Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Grief Is A Bitch

When our good family friend passed away, I wanted to die so that I could be with her. I was angry, upset and depressed and I cried for about 6 months. Cleaning out her house and having the burden of going through her things and deciding what to do with everything took a toll on my emotional well being. This was long before I realized that I was an atheist.

That all came back when I received a call that my good friend of over 30 years lost her brother. Their family is very religious and they would be somewhat disappointed in the route I've taken. I used to go to church with them on holidays and they were a very positive influence on me from the ages of 14 to 18. Although they'd probably forgive me, I keep my feelings and opinions a secret from them.

Losing a friend is never easy but when they are only 45 years old, it makes me really mad and upset. When I spoke to the father of the friend who passed away today, he said over and over again how he finds peace and comfort in knowing that his son is with the Lord and God. His sister has said the same thing on facebook.

Where do atheists find peace and comfort in death? Because once again, I'm just sad, angry and upset.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Life's Challenges. Rewards or Punishments?

Being a *good* parent gives one a very unique perspective on the universe. First off, there's the decisions to make, the biggies. Not just- vaginal or caesarean, breast or bottle, cloth or disposable. But the long reaching decisions that will effect our children for the rest of their lives. Like discipline. Spanking or time-outs. That kind of thing.

I was spanked as a child, with a belt. I don't consider myself abused, it wasn't that kind of trauma. I totally disapprove of it, but I've read "A Child Called 'It'" and talked to people who suffered horrifically as a child, it wasn't like that. Just good people who were spanked themselves and who spanked me because "that's how it was done".

The thing is, I was mostly spanked in anger, but occasionally spanked by a totally rational parent.

Now that I'm a parent, and in trying to be a good parent I have read *heaps* of parenting books on discipline and childrearing and thankfully found some awesome alternatives to striking my child, I see spanking much differently now than I did as a child. As a kid, I hated my parents for hurting me and was afraid of them and their anger.

Yet, it was the non-pissed off spankings that really creeped me out. Even as a kid I understood, a little bit, the desire to hit something when you were mad and a kid makes an easy target. (That is the lesson that spanking teaches, by the way. If something angers you, hit it. Especially if it is smaller than you are. How many spanking parents out their continue spanking their child when they grow stronger than they are? I wonder why? Maybe spanking parents should think on that a bit.)

But what kind of cold-hearted bastard saves up the spanking until hours later and applies it coldly and methodically. "This hurts me, more than it hurts you." Bullshit. If you truly abhor hurting your child, you'd find an alternative. If you genuinely believe the little bugger deserves every lash of that belt, then it doesn't hurt you at all. They deserve it.

Let's think about God the Father and his ability to discipline us, his children. Does he involve himself in our day-to-day lives up to the extent of rewarding us (miracles, answering our prayers, etc...) and punishing us for our misdeeds (lost job, poor health, sick kids)?

Some say yes, some say sometimes, some say no. (And all have bible verses to back them up. Convenient?)

For the sake of argument, let's say a person has 2 children and both are diagnosed as autistic.

How and more importantly why does a god-fearing person end up with two children with autism?

Maybe God decided that you deserve two kids with autism. Maybe he looked at the kind of life you lived (good or bad, and presumably the life you WILL live) and say, "Hmmmm, let's see here, yes indeed, two kids with autism will suit you just fine."

If that were the case, then I would be left wondering, maybe if I had actually stolen my neighbor's ass that I had long coveted and went for a joy ride up and down the streets with it and then denied it... hmmmm that's 3 commandments, would I then have no longer been worthy of having 2 children with autism? If I had been a bit worse, maybe God wouldn't have trusted me with their care. Maybe my children have autism because I was TOO good.

Or perhaps it was the other way. If you lead a life of sinful misdeeds, in spite of being raised by a Christian family, maybe God is using your 2 little ones to help you grow into a stronger, more productive Christian, a perfect member of his flock, tried in hardship and now obedient to his will.

If that were the case, then I would be left wondering, if I had just been a better person, neither of my kids would be like this. They could have been "normal" and not face all the challenges that autism will bring them in their lives. If only....

