God, The Enabler

First, I decided just to be upfront about who I am. After all these years, no more hiding. If this blog is simply a meeting place for all of us to discuss our thoughts and beliefs about religion and God, then I should be free to reveal my identity–and you should, too. My family and friends call me Deborah, Deb, Debbie. Call me what you like. I’m even changing my avatar. It’s the real me.

Second, make no mistake. Belief in God does make a parent’s job easier. It just does. Not better, just easier. You defer punishment to an imagined power that is mightier than you, and you harness the fear of this imaginary deity. I remember, to mold my behavior, my grandmother used to tell me, “God is watching you!,” and the trepidation that those words brought. Would he slap the sh*t out of me with his giant hand or was he making a list of all my naughty thoughts and behaviors, which would then be read on judgment day?

Ridiculous, right?

Then, like many of you, I grew up and out of my belief. And I realize now that religion is the lazy man’s way of child-rearing. There is a pre-existing moral structure in place. Honor your father and mother. Do not lie. Do not steal. Do not commit adultery. Of course we know these dictates don’t work for sh*t because the person you’re answering to isn’t a real person. It’s God, the figment created in a child’s head and nurtured through childhood by the consumers of religion. When these consumers grow older and become adult shareholders, the savvy, manipulative ones, stretch and pull and fit that God to their individual needs.

If you read the article on CNN this morning about Mark Sanford, you know that he’s proof that the god-system of child rearing is ineffectual. He makes a mockery of the whole business. He said,

I want to acknowledge a God not just of second chances but third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth chances, because that is the reality of our shared humanity,” Sanford said at his victory celebration after defeating his Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Colbert Busch. “I am one imperfect man saved by God’s grace.”

How convenient. His god forgives him. Again. And again. Like many folks, Sanford’s an addict and his god, the enabler. That’s the reality. Sanford knows that he’ll be forgiven as many times as he needs it. And God doesn’t even exact a punishment. Instead, he rewards him. “Saves” him, whatever the heck that means. How does Sanford know that he’s been saved? Did God tattoo a stamp on his derriere ‘SAVED!”?  Or does he just know he’s saved because he’s won the race and he’s in his happy place? (The answer is the latter.)

I’m curious. What kind of God or parent or judge or half-decent role model would lay down a law, and then allow a man to commit the same offense over and over and over, walking on others, breaking hearts, lying to and deceiving those who trust him? Saved by God’s grace? Hell, Sanford is laughing all the way to the seat he won in the House. You’ve got to think that a man who is capable of running for office and winning in spite of his offenses, is also capable of seeing the ruse of religion. He must know that painting an image of himself as a weak man humbled by the almighty will only endear him to his slumbering, god-fearing voters.

Let’s imagine for a minute that you or I were God. I would not forgive people like Sanford so quickly. In this sense, I am more judgmental than a Christian. Sanford broke his promises, he misrepresented himself. He didn’t just lie once. He proved he was a liar. He didn’t just cheat once. He proved he was a cheater–in and out of the bedroom. Imagine the time and energy it took to deceive his wife, his family and every other person who trusted him. Can he be rehabilitated? Maybe, but he’d have to show signs of improvement (not breaking the law again and trespass on his ex-wife’s property). He’d have to do the hard work of making amends with the people he has betrayed–not with the imaginary characters living in his head, which costs him nothing in time, energy or money.

Being honest and faithful takes a bit of work. You have to say no temptation. You have to give up what you want for the greater good or for ideals. We all have to do it. And we know all of this when we decide to make a commitment and hunker down with one person. We give our word. Not God’s word. Not the word of some imaginary wizard living in the forest. If we break our word, we betray ourselves, and that should be one of the worst offenses of all because we have no way of making an honest connection with anyone. This is what nonbelievers know. We are accountable only to the people who live and breathe on this planet, to others and ourselves–not to an imaginary father figure.

I’m not trying to pick on one person. I’m only trying to show how religion and belief in God doesn’t make us better as a people. In raising our kids without religion, we teach them right from wrong. We teach them to internalize their morality. Do the right thing. Be your word. Keep your promises. This takes more effort. We have to stay on our kids. Watch them. Talk to them. Make them pay for their offenses. Go behind and check up on them. We don’t just round them up and take them to church for their lessons in morality once or twice a week. We don’t just tell them, “God forgives you” when they’ve done something wrong. We tell them, you have to be forgiven by those you’ve offended. You have to pay. Sometimes you will never be forgiven. Sometimes, you will not be able to forgive yourself. You will fall, but you must get back up and take a different path. Learn from your mistakes. Try, as best you can, to change. Otherwise, you’re no better than the religious, on their knees, asking for god’s forgiveness once again, for the same offense.

