I’m grieving today… and an open letter to those who cause me pain

They push, push, push, and then get angry when you finally snap.

They poke countless little holes into your heart and then can’t understand why your heart overflows with pain and anger every time they try to poke another.

They hurt without apology, inflict pain with no sign of remorse or desire to change, and then blame you for the problem.

They are always trying to prove themselves right, and you wrong. The truth doesn’t matter; understanding each other doesn’t matter. All that matters is that they’re right, and for you to know and acknowledge that they’re right.

They can see you as stubborn, obstinate, and unyielding; and yet they refuse to admit when they’re wrong and won’t lift a finger to mend things between you.

They beat you with their Bible and their religion, and can’t understand why you devote time to countering their hurtful messages and pointing out flaws in their weaponized Holy Book.

They hurt you over, and over, and over again. But it’s unacceptable for you to ever hurt them back. You must TAKE the pain but never cause them pain in return, even if the pain you deal out is only in an attempt to make them stop or the result of grief. You can never call them out on their bullshit because “that’s rude”.

But I won’t be like them. I may give in to my pain for a moment, I’m human and I sometimes react in hurt and anger like everyone else, but I will never allow myself to be like them. I will strive to never be so hard that I cannot admit when I’m wrong. I will always try to understand and respect others even if I disagree with them. And I will always try to inject LOVE into everything that I do. But I will also not stand for bullshit. I’ve been a doormat for too long, and I won’t ever fucking be one again.

Hear me, and hear me well: If you beat me with your religion, I will defend myself. If you try to poke more holes in my heart, I will call you on it and push you back far enough so you can’t hurt me again. If you pick a fight with me, I’ll put you in your place without apology. That’s not being rude, that’s being strong. And you will not make me feel bad for finally growing a backbone. If I cannot reason with you, then perhaps my firm responses will deter you from trying to hurt me again.

But also hear this: I don’t like to live in conflict. I’d much rather be friends and live in peace with you. If you show even a slight effort to change, if you try to fix things but fail a lot, I’ll bend over backwards to work with you. I can overlook many things when I know the person is making a genuine effort to accept me and make things better. It is not my desire to be at war with you.

So will you put down your weapons and meet me in the middle of this battleground? Can we stop fighting and start truly listening to one another? That’s what I’d like above all else. But I can’t do it alone.

I’m grieving today. Grieving for what I’ve lost, for the close relationships that were poisoned by fundamentalism and intolerance and religiously fueled narcissistic tenancies. Grieving for people in my life who have so drastically changed how they act towards me simply because I believe differently now. Gone is the seemingly unconditional acceptance and adoration, the praise and the trust; in its place are judgment, stereotypes, suspicion, mistrust, blame and anger. Pain pours from my heart every time they remind me of how little they respect and understand who I am now.

But I’ll survive, I always do. And at the end of this day of grieving I’ll be stronger than I was this morning. Because that’s what we do- we pick ourselves up and move forward no matter what they do to us. That’s what survivors do. And above all, I am a survivor.


Catholic High School Must Approve all Prom Dresses; I Had to Do That in College.


Check it out: This Catholic high school requires students to show pictures of their dresses to be approved before prom.

I had to do this in COLLEGE. Let that sink in for a moment. Even as an adult in college I was not allowed to make my own decisions in regards to modesty; the school decided that for me because apparently Bible college students are not mature or astute enough to dress modestly on our own.

We had to do a “hallelujah test” where we raised our arms above our heads; if armpit, shoulder, or cleavage showed, we had to modify our shawl placement (so. many. pins.) or put a shirt on underneath it. We had to get our dresses approved beforehand twice a year: For the Christmas Banquet and Graduation Banquet. I was a master at making dresses “modest” but still “cute”, I helped the other girls every year. We couldn’t even wear dangly earrings with these gowns, studs only. (WTF?? How did I ever agree to these ridiculous rules?)

At the time I convinced myself I didn’t mind these restrictive rules and not being allowed to decide these things for myself, but deep down I really, really did mind. I LOVED dangly earrings, and I LOVED many dress styles that we could never ever wear because making them modest was either impossible or it would ruin the look. Even dresses that most people would consider modest were not good enough for them. I saw so many beautiful dresses marred by tee shirts underneath or bulky shawls that covered most of the embroidery or sparkles. What’s really the point of picking out a beautiful formal gown if you have to cover most of it up? Some girls just didn’t bother and wore regular church clothes. I spent hours sewing myself a satin short-sleeved jacket for my graduation banquet dress so I could meet their standards but still look nice.