Or did God place the challenges of two autistic kids on your shoulders because he consulted his Book of Life and said,"Let's see.... max load for you is 500 ppsi and if I cross reference 2 children with autism... yep that's 475 ppsi, an average life is 20 ppsi, yep. You can handle that. We'll just keep her right at 495 ppsi and she can handle it, 'cause the Book of Life says so. Plus I'll be there to help her. Hope she's read the Footprints poem, I'll be carrying her through their whole lives. Heck, I might as well just sling her over my shoulder, this is gonna be a dooooozy. *snicker snicker*". (Yeah, God laughs in chocolate bars. *snerk*)

If that were the case, then I would be left wondering, how could God condemn two beautiful children to a life of autism as a challenge to me? Why were their brains allowed to be twisted and distorted and changed so that they cannot function the way "everyone else" does???? Why? Why?? Why??? Is it my fault? Am I too strong? Not strong enough? Too good? Not good enough?

That kind of self-doubt will eat a parent alive... Are the circumstances of my child's life, my fault?


Now let's consider God's ultimate discipline- hell.

In the course of parenting your child, it is very easy to become fairly angry with them. One careless bounce of a ball into a big plate glass window can lead to thousands of dollars in repair. It was just a tiny error that led to some very big consequences. If a spilled ice cream cone that costs $3.75 gets a slap on the hand, and ramming your sister with your bike gets her a $30 tetanus shot and you a slap across the face, and putting the car into neutral and letting it roll down the drive way, denting the fender for $450 in car repairs gets you 10 lashes with the belt.... how much physical trauma does breaking a window and costing $5000 in repair work get you? 20 lashes every night for a week?

Escalating punishment has to end some where or the law steps in. It is morally reprehensible for ANY parent to beat their child to death regardless of provocation.

So how does God, who bills himself as our "heavenly father" handle our punishment?

With God, one sin --> hell.

One "God dammit!"...hell.
One lie... hell.
One hint of jealousy... hell.
One bout of anger... hell.
Sex with someone else's husband...hell.
One murder... hell.

Wait a minute... a murder is the same as a lie is the same as having sex with someone's spouse is the same as saying "god dammit"????

Ever lasting punishment. 4 out of 6 of those are thought crimes. Victimless crimes. Yet God says you will burn in fire and brimstone for all eternity for just one of them one time.

Talk about the ultimate spanking.

I wonder what the punishment for burning your child alive is? I wonder what the neighbors would do to the person who had been found to keep their child burning for as long as possible, maybe cutting them down to heal a bit, not letting the flames actually consume the flesh, maybe just scalding them repeatedly in boiling water? I wonder if a parent could keep that going for a week or so?

I wonder how the neighbors would treat you if you were discovered to have treated your child is such an utterly repugnant, horrific fashion. Think a good ole linching might result? A little "good for the goose is good for the gander"??

Then who steps in when God, the supposed moral compass for the universe, burns somebody alive for an eternity. Not just 1 week. No, no. An eternity.

Hell is a spanking that never ends. The most hideous, ugly kind of torture that will never ever stop. No mercy. No ending. Only misery, forever.

What parent never stops? Even a physically abusive parent who beats his child with the claw end of a hammer has to stop, because the child DIES!

With god, there is no death. A "sinner" will suffer forever.

Who am I to judge god?

I am a mother. A good one. I understand about discipline and know what is appropriate and what is inappropriate discipline.

And no child, regardless of the sin, deserves an everlasting spanking.

And as for the challenges we face in our life, they are not put here by a morally bankrupt concept invented by illiterate goatherders to explain why the sky goes flash and the clouds yell boom right before it rains.

Nobody "deserves" two kids with autism. It isn't fair. It isn't just. Their autism has nothing to do with who you are as a person. It doesn't have anything to do with your past deeds, good or bad. They weren't put here to challenge you. They weren't put here to test you.

I used to think that it was awful that life was so unfair.

Then I thought, "Wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair? And all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them?"

So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.

~Marcus, Babylon 5

Sunday, May 17, 2009


When one begins to question long held beliefs about religion one of the hardest parts of the decision to let go of your theology is the loneliness, anger and frustration that can come with it.

Very often this is a journey that must be made alone. And unfortunately very often this is a journey that can result in the loss of friendships, family relationships, and a tight knit sense of community that comes with being part of a religious congregation.

Once someone gets to the point of learning, either by education or epiphany that they are losing their faith and religion and facing the path to atheism it can be liberating. Knowing that you are doing good things for the sake of community as apposed to fear of something that isn’t there becomes worth the effort.

It can also be scary.

It can be frustrating.

It can lead to anger.

It can be scary because you are facing the unknown. Leaving the warmth of religion and the folds of your congregation can be a hard choice to make. Some never make it. There are atheists in churches. They like the people and the support of a religious structure. But it is hard to live a lie once you know the truth.

