Category Archives: Christianity

How to Deal with Religious Bullying and Spiritual Abuse

My oldest daughter, L, is now in the 3rd grade. Recently she brought home a Chick tract, which a girl in her class brought to give everyone in the 3rd grade. The tract is a “comic” designed to appeal to kids and get their attention, turning the story into the story of how to be “saved by Jesus.” Never mind that the school is allowing the tracts to be passed out to the entire grade (and probably the entire school)! That’s a battle I want to fight. But I digress.

L says this girls bugs her regularly because she knows L doesn’t go to church. It turned into bullying in my view when L asked the girl to stop talking to her about it and the girl refused.

I decided to look up the website on the back of the tract for some background information. I won’t post it here, but let’s just say this girl’s dad is a few fries short of a Happy Meal. His website claims that the “power of Jesus” healed his mental illness and it can “do the same for anyone.” Yikes. Shit just got really real.

My husband and I told L to respond like this: “I’m not interested, so please stop talking to me about it.” And if the girl refuses, we’ll take further action. We were clear with L that she should not respond hatefully, nor should she tell the girl that she’s wrong or try to engage in any kind of argument with her. As we often tell her, you can’t argue with stupid. Probably not the nicest way to put it, but just look up a religious Facebook or YouTube comments argument and you’ll understand.

Anyway, it’s been about 2 months since the last time L came home saying that this girl was bothering her, so it sounds like the kid got the point.

The moral of the story? Respond firmly, but kindly. It’s not this little girl’s fault that her dad is pressuring her to bully. But, I hope L can help her understand it’s not ok to do so.

Two posts in one day…I must be coming down with something…*cough*…

Bee

Where have I been? Freethinker Mom is Back!

I know, I know. It’s been way too long since I shared some tidbit of life as an atheist parent with you. I got a job outside the house last September and life has been a whirlwind of insanity since then.

So, here’s an update on life:

  1. I’ve lost 35 pounds since January 1. I’m super proud and I feel better than ever! And, I’m still losing about a pound a week thanks to the Keto Diet.
  2. My two girls are in summer camp at the YMCA here in Tulsa. Their experience has been great so far, and they’re loving being outside all day. It’s been very non-religious, which is wonderful for all of us.
  3. Work is going well. I’m doing what I love for a great company. Can’t beat that!
  4. I have so much to tell you! Let’s start with how I actually went to church for the first time in years, and on Easter Sunday, no less!

Yep, that’s right. A Christian got an atheist to go to church. A coworker and dear friend invited me to come to the inaugural Easter service of her start-up church where she would be preaching her first Easter service. I built their website as a favor to my friend because I truly believe in what she’s doing in her church. I decided to put my distrust of religion aside and go to support my friend and her lovely partner.

So we got dressed up and went to the service, which was held at the outdoor stage of a local downtown bar (YEAH!). It was misty and rainy, but I was glad to be there. I was proud to be a part of the service that day, for the message was clear and full of hope and love. I even sang along during worship!

You see, the pastor of this church is openly gay. She and her partner are preaching love. Pure, beautiful love. They are accepting, caring, and kind people. They truly understand the meaning of love, and I know my friend loves me, regardless of our differences in beliefs.

Of all the Christians I’ve met in this world, she is the truest follower of Christ I’ve ever known. It was her kindness and openness to my beliefs that compelled me to say yes to her invitation. Never has a Christian shown me the compassion and understanding that she shows me regularly.

So yes, Christians, you can get an atheist to go to church. And, while I did listen, and while I did agree with my friend’s message of love, I’m still an atheist. And you know what? That’s ok. :)

As a side note, I haven’t had access to the email address connected to this website, so I hope to get that resolved and answer any mail. I know I said I always write back, and I will – to each and every one of you –  because I’m sure there are some letters from someone!

Thanks for being patient with me during this transition to working outside the house!

Sincerely,

B

 

Let’s talk about the measles outbreak in Texas

If you haven’t heard about it, head on over here, but be sure to come back! Read up on the situation? Good. Let’s discuss.

This subject is important to me because Oklahoma has been put on “measles alert” due to our close proximity to Texas. My kids have been immunized so I probably won’t have to worry about it, but Tulsa is a very religious city with several “megachurches” and a lot of people who believe anything they read on Facebook. It could be a real problem.