We are free to make own choices, but that freedom comes with costs and responsibilities. For nonbelievers, no imaginary man will forgive our offenses and wipe our conscious’ clean. We have to live with our consequences. The reality of our shared humanity is that, we are all imperfect. No one saves us but ourselves.

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73 responses to “God, The Enabler

  1. Very good, well thought out entry here.

  2. I must say you’re falling guilty in this post of something I think is the antithesis of part of what you hope to accomplish in this blog. You’ve taken one person’s actions and selfish use of his religious beliefs and projected it on to every person who believes.

    Christians talk all the time, and the Bible warns against, presuming on God’s forgiveness. We do this not to be judgmental of others but to hold ourselves accountable. Repentance is a factor that Christians do sometimes forget.

    Many Christian parents also warn their children of this trap. It’s a danger, but not all Christians succumb to it.

    You wouldn’t want people to think that your children are growing up with no moral standard because you’re an atheist and, therefore, have no moral compass. Well, please don’t judge all Christians by just one either.

    • @Matthew I do try to write “most, many or some” to avoid generalizations. I was only using Sanford as an example (and many support him). I know (we all do, really) that not all xtians are the same. But, yes, as you mentioned, there is a misconception that believing somehow makes one better or more moral.

  3. Good for you, Deb.

    And yes, Sanford, to me, is just another example of the lunacy of voters and the hypocrisy of so many “god-fearing” folks. I think you have to do more to earn forgiveness when you screw up — a few words of voodoo contrition don’t cut it in my mind.

    That is the height of arrogance.

    I will forever have the picture of smug little Jerry Falwell emblazoned on my brain — people who are so sure of their rightousness are so dangerous to us all. He will always be the poster-child for the everything I loathe and fear about his ilk.

  4. Matthew,
    I think Deb’s point was that Christianity’s theology teaches that your behavior can be utterly destructive to yourself and others, but that you can be forgiven over and over. This is one of the main criticisms the pharisees had of Jesus. He forgave people whose behavior violated the social fabric of the day – the tax collector, the adulteress, the liar, and the coward. While forgiveness is a beautiful thing in appropriate doses, it is often abused by vocal representatives of Christianity. Mark Sanford is not the only one who has played the “God has forgiven me” card without seeming to have learned his lesson. And no, not all Christians are like him, but the fact remains that Christianity itself allows for this kind of abuse because of its theology. In addition, good people who are Christian, are frequently brainwashed into thinking that other Christians are morally superior to other people simply because they speak about God or attend services. It seems obvious that it is foolish of us to judge a person’s character based on his religion (or lack thereof). And yet, this kind of decision-making goes on all the time in voting booths and in courts. A friend of the Boston bombing suspect who lied to investigators was deemed worthy of being released from jail in part because he was an active member of his church. Why should church attendance have any bearing on how we judge a person’s moral character? What if he had been an atheist? Would he still be in jail? Rather than repeating the tired refrain, “Not all Christians are like that” how about standing alongside non-Christians in repudiating the bad behavior of men like Sanford who use their religion as a shield?

    • @Patricia O’Sullivan Very well stated (and gently). Thank you for your comment. I did not know that the Boston bombing suspect’s friend was, “was deemed worthy of being released from jail in part because he was an active member of his church.” That is interesting. I also like what you said here, and think it’s a great idea since there are many outstanding Christians: “Rather than repeating the tired refrain, “Not all Christians are like that” how about standing alongside non-Christians in repudiating the bad behavior of men like Sanford who use their religion as a shield?”

  5. I respect your courage in using your first and last name. Wish I was as brave.

    Methinks that too much (positive and negative) is attributed to God. I disagree, for example, with the late, great Christopher Hitchins who sees all wars as religious conflicts. I also think that people who credit their brave, selfless acts on their religion are selling themselves short.

    Anyways, I like your idea of atheists being more judgemental than religious folk. Keep up the good blogging work!

  6. Dayna Tolman

    Would like to add “Satan, the scapegoat”. “He got his foot in the door and that’s why I did what I did”. That damn Satan! Hahaha! It is all so absurd. This is great to read today. My son Tre has to stand on the red line at school today during first recess with two other students for playing tag yesterday. He knows the “no tag” rule and has lasted all year avoiding the redline. I loved his honesty in disclosing a few other times he was playing tag and didn’t get caught and even pretended once with a facial expression that he wasn’t playing tag when he in actuality was. We didn’t shame him and said the natural consequence is enough this time. We added that if he plays tag at school again regardless of getting caught then he will suffer a consequence at home by loosing an important privilege. We all hate the tag rule but it is a rule and the school has their reasons. Tre especially hates it because he absolutely LOVES tag . . . obsessively really. If the amount of time standing on the red line is excessive though we as his parents will address it with the school and make sure the punishment is fair. Thank you for this post. Both Tam and I take full responsibility for our actions and words everyday and hope to pass that onto Tre. We (him included) have been working on his tag addiction ever since he could run at 11 months. His own new goal is to finish the year out without playing tag even when he knows he might get away with it. ; )
    always with love and honesty
    Dayna

    • @Dayna Tolman That’s so sad for your son and his school mates. No tag??? I mean, really? Some of our greatest memories as kids are of playing tag. Wow. You guys are great, loving parents. I love the message you send to Tre–forgiveness, acceptance, understanding and yet, he still has to abide by the (absurd) rule set down by his school. Thanks so much for sharing that.