Frustrating because you wish you could show others the truth you have learned. Especially for friends and family you love so much. But everyone must find their own path. They will probably think you are just as crazy as you think they are. You should try to let go, not of the relationships if possible, but the religious connection of those relationships or it can destroy the relationship.

We are all the sum of our parts.

Realizing that religion is such a small part of which most of us are can make this easier. Most atheists have friends and family who are theists of some kind. This can be hard if fundamentalism is a part of the equation. Some people will leave you and the relationship because of your decision to become an atheist. I say it is their loss, not mine. But I do understand the need to stay in the closet by many atheists. Sometimes that is the best if not only option. Anger because you have been lied to.

When I left the Catholic Church I was angry at the church and my family for lying to me. I eventually realized I couldn’t let this consume me. They didn’t do it in malice. They believe (d) they are right. They believed they were teaching me what was right. It ties into the frustration of knowing what you know and there is no way to force someone to follow you.

Learning that you are alone and no longer part of a collective is one of the toughest parts of becoming an atheist. There are ways to remedy that. You can join local atheist organizations, secular societies or even Unitarian Churches. You can seek groups on the internet.

However, once you move past the anger and frustration you can learn to continue to love and be a part of your friend communities. You come to know that religion isn’t the be all end all of who you are or were. You might even make some new relationships along the way. You continue to be a part of society, work, school, and home. You are the same person, just with one less god.

And that is the opinion of this one single atheist.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fiery: Two Unanswered Questions

There are several questions that I wished I had asked when I was in Sunday School. The first two are...

1- Where did the wives in Genesis come from?

One possibility- Other humans that were .... created after Adam and Eve??? If that were the case, then we'd not all be descendants of Adam and Eve and thus not all contaminated with Eve's original sin.

Another possibility- Daughters of Adam and Eve that weren't mentioned specifically, only the all important males were given names and birth details. Incest. Which apparently doesn't bother God (see Noah's flood and how the Earth was repopulated for just one of several examples of God-ordained inbreeding).

2- Why is nobody appalled at God's slaughter of the first born sons of Egypt?

As many times as I heard of the freeing of the Hebrew slaves, Moses found by the princess in his basket of reeds, the parting of the Red Sea, etc... I am most disappointed that this question never occurred to me. Especially bothersome is this bit here... Exodus 7:3-4 (3) And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. (4) But Pharaoh will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.

Did you see that bit there? "I" (meaning God) will harden Pharaoh's heart. So here's the mission. Moses- you go before the king. Ask him to free his slaves. I'm going to make him say no. Then I will make them suffer for not heeding your request.

If getting the Hebrew's out was so important, why not just burning bush in front of Pharaoh himself? Why all this second hand, third party, go-between business??? The miracles weren't spectacular in their awesome power. They were disgusting, horrid plagues that tormented the Egyptians, who had NO say in whether or not the Pharaoh (of the hardened heart) did what Moses asked.

Just two of many things I wish I had thought about a bit more when I was younger.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sean the Blogonaut: Introduction

I was born in a isolated mining town, Nhulunbuy, in the far North of Australia my arrival was heralded by the most destructive cyclone Australia has ever known (Cyclone Tracy- a hurricane for those of you north of the equator). In 1975 this was one of the remotest towns in Australia.

I was raised Catholic, my parents were both Catholic, although interestingly enough my great uncle was a Freemason and my grandmother a methodist. My Great, Great grandfather was a bit of an adventurer and an atheist - his dying words were "there is nothing". Two other great uncles were Catholic priests and successful gamblers.

I attended Catholic private schools until my last two years of high school - note that private and Catholic in the Northern Territory does not mean privileged. We were underfunded and accepted the dregs from other schools so essential the only difference from state schools was the fact we wore uniforms and got religion and didn’t have as good sport equipment, but it was small and everyone knew each other.

I had considered the priesthood, but when I discovered girls, that idea fell off the radar. I always seemed to win "Christian awards" at school (it wasn’t hard, as I was paranoid about failing or getting into trouble, that and I enjoyed being nice to people)

I veered off the religion road when I was 15, through reading the Holy Blood, Holy Grail and the Messianic Legacy, now while these books have the feel of conspiracy theory, the issues they raised broadened my horizons and cracked the veneer of the Catholic conditioning.

So my departure from religion was through knowledge not because I was angry at god or the kiddy fiddlers although my anger at the actions of the Catholic church now supports my rational rejection of religion. 
I formerly announced my Atheism in early 2007 after spending a lot of time investigating Buddhism (a bare bones, non supernatural, version of it).

