was beautiful and real. In this phase, I sought connections with loving Christians; those whose personalities mirrored my idea of who Jesus was.

One Christian in particular was there for me when the angry Christians really had me down (I'll get to her in a moment). With them, emphasis was always on my sin. I was a terrible witness for living with my boyfriend, as new believers could become confused by this, thinking premarital sex was okay. Next thing I know, it is thoroughly assumed that I am indeed having sex (which I eventually chose to do, but was not in the midst of all the assumptions) According to my highly respected uncle, a 70-something "graduate of Bible college who had been preaching for 40 years, many more years of experience than I had", God was probably going to give me cervical cancer for my sexual immorality. I might also die young for having dishonored my parents (it's all in the book).

Did anyone care that I was in a beautiful relationship with a man that I loved with all of my heart? Did anyone care that in spite of his depressing childhood, he came out strong, sane, and caring? Did anyone even care to get to know him? No - apparently, his background was more important than all of that. He was 'unchurched' (I don't even know if that's a word) and his family didn't have a lot of money. Even when he showed interest in being born again, he still was not accepted by these types. My mother had her eyes set on pastor's sons and missionaries. This guy was scum, and he had no business being associated with me, let alone my boyfriend. Well, that's how the angry Christians viewed it.

I didn't blame Jesus or Christianity for the actions of these angry Christians. I knew that God was perfect even though man, having a sinful nature, managed to screw up what God meant for good. At some point, I got in contact with a former youth minister's wife. I never knew her well, but her husband was the kind of Christian that I looked up to. Even though they no longer served in my church (although, it wasn't my church anymore - my membership was suspended and eventually terminated due to my sinful lifestyle), I knew they were in ministry together at another church in South Carolina. Being his wife, she probably held similar views.

This wishful thinking gave me the courage to open up to her about my life; I needed a mature, loving Christian to talk to and she was the only one within my reach, at the time. As expected, she was very understanding - she even said that she thought D (my boyfriend of the time) and I were 'the real deal'! It meant so much to have another Christian say that. She did not judge and in fact, was kind enough to share her own experiences in the early stages of dating her husband. From these conversations, I learned that she engaged in premarital sex, had mommy issues, and shared a similar frustration with those angry Christians. Not only could I relate in general, but these characteristics also set her apart from the unthinking 'bubble' Christians I was used to in my peer group - she had a 'dark past'.

Now, she was technically against premarital sex; in fact, she and her husband became 'born again virgins' at some point before they married. Of course, she gave reasons as to why it would be a good idea for my boyfriend and I to do the same. She also encouraged me to try and find a church that was 'alive' - she did not necessarily agree with my disinterest in organized religion and believed that a church alive with the true spirit of Christ was worth the search and a wonderful (and important) thing to be a part of.

Even though there were many things we didn't agree on, I enjoyed our conversations because they inspired me to look a layer deeper within myself. She didn't push anything on me and never treated me as though I were foolish or evil for questioning her words. She made points that were interesting on the surface, but it always came down to interpretation of scripture and, more importantly, whether or not the Bible was even true. Conversations involving this theme were what eventually led me into phase two: spiritual explorations.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Atheism is a Scary Word!

As of now, I do not believe in any gods, or an afterlife. At the same time, I don't think anyone can know can know any of these things for sure. This makes me an Agnostic Atheist. I secretly hope reincarnation is true, but recognize this as an after-life fantasy, one to ease the fear of death. While it's fun to think about from time to time, I could never in good conscience obsess over it. I like to be comfortable, but I think it's only possible to progress when the mind is out of its comfort zone. As much as I love comfort (and ohhh, I reeeally do!), progression is better in the long run and must be my top priority.

I've considered myself, both publicly and personally, more strongly agnostic than atheist, even sometimes denying the atheism all together; lately, I have been wondering why. So far, I've concluded a couple of things. First is that I am, on some level, afraid to fully consider myself an atheist. I am more afraid to admit it to others than I am to myself, but there is discomfort to be found in both instances.

Why would I be afraid when I know what atheism is? It seems silly on the surface. I know that atheists are not 'Ebeneezer Scrooges', bitter and angry at God', as implied by many of the Christians in my past. I know what it's like to think from a Christian mindset - and that from that point of view, it's difficult or even impossible to step outside of oneself enough to realize: just because you love God, it does not mean that someone who refuses to share that passion is simply angry at your God. The possibility does not come to mind that one could be indifferent toward a supposed God while frustrated with the negative effects of a strong belief in such a being. This is a benefit to the logical position: it does not have to get in the way of an emotional view, but it allows one to see beyond it, if needed (and it's always a good practice to analyze emotions). Even the more logical Christian (yes, they do exist), while able to analyze other aspects of his/her life, must turn off the brain in the area of (his/her) religion, in light of the faith requirement.