  7. I love the new pic Deb, and this post. Sanford is making Christians look even worse with all this god-speak and while there are many quiet christians like Matthew mentions, these noisy ones are the ones we hear from in the news rubbing it in everyone’s face that their sins have been forgiven.

    Matthew – I see what you’re saying, but I think Deb has stated many times over the course of her blog that she knows many good christians and as long as they are not shoving it down her throat, she has no problem with religion or believers. I don’t think she labels all christians based on the actions of some. I don’t either.

    • @Crystalintexas Thanks. Yes, I agree that only the noisy ones get everyone’s attention. And I do feel bad for offending people. I think it’s just nice to be able to connect with others like you who understand the frustrations of living in a society where God rules….

  8. Hello Deborah, my name is Konsta and I hail from Finland.

    Have you ever thought that of all the commandments Yahweh decided to give humanity, 30 percent were about how to pamper and worship him but exactly 0 percent deal with issues like slavery 🙂

    What I have also been thinking about quite a lot is the required respect for religious conviction. Why? Why do my hobbies or political affiliation automatically not qualify for such reverence?

    The divine forgiveness is the ultimate cop-out, as if that somehow makes everything understandable. One more thing I really loath – they sure are piling up 🙂

    • @Konsta Hi. Nice to know your name–not just your car ;).

      The commandments were just a way for god-kings to control their people, yes? Didn’t they have slaves of their own?

      One of your hobbies is dissecting religion, so seems to me that qualifies for reverence!

  9. Trishia Jacobs

    Shared on Facebook. Great article!!

  10. Wow…awesome post, well said. One of your best yet. (golf clapping!)

  11. Was going to say something about if Sanford’s reelection bid if he were an atheist, but now I’m too distracted by Dayna’s comment. Tag is forbidden in school these days!? Just when I thought schools couldn’t get any more ridiculous …

  12. I must admit I prefer Deborah to dam 😉 I too thought I should change my name to my real name back when Charity changed hers. There isn’t really a need for me to use a disguised name anyways. I just thought since I have a common name (Julie) that at the time it would be better to use an alias, but I haven’t seen any Julie’s on here yet. I also go by Juls. 😉

    Christians are always claiming that non-believers have no morals or how could they have any if they don’t believe in God? Sanford is a great example of why it’s important to be a Christian with “morals”! ;P Doesn’t it just go to prove that having morals doesn’t mean shit cause you can discard them and be forgiven time and time again! Christianity and the likes is nothing more than a huge “con” job that have suckered millions into their belief system while raking in tons of money! George Carlin was spot on with his comments about that. I know the Mormon do the tithing thing, which is 10% of their income because the Lord has commanded them to. This is an excerpt from Mormon.org

    Gordon B. Hinckley, prior President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said: “Our major source of revenue is the ancient law of the tithe. Our people are expected to pay 10 percent of their income to move forward the work of the Church. The remarkable and wonderful thing is that they do it. Tithing is not so much a matter of dollars as it is a matter of faith. It becomes a privilege and an opportunity, not a burden. Our people believe in the word of God as set forth in the book of Malachi, that the Lord will open the windows of heaven and pour down blessings that there will not be room enough to receive them (Malachi 3:8-10). Moving and touching is the testimony of Latter-day Saints throughout the world concerning this, the Lord’s law for the financing of His work.”
    I’m sure building City Creek Mall was written somewhere in the book of Malachi too! lol 
    Sorry….kinda got off subject a bit.

    • @mtprairiegirl Hi, Juls! Charity did start something, didn’t she? (Thanks, Charity!) DAM sounded too much like damned. Haha.

      As for tithing….I’ve always found it interesting that people will willingly give to an organization that doesn’t deliver. You pray and get no response. You receive no goods or services in return for your money. The only thing you’re paying for is hope. Hell, I’ll give people hope for 10% of their income. Ya know? 😉

      I’ve not read that quote from Hinckley. Thanks for sharing. We have a lot of Mormons here, and I know they are cult-like. They keep to themselves, but they all seem to do well financially.