My personal view on vaccinations is this: there is not enough solid scientific evidence linking vaccines to autism and other problems for me to jump on that bandwagon. Also, my girls have been vaccinated for chicken pox, so they’ll never have to worry about getting them. My chicken pox experience happened in first grade. It’s one of my earliest memories, and it’s full of pain and discomfort. I had chicken pox eve.ry.where. On my eyelids, inside my mouth and nose, in unmentionable places. They were awful, and I remember feeling like I was dying. My girls will never have to go through that thanks to vaccines. So, there’s that.

I realize that vaccines are unnatural, but so is the food that a lot of parents (including me, yes) feed their children. You think GoGurt was on the menu for Grok’s kids? Not so much. Driving isn’t natural. There are a lot of things we do, like going to the hospital when we break a bone, that aren’t natural. But these things improve our quality of life.

The thing that makes me angriest about anti-vaccinators is that they are putting their children at risk because of their religion. I’ve known people who refused medical treatment for a child whose condition could be greatly improved by being treated. It’s just not fair to the child. I can’t imagine doing anything but what’s best for my child. Faith healing, as it’s called, is just plain child abuse in my book.

Do you vaccinate? Why or why not?

They’re worried about my soul…

Apparently I embarrassed my dad on Facebook a few days ago because I stated publicly that I’m a “non-believer.” This led to a belligerent phone call during which I asked him to stop embarrassing me. But he said he was embarrassed of me, and told me I shouldn’t say I’m a non-believer on Facebook. He didn’t say, “where all my friends can see it,” but I know he was thinking that.

He told me he worries for my soul. I know he’s not proud of me and it really hurts. I don’t understand why he isn’t proud of me, though. I work hard, got my degree, and I’m raising two sweet, polite, and kind little girls. I have a great marriage and a happy life. What’s not to be proud of? I don’t believe in his imaginary dude in the sky…that’s all.

To that, I say, “so, what!?” If there is a god (and that’s a big if for me), I don’t believe it’s the god of the Bible. I believe the god will be proud of my life and my actions. I believe this god will not demand to be worshipped, condemn gay people, oppress women, and favor war. If there is a god, he probably won’t care whether or not people believe in him because he’s given us no evidence he exists!

 

He’ll tell you anything to get you into bed…

…and I want to make sure my daughters know it. I’ve discussed the sex talk in previous posts, but I feel the need to elaborate on one important aspect of young women and sex. He will tell you anything to get you into bed. It bears repeating. I’m not saying that all men are scum, or that all men intend to hurt women. Let me be clear; that is not what I’m saying. What I am saying is young men have a high sex drive, and they want to get some. It doesn’t mean they’re bad guys. It’s very natural. But this means that young women need to exert control over their bodies and make decisions that keep them out of harm’s way.

Would you like an example? Sure you would. I warn you, the content may be uncomfortable at times. But these are things that need to be said. In the style of my favorite TV show, The Golden Girls, I’ll tell a story.

Picture it – Oklahoma in the late 1990’s. A girl of only 15, with poor self-esteem and a desire to be broken and humble before her god, is introduced to a handsome older (18-ish) young man. The young man takes her by surprise, showing her attention she’s never gotten before. They begin to date with the permission of the girl’s parents because her parents believe he is an upstanding, church-going young man. Each date they have gets progressively more physical. The young girl, never having been told that a boy might grab her hand and stick it in his pants, doesn’t know what to do. He says he loves her, that it’s ok to touch him. She doesn’t resist because she is afraid the boy won’t love her anymore. In the end, the girl feels incredible guilt and shame from the (very minor) sexual sins she has committed against her god. She shies away from her boyfriend to avoid any sexual contact again. This hurts both the girl and her boyfriend (so she thinks). She begins to cry every night because she is so confused by her physical and emotional conflicts.

One day, another “upstanding,” church-going boy enters her life. This one is about 19 years old, the son of a preacher. She confides in him as a friend, tells him what she’s been through with her boyfriend. He tells her that it’s ok, that she might as well touch him there since she already sinned when she touched her boyfriend there. The girl touches him because her feelings are already in a turmoil and she’s terrified of hurting anyone else at this point.

The preacher’s son takes it upon himself to start feeling guilty and tells his father, the preacher. The preacher calls the girl’s parents to explain what transpired. The preacher’s son can’t keep his mouth shut and soon the gossip has spread through their group of mutual friends. This humiliates the girl, causing her to write things in her diary to the tune of, “I’m so alone in the world. I can’t understand what’s going on. Why is this happening to me when I’ve tried to be a good person and follow god’s plan for my life?” The girl becomes depressed, but doesn’t tell her parents because, well, they’re dealing with their own problems. The youth leader starts preaching about abstinence and sin and defiling the body and all the other evils of teenage life. It becomes unbearable, and the girl sinks deeper into her Bible studies and prayer, almost never missing a journal entry at night. The girl is miserable, and she hides it from everyone, pressing the feels deep, down inside and hoping for the second coming of Christ to rescue her from the big, bad world. Yeah, that’s healthy.