I would like to add that I had never thought seriously about god, it was always just assumed.  Now, I am no stunning intellect, but I can tell you, any argument for god that I have come across has withered under even half-hearted scrutiny.  Dawkin’s book was perhaps a trigger in the sense that I read and thought to myself - "he really is just stating the obvious, why hadn’t I thought of it like that before."

So I would describe departure from religion as a slow drift, my experience of the world and people just did not gel with anything religion put forward.

As to Philosophical leanings now.  I would probably conform to Humanist principles.  But I don’t like the idea of tying myself down to a set of ideals and beliefs. 

So why label yourself an Atheist ? I hear you ask.  Because under that label, for the time being I think I can do the most good.  One day I hope to cast it off, or for it to be an unnecessary qualification.  Besides atheism has no guiding principles, no world view, no doctrine, it is a statement of my position on one question.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Green-Eyed Momster: Introduction

First of all, let me say what an honor I think it is to be asked to be a part of a blog that I feel helped change me and my life for the better.

My mom was only 16 years old when she found out that she was pregnant with my sister and 17 years old when my sister was born. My mom was only 20 years old when I was born. My mom and dad moved from their homes in Minnesota and started a family in Southern California when they were both in their teens. I was baptized into the Presbyterian faith at a very young age. My parents were Deacons in the Presbyterian church. My mom taught Vacation Bible School and I received a certificate for regular attendance and faithful work.

I think that they embraced the Presbyterian church since they both left their families behind when they started their family. I'm sure it was hard for them but they managed somehow. My mom and dad were very involved in the church and all I can remember is that every social gathering was a party with alcohol. Drugs and alcohol became a very big part of my life at an early age.

Looking back, I compare my childhood to be close to what a religious person would call Hell. I started smoking, cussing and basically living the life of an adult at approximately 7 years old. I've battled addictions most of my life. Long story short, my dad left our family and divorced my mom when I was 14, I lost some childhood friends in a mudslide when I was 15, then my uncle committed suicide and I just partied right through all of it.

I left my mom and step dad's home when I was 18. My landlord was going through a divorce and the only property he was able to keep was the apartment that I was living in. I moved back in with my mom and step dad for a couple of years. When I was in my early 20's, I left their home again and I rented a room in a house with two Christian girls. I soon realized how different I was from them. They would go to work, come home to eat and then study the Bible or go to Bible study at the church or somewhere else. I would usually end up doing their dishes because they were so busy studying the Bible, constantly. They started inviting me to go to church with them and I bought a student Bible because reading and understanding it was very difficult for me. It was like trying to read a different language. None of it made any sense to me, whatsoever, so I stopped studying with them and stayed home and washed their dishes and I did all of the other housework and chores. I asked them why they were studying so hard and they would tell me "Jesus is coming!" If He was coming, I sure didn't want him to see all of their dirty dishes in the sink! I moved out of that house and met my husband shortly after that and I never even thought about going to church or reading the Bible again after that experience.

Fast forward to last year... I started blogging in January of 2008. I happened to come upon this blog in April of 2008. I reached out to Poodles and I was shocked at her generosity and eagerness to help me sort through my feelings regarding my faith or lack thereof. I was searching for answers about God. I wanted to know if anyone could tell me why I felt like most of my prayers weren't answered! I wanted help and I received it. I'm very thankful for Poodles, Fiery and Evolveintobirds for helping me find peace within myself instead of searching for help from God or any other outside source. My mother in law and a very good family friend had just passed away and I was hurting and I felt alone when I reached out for help. I just had so many questions and they all took a lot of time to help me sort through my questions about spirituality.

I've been smoke and drug free for almost 11 years now and instead of finding God, I found Atheists and I consider myself one today. I'm no longer disappointed in God or God's plan for my life when bad things happen. I see the experiences as life lessons. I used to pray for good things to happen and now I take action instead of waiting for things to happen. It's working out wonderfully for me now that I put all of my faith in myself.

I'm so excited to be apart of this blog. It really has changed me and my life for the better. I'll be forever grateful for this blog, the help I've received and the friendships that I've made through it!

EintoB: Introduction

I was raised in a Roman Catholic home. My dad never went to church, and my mom and I pretty much only went on holidays and for bingo but she took all of it pretty seriously in her own way. I had a godmother that I saw two or three times a year that always gave me prayer books and religious items and encouraged me to be a "good Catholic". I was a highly imaginative child and spent many years reenacting bible stories in the alley behind our house and sleeping on one side of the bed so Jesus had room beside me. I believed deeply in God and that he was present in my life and I wanted more than anything to please him.