      I also try to remember that religion provides comfort and structure, and it is a good thing for some folks. If building a church makes them happy….well, it’s better than building a crack house. (Right? Wait…I have a feeling someone will liken church to a crack house.)

  13. Lori Baysdon

    Deb, you are an excellent writer and put into words my thoughts exactly. Christianity/religion and all the cop outs are such a hot button for me. Since I live in North Carolina, I am very close to the Mark Sanford born agains. I have always lived in the south and am daily blown away by how otherwise intelligent logical people can follow something that makes no sense at all. My mother is a born again who blows my mind with the crazy stuff she believes and does. I just can’t make my brain go there. I have 3 kids without religion, so thanks for this blog.

    • @Lori Baysdon Nice to meet you. I lived in NC for a while, too. I agree with you here & if you figure this out, let me know: ” I have always lived in the south and am daily blown away by how otherwise intelligent logical people can follow something that makes no sense at all.”

  14. Got sidetracked with the Mormon facts that I forgot to mention on Sanford that back when Clinton was President Sanford was one wanting to Impeach Clinton because of infidelity. Funny how the rules change when it’s in their own court!

  15. I admire your courage. The closest I have come is sharing a link to the Secular Coalition with information on last week’s National Day of Reason. Related also to your previous post on “coming out”: I am trying, when pressed by someone I know is a believer to explain myself, to share what I do believe rather than what I don’t and why. For example, I believe in using reason and human intelligence to solve problems. I believe in being compassionate and helping wherever and whomever I can. I believe in the inherent goodness of our species ( and others) and in the hard work it takes to parent. I believe in the reality that we are all in this mess called life here on earth in this century and should not let a wedge be driven between based on fiery speeches and too much rhetoric. By stating those things it takes the wind out of their sails a bit and puts is on more level footing.
    Thanks, as always, for providing this forum.

    • @indythinker64 That’s a nice approach you take. You don’t want to make people feel threatened or uncomfortable. I get that.

      I actually handle those I know as you do….I’m not confrontational. I don’t want to hurt anyone or put them on the defensive. I do not post any of this on FB or share with my family or friends who don’t believe as I do. I figure I can let me hair down here so we can all discuss the inconsistencies we see or the problems we run into. I appreciate you–all of you–and how open and sharing you’ve been of your experiences.

      • Exactly! we need a place to let our hair down. I probably should clarify and say that I am not confrontational ANYMORE. I used to challenge but found that I would get further talking to my microwave than trying to enlighten someone so far entrenched that neither facts nor reason can penetrate.😁

  16. Love your courage, Deborah, and the courage of others here! It helps me in my building up my own courage to be able to confidently let others in my life know that I am not a believe.

    To Julie: I hear ya. I was born into the Mormon religion, I was a 7th generation Mormon, it is the strict doctrine my family still lives by. There are buildings in Salt Lake City named for my ancestors. In 1997 when the church held me in judgment, and formally dis-fellowshipped me, I never went back. I was hounded by the Mormon church to the point of being forced to change my phone number to unlisted, and ultimately having to move with my young children to another apartment complex. They found me in less than a month, standing on my doorstep when I answered the door. I was a financially-strapped single mom with 2 babies. I was still forced to pay a 10% tithe on my income, including the meager child support I received. I discussed this with 2 different Mormon bishops and both times I was told paying a full tithe was my “duty”. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been allowed into the Mormon temples. Because was a “good girl,” I paid a full tithe, I did what I thought I was supposed to do. I was forced to use credit cards to pay for my children’s daycare costs, their living expenses, their diapers. I eventually ended up with $30K in credit card debt, all of which I considered to be my tithing to the Mormon church. At the time, my annual salary was $27K. When my children were being approached at their public school by their classmates (former Mormon friends), I sent a letter to my Bishop threatening legal action if they didn’t leave us alone. I was ultimately excommunicated, by choice. To this day, anytime I run into a former Mormon friend in public, they literally turn their backs on me. Sick sick sick.

    • @Shelley That’s awful. The church says that its role is to minister to people, to help feed the poor, to help the sick. I cannot believe they forced you to tithe when you were so strapped and struggling. I’m really sorry to hear that. Are things better for you now?

  17. Patricia O'Sullivan

    Deborah, as I wrote that last bit I was reminded of how often I hear people (generally Christians) claim that Muslims don’t protest violence done in the name of thei religion enough and that they always seem to say, “that’s not Islam.” Fair enough, but that means Christians are also not allowed to say, “Not all Christians are like that.” The thing is, enough of them ARE ‘like that’ that it is increasingly hard to believe that Christianity is a positive moral force in the world.

    I love your posts!