As a Christian, I did also notice the anger toward Christianity among atheists which, in my mind at the time, justified the 'angry atheist' argument. Now, I know (from my own experience as well as examples from others') that it's not God they have a problem with. I'm sure there are rebellious teenagers (for example) out there, going through anti-God phases, claiming atheism, the most opposing view they can find -- but that's irrelevant, considering the true definition (of atheism). I am sure, however, that when such individuals are welcomed back into the church, it only confirms to the Christian that the 'anger' theory is correct.

No - an atheist's anger is not toward God, or even toward Christian/religious individuals (usually). Their anger is more often concerning religion in general, because of how it is affecting humanity as a whole. The fact of the matter is that atheism is the logical position; it is irrational to believe in God; especially with such a fiery passion. Christianity on the other hand feeds on human emotion. Free-thinkers must aggressively fight for progression because there are still people out there, too afraid of reality and change, to abandon ideas that no longer apply. It is frustrating, to say the least, for the those involved in the effort to update the laws/views in light of what we now know. We can't move forward because the majority still refuses to look past their own comforts and feelings enough to adapt and improve.

This brings me back to the main question: why am I still afraid of the term (atheist)? Even though I am more concerned with progression and that the fact that we can't know anything for sure about the 'supernatural' (so why obsess?), it is still true that I don't believe in a God/gods. That means, however weak or strong, I am an ATHEIST! I think awareness of the misconceptions of atheism (having been so heavily exposed to them) is the main reason behind the natural tendency to avoid being associated with the term. The better solution would be to stand up for what the word really means, and to clear up any misconceptions that pop up along the way. That would require of me a willingness to defeat my inner wimp; the scared little Christian girl who avoids confrontation at all costs. It would mean getting out of my comfort zone, the very thing I claim to stand for.

Another reason (in conjunction with the former) I consider is that the misrepresented idea toward atheism was so ingrained, certain negative associations to the term still linger fruitlessly, much like the irrational guilt that I also deal with, despite all knowledge gained.

It's such an odd experience - living most of my life with a delusional view of the world, knowing nothing else ... and then gradually learning to break away, seeing what the bubble looks like from the outside. I do like that I have two different perspectives on the matter, but at the same time, it's been hard on my mind. The mind loves its comforts. It craves what's known and what's familiar. It can even bury memories that it would rather not deal with. In such a case, it could be a lot of work to bring them to the surface, but psychologists know that sometimes it is what's needed in order for the patient to heal and grow in a better direction. I think of how hard it is for ME, someone desperately trying (and struggling every step of the way) to fight MYSELF, and all of the instincts that get in the way of progression; just to think, at the very same time, there are millions of people fighting to justify these fears, giving them positive names, tying them with pretty little ribbons, and even selling them ... well, it makes me sick to my stomach.

Bottom line: I need to beat this fear! I am no longer blinded by 'the light'; there's no excuse. Staying silent, denying truths ... I think it makes me just as bad or worse than the Christians I speak against.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Jesus, Fill My Soul-Hole!

I've decided to follow this delightfully blasphemous blog that provides, as she claims, "hottie Jesus eye candy and in-depth analysis of life before, during, and after JC and company". Given my fetish for blasphemy, I can't seem to get enough! It has also got me thinking about how certain characteristics of the xtian experience can influence fantasy-life.

Now, pictures of Jesus don't really cut it for me, personally. I think it's the lesbian in me, but it takes much more than a look at a man for me to find him appealing. I can tell what's 'dreamy' and what's 'unimpressive' as far as looks go, but not at quite the same level as other women, it seems. As for my lady-lust ... I can fall in love (the 'eros' kind) from as little as a passing glance. I found a picture through a google search of Mary Magdalene, depicted as a red-head, which served as instant fetish fuel, for example. A wealth of images began appearing in my mind. the theme: Jesus struggling so much just to control himself in the presence of such a vulnerable, voluptuous woman. The thought of the loving, well-mannered son of God becoming overwhelmed with desire is what really gets me.

This same idea, only connected to the holy man in a position of power and the 'good little Christian boy', are close seconds. In the case of 'the holy man', I fancy particularly the thought of deliberately tempting him, taking it away, and then somehow exposing his secret sinfulness to the public. This is probably a way for my mind to 'correct' some past situations of a similar flavor; I hate that even though everyone struggles, leaders can easily guilt others as they downplay or even cover up their own.

Of struggling (including but not limited to the sexual kind), as much as I hate it, I love it at the same time. In this case I'm sure it is connected directly to past sexual repression. I was taught (at a very young age) that sexual urges were something to be ashamed of (as are most fundamentalist kids). Being a very sexual person, I had to find 'ways' to vent that frustration, regardless of the guilt that I knew would follow. I got into such a pattern of pleasure and shame, that now, even as the guilt no longer applies, my mind will naturally associate Jesus to those 'sexual struggles' before anything else. My past pain is now my pleasure ...ahh, the mind protects itself in such interesting ways! ;)

While not at all shocking, I find the number of ex-Christians that share my blasphemy fetish intriguing, to say the least. Perhaps on some level it's just nice to know that I'm not alone. Religion has certainly caused a lot of trouble, but now that I'm out, I think I have its dark clutches to thank for many enriching aspects of my sexual life!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Relationships with Xtians? o_0

I've recently been thinking of former Xtian friends. (I say former, but they are still 'friends' on facebook. I am actually a bit torn as to whether or not I'd like to change that, but I'll save that rant for another day!) I should mention that I am well past the pain I'd felt years ago for having left these friends behind, but the relationship I aim to maintain with my father has got me wondering how far it can really go. This all has led to the re-evaluation of friendships with Xtians of the past. One in particular, we'll call her Jovie, was undeniably one of the best friends I've ever had.