Yet I fell away from the church in 8th grade and began exploring many other religions/belief systems for the next several years: hinduism, buddhism, Wicca, Voodoun, Santeria and many flavors of New Age fluff.

By the time I was 21, I was married for two years into an Evangelical Christian family that had made it quite clear that I was not acceptable to them as a non-Christian. I was soon working at a bridal shop staffed by charismatics and had a "born-again" experience. For the next 15+ years I went from traditional Presbyterian to Evangelical to adult reconversion in the RC church and ended up in the Eastern Orthodox church as a fervent, zealous convert.

My religious beliefs in part led me to end my marriage of 17 years. In the two years following my divorce I spent my time searching for understanding: why did our Christian friends turn their back on me? Why did my priest not even try to help? What was the basis behind the doctrines that influenced my reasons for leaving? I was able for the first time to examine my beliefs and the very foundation of Christianity itself. In concluding that the faith and scripture was built on little credible evidence, I was left to examine whether *any* religion was true. It was scary and I strongly resisted the process, but I eventually concluded that what described what I was left with was atheism.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Gotdoubts/Poodles: Introduction

Welcome all!

First to the contributors and most importantly to any readers.

I am Poodles / Gotdoubts. It isn't that I have multiple personalities or anything, it's just that I might not remember where I have logged in sometimes so you might see me under either moniker.

I live in Suburban Salt Lake Utah. I have lived here my whole life. I was baptized Catholic as a baby, I went to church with my grandfather. I sang in the choir, I went to CCD I did my first communion.

I stopped going to church in Junior high so I never got confirmed. In my first year of High school I decided to go back and do my confirmation. I decided to read both bibles cover to cover, that is when I began losing my faith. I never got confirmed, I decided instead to being exploring all religions, I completely let go of any residual god beliefs when I was in college.

I have been an atheist for almost 20 years. I am however, married to a Catholic man who hardly ever goes to church. I am the only atheist in my family (that I know of).

I started this blog in hopes of reaching out a hand to anyone who is doubting their faith, whether they are looking to go back or move away. I think we have a great group of individuals who are contributing writers here, ready, willing, and able to answer any questions about the journey of doubt that so many people go through. We will answer from the atheist perspective. Our voices will be as different as we all are.


Fiery: Introduction

I was raised in north eastern Montana in the American Lutheran Church (ALC) which, when I was in early high school, changed to the Evengelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). I went to church every Sunday with my folks followed by Sunday school (from pre-school through graduation) while my folks visited with friends during coffee hour. Being raised Lutheran meant I was baptised as an infant, had First Communion (and the requisite classes) at the age of 9, Confirmation (and classes) during grade 7, Junior League every Wednesday throughout high school and Bible School for a week each summer (preschool through junior high). I remember I even taught one year of Bible school when I was in year 9. We did the coolest Moses and the great flood skit. Curious that they never asked me back.

if we need to vent our spleen because
By junior high I was reading my bible every night with the aid of various devotional books, listening to Amy Grant, and trying very hard to have a born again experience like I'd read about in various inspirational fiction stories.


Today I am a 35 year old owner of a used book store. I've been an atheist for 10 years now and have spent the last 2.5 years free of guilt for my non-belief and have become rather "hard core" about being an atheist. I have not, however, told my parents or people that I grew up with that I am an atheist. Some days I wish that I could, so that my Mom at least, could know the real me.

My reluctance to tell my folks stems from the fact that I don't want them to have to spend their retirement worrying about my immortal soul or face their disapproval (yet again).

Welcome doubts and doubters

It seems strange to welcome a person to their doubts, and yet it really is strangely fitting. Having doubts does not make you a bad person. Rather it means you are a person with a working brain who has a need for answers.

You've come to the right spot. (Well one of many right spots, I don't have the arrogance to think we are the only right spot.) We're here to help you find some of those answers, whether it is through sharing our own experiences or helping point you to resources that will help you find the answers you are looking for.

Each of the contributors to this blog will be submitting an introduction that tells a bit about where they started in their life (their religious background) and where they are at in their life right now. As the blog continues, we will be sharing how we came to arrive where we are now and the steps in that journey that brought us to the present.

If you would like to ask a question of a particular person, you can ask in the comments section of any of the entries they write or with just a general question you can email us at gotdoubts at gmail dot com.

Selected questions will be turned into blog entries in and of themselves.

Thanks for stopping by Doubting Faith. :) And best wishes on your journey. May you find the answers you are looking for.