  18. The thing that Sanford does, and which I hate whenever I hear it, is give the sense that God chose/saved/answered prayers for him. Same for when people don’t get killed in a natural disaster, or when three out of who knows how many missing girls get found. The God that chooses to answer some prayers, but not others, really is kind of an arsehole.

  19. I am an atheist, fan of your blog, and a strong Democrat. Clinton lied under oath. He should have resigned (and then maybe Gore, the acting President, would have won the election and we would all be better off). Sanford lied to the public, but he did not perjure himself. I never would have voted for him, but he did nothing that I know of that should result in him being barred from office (OK, maybe the criminal trespass thing).

    • @noel Yeah, I remember Sanford had to pay a bunch of fines for ethics violations. There were things he did (like disappearing) that were not illegal, but definitely not ethical….Too bad we can go back in time and put Gore in as pres. Anyway, glad you’re here and adding your voice!

  20. @Deborah….that is too funny “If building a church makes them happy….well, it’s better than building a crack house.” Yeah I know, but if there just weren’t so many of them!!! I think there are more churches than 7Elevens! And then you got ALL the different denominations! That was one of the things I found baffling while growing up. So many different beliefs it’s confusing. At least us non-believers pretty much all believe in one thing and it’s not really complicated like that of religious faith.

    @PatriciaO…….very well stated. Couldn’t have said it better myself! It’s that “superior” attitude they seem to have that I find so offensive.

    @Vividhunter……that’s called narcissism and religious folk are full of it! Sam Harris discussed the narcissism attitude that coincides with religious faith during one of his debates with William Craig.

  21. @Shelley …..when I read your post my heart ache for what that church put you through! Not right!!!! How greedy of them to expect a single mother of 2 to tithe when you couldn’t afford it and then pay tithe on child support that you were getting as well??? That is insane! How can anyone do that with good conscience? I know I already posted this, but this part of Hinckleys statement makes my blood boil…… “Our people are expected to pay 10 percent of their income to move forward the work of the Church. The remarkable and wonderful thing is that they do it. Tithing is not so much a matter of dollars as it is a matter of faith. It becomes a privilege and an opportunity, not a burden”. Not a burden???? How is it not a burden when you’re barely making it and still expected to pay tithe. And so many have this instilled into them to the point of putting themselves in debt such as you did. It is so sad!

    I have heard stories of church members going out and finding their fallen flock. I find that absurd and quite scary. Did you happen to watch that short documentary of ex-mormons during the presidential campaign when they spoke out against Romney? I believe a couple of them were related to him. But they talked of that very same thing of being sought after when they left the church. Have you tried to connect with other ex-mormons? I know there are several support groups out there.

    I grew up in SLC so I know all too well about the Mormon faith and buildings being named after various prophets. Majority of my family still live there, but are not LDS or affiliated with any religion for that matter. I know people who I used to call friends who are Mormon. A couple of them got away from the church then went back and that is when I feel I lost their friendship. We somewhat keep in touch, but it isn’t the same. Their mindset has changed, not mine.

  22. @noel…….your right about the oath on Clinton. Sanford just lied under a different oath, an oath to his wife. Ha! And there were other violations as I recall and money he had to pay back, but I guess if you ask for forgiveness that’s all it takes in the eyes of religious folk.

  23. Wow, Shelley!

    This is the thing about tithing, IT’S AN OLD TESTAMENT CONCEPT/DEMAND! The only time you will see anything about it is in the old testament. People would come to bring their animal sacrifices for their sins by killing and burning a dead animal before the lord. Depending upon the sin, they would sometimes put their hand on the head of the sacrifice or split the critter open into two halves so that they (more than likely, the priest) could walk between the two halves. It’s a very complex affair every time an animal sacrifice is made. The tithe (10%) of the sacrifices, as well as offerings (such as the wave offerings using wheat) were given to the priest so that he could sustain his family. He didn’t have a salary, bonuses, book deals, recording contracts, and a Rolls Royce, the tithe was his pay. Here’s the thing, many modern day ministers get at least one of those things I just mentioned, and still the tithe is expected. It also seems to me since the bloody “sacrifice” of jesus was to eliminate that complicated, bloody mess, wouldn’t the tithe from that be eliminated too?

  24. LanceThruster

    God as envisioned by the faithful is merely a more enduring Santa Claus myth (He sees you when you’re sleeping, He knows when you’re awake…) whereby the constant cosmic surveillance is meant to somehow keep your less than pious impulses in check. The wild card in all this is that most xians consider themselves, no matter their actions, as good and noble servants of the Lord, or at the very least, making the cutoff point for salvation and the reward of an eternity in heaven.

    If your God hates the same things you hate, it’s probably not real.

  25. LanceThruster

    And on the 6th day, God created Blessercize.

    http://www.mockpaperscissors.com/2013/05/08/midday-palate-cleanser-51/

    And God saw that it was good.