The girl’s parents never did talk to her about sex, but they sent the preacher’s daughter to talk to her, embarrassing her further and making her feel like a slut for not even having intercourse! The girl grew up thinking sex was a dirty, sinful act, but an act that is hard to escape. The girl felt shame and guilt for every sexual encounter thereafter, until she grew up and came to her senses about religion.

The moral of the story? He’ll tell you anything to get you into bed. I wish my parents had told me that. I wish they’d told me how to keep myself out of a bad situation. I wish they’d talked to me about sex, period. I may not have listened, but what if I did? What if they planted the seed that kept me from making a bad choice? I’ll talk to my girls about sex. I’ll make sure they understand that, while many men are wonderful, caring humans who will treat them perfectly, there are others who will take advantage of any and all situations in order to get some sexual contact. It doesn’t mean they’re bad, it just means they’re horny teenagers. Teaching abstinence isn’t the answer; sex education is. Respect and self worth are the answers, too. And just talking. Talking about sex is the answer. But ignoring it? That leads to disaster.

Also, religion sucks. That was difficult to type out, but maybe it will help someone out there understand how important it is to talk to kids and teens about sex. Do it. Don’t wait.

Tolerance vs. Acceptance

Tolerance is defined by Dictionary.com as

1. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.

Acceptance is defined as

2. favorable reception; approval; favor.

I don’t like the word tolerance. There’s something about it that makes me think “putting up with” or “dealing with.” Saying, “I’m tolerant of Islam,” is like saying, “I put up with Muslims.” I know that this is probably not what most people mean when they say they’re tolerant of religious people, but that’s what it sounds like to me. We tolerate the heat here in Oklahoma. We tolerate our neighbors who like to fight in the street every weekend. We tolerate things that are irksome, but that we must suffer through because we live on this planet.

And, acceptance, while a bit more favorable, is still a fine line. I don’t agree with Christians, but I accept them as human beings and I realize they have a valid opinion. I don’t accept when they try to force their beliefs on me or force their arcane laws into government, but I understand why they want to live their own lives the way they do. I don’t accept (or approve of) their religion. But I do accept them as people, and there are many Christians I love. I teach my children that religious people have a set of beliefs by which they live their lives, and that ours are different, but I make sure my kids know that loving people is the most important thing they can do in this world to show acceptance.

Tolerance, with it’s inclusion of permissive, says “I’m allowing this to occur.” Acceptance, with its inclusion of approval, says “I approve of this.” So, am I tolerating Christianity or accepting it? I’m tolerating the religion while accepting the person as equal. That’s the only definition that makes sense to me. I would never treat a Christian as lower than myself. I would never try to take away their basic rights (to marry whomever they please, to pray where and when they want, to worship). But because their beliefs pretty much require them to force their religion upon other people, I cannot approve of it. I believe it’s dangerous to do so and it goes against the reason and logic I’ve used to get to where I am now.

Christians, on the other hand, don’t tolerate or accept. Now, there are some exceptions in Christians who believe in equal rights, but many in my neck of the woods believe other religions (or lack thereof) are Satan’s way of stealing god’s flock. They believe homosexuality is a lifestyle choice that bad people make. They refuse to tolerate it, and many refuse to accept them as equal people. This, to me, is where Christianity is failing.

Webster’s online also defines acceptance as: “to regard as proper, normal, or inevitable […]” This is the definition I like. Christianity is inevitable, and atheists tend to treat it as such. However, we watch out for our freedoms. We watch out for those whose lot in life is not as easy as others. We stand up for the basic rights of those who are being oppressed by particular groups. We don’t accept Christianity in terms of approving of it, but we know it’s not going away. We know we must keep a watchful eye.

Christians – homosexuality and other religions are inevitable. Not everyone believes as you do, and thinking everyone eventually will is silly. You can be a watchdog, but you can’t force people to live by your beliefs. Attempting to do so makes you a bigot. You think you’re not a bigot, but you are, no matter what your motivation.

What are your thoughts on tolerance vs. acceptance? Are they different? What are your feelings toward religion? Do you accept it, or tolerate it, or a combination of both?