A little background information: It has always been a struggle for me to open up to people, likely due to the many 'sinful' urges I'd always felt pressured into holding back (sexuality of course, but in this case: the urge to doubt, to question, and to think for myself). Now, there were some Xtians I can recall that were stuffy or even downright mean to anyone who dared to question, blatantly viewing them as inferior/sinful. I must also remember those that made an effort to, at the very least, appear understanding as they attempted to ease the doubts or even understand. While I appreciate the kinder approaches of these individuals (obviously having sense enough know, at least on some buried level, that questioning is not in fact evil), there is no getting around that a 'child-like faith' is what is most highly praised in the Bible, as the term 'doubting Thomas' has definite negative connotations in Xtian circles.

That said, I'd always refrained from opening up even to close friends about certain things, because of the fear that they might judge harshly. Obviously, I'm speaking of religious concerns, but it went deeper than that; this fear infected the core of my being. Not only was I nervous of doubts concerning God/Jesus/the Bible/Xtians, but I became uneasy whenever I had an opinion of my own. I still spoke up from time to time within the home, if it was a non-religious differing opinion (although, my parents found ways to apply religion to everything, as 'good' Xtians often do), but that was linked to the knowledge that I may never be 'acceptable' by my mother's standards. I'd learned that early on and gradually became more and more concerned with finding acceptance outside of the home. I don't think it would be fair to blame religion entirely for my wimpish tendencies. I do however think the supposed 'positive' aspects of religion never did appeal to my personality type while the negative ones latched onto the insecurities connected to my timid nature, and fed on them like a leech.

Back on topic: I met Jovie at church, the only place I was encouraged (and eventually the only place I was permitted) to engage in social interaction aside from family, Xtian events, and acceptable extended family. We clicked on many 'important' levels (spiritual included, at the time), but more importantly an intellectual one, which was new for me. My other 'close' friends of the time had either taken it to such a shallow level that they may as well have been 'of the world' or they were more emotional than logical (not the brightest crayons...) thusly using religion as more of an emotional high. Jovie was not overly emotional and was in fact level-headed and rather bright. She took her faith seriously, but didn't get on weird levels with it the way another friend of mine did (Jesus orgasm, anyone?). She was far more bubbly than I, more confident and outgoing while also less questioning and a bit less imaginative. However, we thought on such similar levels and in such similar ways, which made me feel more connected to her than any other friend. All in all, I felt as though we balanced each other out quite nicely.

Could I have still been friends with her today? Could we still connect the way we used to, even as I want nothing anymore to do with religion? For me, the intellectual aspects of our conversations meant far more than the 'spiritual', which I, even as a serious Xtian, could never feel deeply to begin with (it was always rather forced). I can never know because I chose to assume that our friendship could not continue and acted accordingly. I'd already concluded that she could not handle the changes in me, and kept contact light and shallow until there was nothing left. It hurt, and I knew that I was hurting her too, but decided it was for the best. I robbed her the opportunity to try and understand. Maybe I was right. Perhaps one of the biggest connectors in her mind was in fact the 'spiritual' one. That certainly is often the case, and the reason behind the former fundamentalist's struggle associated with 'loss of community'. Still, I should not have chosen for her. Could I have been the one to provoke within in her the need to question, even her beliefs? She may not have had reason to doubt (she was not as abused by religion as was I, and we are prone only to change what we can tell affects us negatively) but she certainly had the capacity to see from another angle, if needed. I know that I made a mistake, but this is much more a lesson learned than a regret.

Even though I know it is important to give people a fair chance (those who have earned it, that is), I am still a bit uncertain as to how to handle certain quirks within the Atheist/Christian relationship. Should I really have the Creationism vs Evolution debate with my father, even though he, based on information slipped from our conversations, wants so desperately to believe that the nice things in the Bible are true? I'm not so sure about my mother, but I know that my dad genuinely loves me as his "feisty" (yes, as timid as I am, every so often my inner 'whipper-snapper' comes to surface) daughter and that nothing could change that. Still, the core of his belief system requires him to look at people through those black and white "believer-or-non-believer" lenses. This suggests a superiority complex, whether subtle or strong. Would this not get in the way of having a healthy relationship? I think as to what extent depends on one's personality (i.e. my mother is emotional and eccentric, so it gets in the way much more with us. My dad on the other hand is calm and level-headed). Still, it is just unfortunate that something as worthless as an outdated, fear-based mindset gets in the way at all.