    Good God! Help me, Jeebus.

  26. LanceThruster

    @the ‘Debster’ (aka “Tex”)

    xD

    “Theologian: An uncommon individual who, though possessing finite abilities, has been called by God himself who, though possessing infinite abilities, requires the assistance of the former in explaining Himself to the rest of us.”

    [Translation: if God existed, theologians would be out of work.] ~ “Rev” Donald Morgan

  27. LanceThruster

    Saw this on a building on the train ride in —

    If God seems far away, who do you think moved?

    So God is everywhere, but my movement distances me from said God?

    If God wanted us to know of its existence and plan for us…it has failed miserably as humanity is not on the same page by a longshot. Discovering the veracity of “revealed knowledge” should not involve a similar headache as finding the right wireless calling plan.

  28. LanceThruster

    Saw this response on your CNN post –

    For a woman to raise her children without God merely underlines the fact that we live in a cursed world. It is within our nature, as a result of that curse, to remove God from our thinking. Everything this woman desires for her children are available from God, provided she submits to Him through Jesus Christ.

    You cut through the noise and it’s still just babble.

    • @LT It’s seems funny to hear people call me “this woman.” I realize that is not me, but just a persona. I’m just another cursed woman raising her cursed kids. Haha. I also saw someone left me a PM–another conversion attempt. More noise and babble. I guess you run into this a lot, too. You just aren’t educated, enlightened or whatever enough to get god. Ha.

  29. @Shelley, I remember one of the Family Home Evening lessons in the church-sanctioned manual teaches about tithing by having the children review a budget in which the income matches the expenses only when tithing is not paid. The lesson? Pay the tithing and stiff the people or companies that provide real services such as rent, electricity, food, etc.

    I’ve heard too many stories of credit card debt acquired because the tithing had to be paid. Makes me sick.

    By the way, I know you’re already out of the church, and I don’t know how long ago you were excommunicated, but nowadays the church has to stop contacting you if you send them a written letter requesting that they no longer consider you a member. That’s all I had to do.

  30. LanceThruster

    @Deborah – For the most part, I get a perfunctory conversion attempt and then they go straight to outright hostile.

  31. I admire your courage to use your full identity on your blog. I personally don’t think I could ever do it myself because of my near-obsessive desire for privacy, especially when it comes to the people I work with.

    I have some choice commentary reserved for Mark Sanford and his regular plowing of the Argentinian soil, but I can’t muster the energy to write them all down. You did a great job, and I’ll leave it at that. If I say anything more I won’t stop writing until tomorrow and just give myself heartburn for my efforts.

    • @Senator Jason I understand you want to maintain your privacy. I just didn’t see a need to continue hiding after CNN ran my name anyway. I think it was just habit. Or fear. Or both.

  32. The Sanford race was more about the fact that the man had an “R” after his name than anything else – well, that and how much some people hate the president. Of course the spin (or what makes good press) is that it’s about redemption and forgiveness or whatever, but 95% of politics is name recognition and party affiliation. The man held the seat for years; he just won it back.

    Still really enjoying this blog! As another commenter said, sometimes you still tend to stereotype Christians the way some of them stereotype you, but that’s a pretty reasonable response, honestly. Living in the south does have its issues, even if the people are generally nicer. 🙂

    • Hi again someone. Yes, I think his comparisons of his opponent to Pelosi sealed the deal. But it makes for a good comeback story.

      Yeah, I do stereotype. We all do. It’s how we relate the information we know to the things we don’t. It’s not fair, but it is many times, still understandable when you read findings like the one you gave about the Barna Group.

    • @someone Oh, and I enjoy this blog, too. It’s borrowed space, really, that just gives us all a chance to discuss, relate, share, whine, etc. Thank you for your thoughts.

  33. LanceThruster

    Re: privacy and web anonymity – I was outed by users on a Jewish site for defending Palestinians. One was a US resident who was also ex-IDF and openly called for violence against me and tried to get me fired (I was the atheist advisor to the student group at the time). His harrassment continued until I found his home address and let him know (although the harrassment just shifted to anonymous postings by him). It’s weird and troubling to see the personality types that will make it their relentless crusade to silence you by any means necessary (other than, of course, making a stronger counter-argument) because you are perceived as potentially swaying other viewpoints by coming across as (Glob forbid) “reasonable.”.

    It’s what pleases (and scares) people about Deborah’s website. She is a rational voice who, merely by her example, allows people to come to terms with their own questions. Skeptics and freethinkers find this remarkably refreshing. Those more rigidly attached to their worldview find this threatening. Hence their efforts to dismiss you, reconvert you…or more ominously, silence you somehow.