Thoughts on Gay Marriage

The Supreme Court hearings on gay marriage have prompted a slew of Facebook status updates declaring “for” or “against.” I’m still friends with a handful of people I went to church with as a teenager, and many of them are clearly against gay marriage. One shared this status update, which he got from a friend:

“With all of the marriage equality focus in the news, I thought I would offer one man’s view on what it means to take a Biblical stance on the issue and still be Christlike In the process. My reason for sharing is that the media refuses to show this side of Christianity, instead making us out to be anti-gay when in fact I am anti-sin of all kinds, including my own. Without question, even a cursory reading of the Bible makes it clear that gay relationships and marriage is wrong and sinful. However, homosexuality is no worse than any other sin. Sin is sin, and we all fall short of the glory of God. So when I say that I am for Biblical values and against gay marriage, it does not make me a bigot or a hater or any of the other words that the media would throw my way. It means that I am a sinner who has been forgiven based upon my faith in Jesus, and that my mission in life is not to single out gays and make their life miserable. My mission is to love them as I do all of mankind, and to hate their sin as much as I hate my very own. My desire is to see all sin cease, including my own, so that my God and Savior will be pleased with what He sees. So you see, when I take a Biblical stand on the issue, I am expressing my right and freedom to practice Biblical values in hopes that the land that I live in will see things the same way. If in the end laws change that show that the majority of people in the land I live in disagree with Biblical values, then it will be my fault as a Chrisitian for failing to show the love of Christ and teaching others to live as He commands us to. But at no time is it acceptable for me to hate others and single out their sins. If more believers would focus on their own sins instead of others, and spread the Gospel rather than hateful words toward others, then maybe just maybe people who are caught in all kinds of sins would be more prone to listen to what we have to say. In short, if you are gay, please know that while I disagree with your lifestyle choice, I love you and will help you in any way that I can if you ever need me. Though your sin in wrong just like mine is, Jesus will heal and forgive you if you will turn to Him in faith.”

There are so many things wrong with this that I didn’t know where to begin. I messaged him privately with a link to this article, You Can’t Quote Leviticus to Prove God Hates Homosexuality, which I found to be an excellent read. It’s a great argument for why Old Testament law no longer applies to modern Christian life. I mean, if it did, and Christians took the entire bible literally, they’d have to outlaw shellfish and pork as food, fortune tellers would be stoned, and tattoos would be against the law.

First, where in the bible does Christ command people to live as heterosexuals? Second, you may think you’re not a bigot, but you are, by definition:

“bigot: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance” (source)

This whole status update makes me very sad because these people are so blindly following a religion that seeks to keep certain groups oppressed. He preaches love, but at its foundation is hate, and he doesn’t even realize it.

Christians don’t seem to understand why freethinkers have a problem with their beliefs. This is why. Christians constantly try to force their beliefs upon others because they are told to “share the faith” and “bring others to Christ.” They think they’re doing a good thing by bringing people to Christ, but they’re really oppressing large groups of caring, loving people who want nothing more than to be accepted in society.

Tragedy

You may have read about the recent plane crash in Indiana. I grew up with three of the families whose loved ones were on the plane. I heard the news from a family member just hours after it happened, and memories of these loving and supportive people came flooding back.

Yesterday was a very emotional day, and I watched Facebook all day for updates on the status of the people involved. I cried many times. I had no idea what to say to the victims’ families. All the people involved are Christians. All of their families and friends are praying for them. But I’m not. I am, however, thinking of them constantly, hoping for successful surgeries, and hoping the family who lost a loving father and husband can find peace in their hearts. I let them know I’m thinking of them, but that was all I could say. I had no words to comfort because I knew that saying, “He’s in heaven, looking down on you,” would be false. All I could do was think of them – the wife, the daughter who was so close her father, and the son. I hope my thoughts are enough.

 

Spanking, Private Parts, and Religious Discipline

You’re probably getting tired of hearing about the situation with my daughter and her friend, but we’ve had yet another incident. My daughter has mentioned in the past that she and her friends play “house,” and that one of them is the mommy or the daddy or the kid. Through discussing this playtime with my daughter, I learned that her friend, whom you can read about here or here (or even here) has been routinely “paddling” my daughter. It happens when they’re playing outside, sometimes during P.E. in the gym, and sometimes in line while they’re waiting for things. It’s not a one or two time deal, according to my daughter. She says it happens almost daily. Kids have a crazy sense of time, but based on the different situations she’s described, I believe her that it’s happening regularly.