    I largely considered myself someone merely waiting in the wings observing, but have found a remarkable sense of community here. I always enjoy seeing others come out of their shells and spread their wings as they have a taste of their newfound freedom. Most of us have travelled a similar path. It is important to hear and share our stories for the simple purpose of reminding each other we are not alone. While the path is not always easy, we at least make our way with eyes open, as an infinite universe of possibilities unfolds before us. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be with a nicer bunch of “strangers” on this journey.

    • @LT That sucks. You seem pretty level-headed in your conversations here. The fact that another US resident would call for violence against you–extremely disturbing. I’m sorry. I guess that has passed and you no longer feel threatened? I would be curious to hear about your recent incident you mentioned a week or so ago, if you’d like to share.

      I’ve been working as a writer (and instructor, though not now) for many years, and I have written things that have caused some negative reaction (not about religion). This lady found my house one time, cut out an article I had written and wrote some not-so-nice remarks on it. The only reason why I knew it was a woman driving an SUV was because she pulled up to my house very early in the morning and stuck something in my mailbox. That kind of bothered me because she crossed an invisible boundary. It made me wonder what else people would do, but I think that most people just want to be heard and don’t want to do anything that will land them in jail (I hope!).

      @LT & Mtprairiegirl This is our website, really, and I’m always humbled by the level of intelligence and the articulate comments made by the people who contribute. LT, what a beautiful writing here:

      “I largely considered myself someone merely waiting in the wings observing, but have found a remarkable sense of community here. I always enjoy seeing others come out of their shells and spread their wings as they have a taste of their newfound freedom. Most of us have travelled a similar path. It is important to hear and share our stories for the simple purpose of reminding each other we are not alone. While the path is not always easy, we at least make our way with eyes open, as an infinite universe of possibilities unfolds before us. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be with a nicer bunch of “strangers” on this journey.”

  34. I ditto LanceT’s comment! 😉

    As I have mention before this blog literally saved me. I accidentally discovered it through the CNN Ireport at a time when I was possibly at my lowest. I kept telling myself something had to change. Ironically I had received an email ad for a antivirus software. I clicked on the link which directed my to CNN. I immediately noticed Deborahs piece. I was so relieved to see how many out there were like me. So “thank you” Deb for voicing publically what so many of us wished we could do and bring us likeminded individuals together!

    This is such a great group to be part of!!!

    • @Mtprairiegirl Love what you wrote, too. I was alone, too, and I nearly fell over when I realized how many of us were out there.

      I get up every morning and use the coffee maker my dad bought me before he died, and I always think, what will give this day meaning, what will make it worthwhile. And, if we all could work together and create a less contentious society, then our lives will have meaning.

  35. LanceThruster

    @Deborah – Most of the websites that I ventured onto to discuss the IP conflict eventually banned me, even at places like HuffPo and Daily Kos (as far as I was concerned for making too many ‘good’ points, not for violating any comment guidelines – ‘gatekeeping’ is serious stuff). The harrasser had me on Google watch and would pop up from time to time but eventually grew bored. I have kept the same web name since the beginning to provide a bit of continuity, but would have still liked to retain my anonymity if only to prevent having to deal with the sociopathic yahoos that pop up from time to time. I stand by what I’ve written even when my views have changed over time so that is not a problem.

    The current kurfluffle is something as mundane as being removed from my vanpool. I am the only atheist among a van full of xians. I had requested they adjust the climate control to keep diesel fumes out (recirculate button). Though several invited me to their churches (which I politely declined) as if I needed to be ‘cured’ of my atheism, they saw no reason to be concerned about my physical well-being. They started to get abusive and petty and on a regular basis declared “I’m the only one” and therefore there was no reason to make reasonable accomodations (they could have air circulating and I could be free of toxic diesel fumes). One driver is a lay pastor for his church (former LAPD), and he would regularly play his praise music at excess volume in order to annoy me (sad to say it worked). He was the worst of the bunch and created a very hostile environment in the vanpool. I’m in the process of filing several complaints.

    The weirdest thing apart from all the headache I’m dealing with in the aftermath, is how these people consider themselves fine, decent folk, but with no concern for anyone else outside of their ‘tribe’, or who might have needs to be addressed that don’t involve their invisible magic pal.

    It’s so much small potatoes, but a serious issue with me.

    • @LT It really sounds like a bunch of bullies. Such a little thing they could do for you (and themselves) to keep the diesel fumes out, which we have a lot here in our area, too. Nasty stuff.

      I love garlic, but if I’m going to be stuck in a car with a bunch of people, it’s not right to force everyone else to love it, too. Kind of like the praise music.

  36. @Deb……for me while I’m sipping on coffee in the morning after son heads to school I watch a little of The Stephanie Miller Show (a liberal radio on tv talk show) on Current then if I have time I read posts from this blog.

    Last week my husband was visiting with a guy we do business with and somehow the subject of religion got brought up. My husband said to him that I was a non-believer. Not WE don’t believe, but “I”. He still can’t bring himself to include him as being a non-believer cause I’m sure it would probably affect his business. So the guy asks “what does she believe in?” He said “that this life is it, no afterlife and to really try and make the most of it.” But the sad thing is I don’t feel I’m making the most of it. I feel there are obstacles keeping me from being the person I want to be or things I want to do. Living in a rural area is a big part of that obstacle and it’s frustrating. If I lived closer to a city I would be involved more in helping people such as Habitat for Humanity or volunteering at a pet shelter or belong to non-believers group that meets once or twice a month. But since this is where our livlihood is I try to make the best of each day just by taking in and appreciating nature. I love taking our dogs for walks in the country and discovering new flowers I hadn’t seen before. I love sitting outside at night gazing at all the stars while sipping on a glass of wine or two with not a single sound, but an occassional coyote call and I love stumbling upon all the wildlife in our area.

    Been trying to change my name on here since I came out with my real name, but hasn’t taken effect for some reason. Being the prairie girl that I am maybe I’m suppose to just leave it the way it is 😉

    • @Juls/Mtrprairiegirl I can call you either. Let me know which you prefer. So your husband threw you to the wolves, eh? I can understand if your family’s livelihood hinges on whether or not you guys believe. But you must feel alone.

      Sounds beautiful where you live–and you get that existential feeling sitting by yourself star-gazing. I like that, though, maybe like you, that remoteness would also make me feel too isolated. I live in a city, but also back up to the woods, so I have raccoons that visit, owls, hawks, coyotes that run through our backyard (they sound like a bunch of kids fighting or crying).

  37. LanceThruster

    @mtprairiegirl –

    “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
    ― Theodore Roosevelt

    Also consider traveling if possible to regional conferences and gatherings of freethinkers (you might find the numbers swell in just a relatively short distance). I got started in the movement through Americans United for Separation of Church and State where believers and non- allike join forces to keep govt from pushing religion. Small town provicialism can be problematic because you never know when it results in burning a bridge that sustains you.

    I wish you the best.

  38. I’m a non believer who thinks the same way you do. All religions and churches are a nasty business that deals with the human ignorance of those who cannot think by themselves, of those who are weak and tame and of those who love to follow others because they cannot follow themselves.

  39. @LT ……Thanks for sharing TRoosevelt’s quote! It’s a great yet simple saying isn’t it? I would say I pretty much try to live that way. I have actually looked into secular groups in my state and their are 2. One is 6 hrs away the other 10. The latter one seems to be more organized and meet a little more frequently, but the other is sparatic. Didn’t think about it til now, but I should check into a couple of Canadian Provinces since we live so close to the border. It’s hard for me to travel any great distance right now until my son graduates. We travel quite often with what he is involved in so when all settles down and I can make time for myself then believe me I will be seeking various venues where secular groups meet! I wanted so badly to to go the Reason Rally last year in DC, but unfortunately it was held at an inconvenient time.

    @Deb…..either works for me! But when I am able to change it, it will be Juls 🙂 I love where we live although very remote and no city lights, which makes for awesome viewing of the nighttime sky along with the occassional Aurora Borealis. Just wish I had likeminded friends near that would make it more tolerable living here. That is neat you also get some wildlife experiences and still be able to live in a city. At times I can’t imagine living anywhere else, but then again at times it gets very lonely and I start fantasizing about where I would like to live if I could move.

    • @Juls Hello! So glad to see your name change took effect! Hope you had a great Mother’s Day. I imagine it can be lonely there. Of course, it can get lonely in cities, too, especially when you’re on the fringe like we are.

  40. Surprised to see my name change finally took this go around 😉

  41. Hi Deb, glad to know your real name now – bravo!
    Re Mark Sanford, my major issue is not with him or his rationalizations and self-determination of forgiveness. My issue is with the voters of South Carolina, the majority of whom are still so rabidly anti-progressive that they voted for the candidate who was clearly the lesser choice, just because they don’t want to elect someone who would support the “liberals in Washington”. Sanford and his proxies succeeded in making the election more about keeping the seat in GOP hands, to oppose Obama, than about which of the 2 candidates was better qualified to hold the office.

  42. @Deb….hope you enjoyed your Mother’s day as well. For me it is always great if I can work in my yard out here in the middle of nowhere. It’s my little “paradise on the prairies” so to speak 🙂 Unfortunately the wind was blowing too hard and it was too hot to plant anything Sunday. Despite all that it was still a nice relaxing day!

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