Now, to be clear, I detest that word – paddle. It reminds me of my childhood, when threats of a-paddlin’ were how I was kept under control made to behave. We rarely spank in my house. It’s just not how we dole out punishment. My husband and I reserve it for rare moments when immediate action must be taken to correct a terribly offensive behavior at that exact moment. And my girls are generally very polite and well-behaved, so those moments are few and far between. There are no threats of spanking. Agree or disagree, but that’s how we do things in my home. But, I digress.

So I hear about the “paddling” that’s going on and I instruct my daughter to tell her friend that it is inappropriate to a) hit someone and b) touch someone else’s private parts. We talk about personal space and privacy a lot because I want my girls to understand when touching is and is not appropriate. This is a big deal. I know that sexual abuse can really mess with a child. I’ve personally never experienced it, but I have friends who have, and I’ve seen how difficult it is to overcome. So, I tell my daughter to tell her friend these things, and I hope that this will stop it. At this point, I know they’re playing and I don’t want to make a huge deal out of it.

Fast forward to this morning, when my daughter tells me “paddling” happened again yesterday. I dug deeper. I asked if my daughter was doing any of the spanking. I asked if she had been touching anyone’s bottom. She said no and no, that it was her friend and it was happening when her friend pretended to get angry with her child. I wrote a note to her teacher, briefly explaining the situation, and she called me this morning. She told me that she didn’t know anything about it, which isn’t surprising. The problem is that my daughter didn’t understand that anything “bad” was going on. I hope now she understands that it’s inappropriate. I don’t want her thinking it’s ok to put her hands on another kid’s rear end. But now her teacher knows, and my daughter knows that it’s wrong.

I hope that addressing it with the teacher will solve the issue because I haven’t spoken to the girl’s mother in a while. I’m pretty sure she got the point after our last conversation. But if I have to contact her about this, I will. It’s one thing for their home life to affect their child. It’s entirely different when it starts affecting mine. I can only hope they are in a different class next year…and I will probably request it.

The thing that makes me the angriest/saddest about this whole situation is that this little girl is subjected to religious discipline. I remember what it was like. I was spanked with a heavy leather belt. I can still remember being bent over the bed while my dad lashed me. I remember the marks. I remember being spanked for the smallest things. I remember having to pick out my own “switch” for my grandma to smack me with. All it did was make me fearful and resentful. I hate that this little girl is growing up this way. I hate that her “loving, Christian family” uses violence as discipline. I believe this regular spanking of my child is an indication of what she is experiencing at home.

Ugh, drama.

 

The Talk

If you’re a long-time reader of mine, you may remember I’ve been dealing with the very religious parent of my daughter’s best friend, as well as the sleepover incident. Well, it finally happened. We had “the talk.” And boy, was it hard! Here’s the story.

The mother called me to ask if my daughter could have another sleepover. At this point, I’d been avoiding her like the plague, hoping my excuses would drive her away. No such luck. I decided to get it all out in the open. I explained that that my daughter had become very concerned about god and spirituality – something I believe a 6-year-old is too young to deal with. I told the woman that it is difficult for us to encourage her to be a freethinker when she is exposed (at such a young and vulnerable age) to religious dogma. And then, the most amazing thing happened…

She said, “I understand. If you were telling my child that god doesn’t exist, I’d probably be very angry with you. I get where you’re coming from.”

Whoa. Totally unexpected. The rest of the conversation consisted of her asking questions about atheism – what I believe happens when we die, how did I “become an atheist,” and how I explain death to my children. It was mind-blowing. She then explained why she needs religion, and things began to make sense. The woman is broken. She struggles with co-dependency and depression, and her god makes her feel alive, and helps her cope with life. I get that. I’ve been there. I’ve just learned to deal with my struggles in a different way.

The whole experience went much better than I expected, and now she no longer asks if my child can sleep over. We agreed that if the girls see each other outside of school, that both of us will be present to address any religion issues that come up. It’s a good solution, and I’m so glad I told the truth. Who knows? Maybe this woman’s mind has been opened. She sees that I’m a good parent, a responsible person, and that I give of my time and money when I can. I hope she sees that atheists are good people. I hope I’m giving non-believers a good name.

Update:

I’ve graduated from college (YAY!) and I found out yesterday I’ve been accepted into the graduate program I’m interested in. I start this summer! I’m well on my way to teaching!

Also, I’ve added Feedburner to my site, so you can subscribe in a reader or via email! Do it!