Why I Regret “Waiting Until Marriage”: Purity Culture Explored

PURITY RINGSI was raised in what many people refer to as “purity culture”: I was taught that abstinence was the only acceptable way to live, I was encouraged to wear a purity ring and “save myself” for marriage. And I did it all- I got myself a purity ring, saved my virginity and even my first real kiss for my wedding day, and encouraged everyone else to do the same. And at the time I convinced myself that all this was good, that I wanted it this way. But looking back, I wish I’d done it differently.
I feel cheated out of romantic moments that should have happened in a natural progression within my relationship.
Instead of having my first kiss in front of two hundred people, I wish it had been PRIVATE, and in our own time. I resent the fact that this incredibly intimate moment was shared with everyone, instead of happening at a romantic moment earlier in our relationship. I was indoctrinated with the idea that this somehow made me morally superior- so we waited. As a result, my first kiss was sort of an awkward shock instead of a tender, loving experience.
The Wedding Night
As for the wedding night- well, I could write a book on this subject. The wedding night is painted as this magical experience, more so because it’s your “first time” together as a “pure couple”. But what they don’t tell you is that your first time is often not very romantic at all.
Both people barely know what they’re doing, for one thing. You’re not supposed to know too much about sex prior to marriage because it can cause “inappropriate thoughts”, so how can you be fully prepared? I used to subscribe to a Christian forum that was about marriage. They had a separate thread for engaged couples and didn’t allow them to view threads for married couples. And of course you can’t watch porn or read erotic fiction, and even love scenes in movies are considered bad. Most people who fully devote themselves to purity culture have no sweet clue what to do.
It’s sometimes painful for the gals the first time! The hymen usually has to be stretched or torn, and because you’re nervous and it’s been so hyped up in your mind, you’re probably not creating much natural lubricant (bring lube, people!)
You’re exhausted after an insanely long wedding day- it’s not the greatest time to have such an intimate experience for the first time. I really wish I had been having sex beforehand because then I wouldn’t have had to deal with those issues on such a special night. I wish that my first time had been a part of our natural relationship progression- not forced into a wedding “schedule”, waiting until society said it was ok for me to enjoy it.
It’s also awkward knowing that people KNOW it’s your first time- when you leave the reception as a couple known for your purity stance, you get the winks and nudges of people who know full well that you’re about to get laid for the first time. Awkward! And even if they aren’t actually thinking it or poking fun, it’s still awkward. Especially when your parents drop you off at the hotel. (Red face) When you’re already sleeping together, it’s not a big deal- nobody is really thinking about your “deflowering”. Or at least YOU’RE not thinking about them thinking about it.
Relationships must progress in an unnatural manner to be deemed “appropriate”.
All couples reach a point where they are emotionally and physically ready to go farther than just holding hands. Normally, a couple can simply take it as it comes- when they’re ready, they make love. But in purity culture, you have to deny yourself those things- and that can put a strain on your relationship. If you can’t move forward, where does that leave you? It keeps you in a constant state of stressful limbo that can only be fully remedied by getting married or splitting up. That’s why so many Christian couples get married so young- often before they are really ready for it. I have no doubt that this is partly the reason for the high divorce rate among Christians- it’s even slightly higher than “the world’s” divorce rate. What does that tell you? Purity culture isn’t working!
Purity culture demonizes masturbation.
I used to feel absolutely disgusted with myself if I broke down and masturbated. I thought I was gross, a terrible sinful person. For women, how can you instruct your man to bring you to orgasm if you don’t know how it all works? Speaking from experience- it’s pretty difficult. Since I got over my indoctrination against masturbation, my sex life has gotten SO much better. And contrary to what purity culture teaches you, masturbation and porn do not necessarily go hand in hand. Many people don’t use porn but still masturbate. Masturbation is also a lot of fun during sex- a lot of guys get very turned on watching their partners touch themselves, and it’s lots of fun to touch each other that way. But when you grow up hearing how bad it is, you either lose out or constantly feel guilty about enjoying it.

I regret waiting until I was married. I know some people regret not waiting, for other reasons. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what a couple decides- as long as it’s genuinely THEIR decision. If they want to wait, great! If they’re consenting adults and they’re being safe and healthy about their pre-marital sexual actions, great! No one should look down on them or judge them for their choices, and young people should not be raised to think that there is only one acceptable way to conduct a relationship. Humans are far too diverse to slap one solution on everyone and expect it to work. Shouldn’t we realize this by now?

Every couple should decide what’s best for THEM specifically, not what society or their social groups tell them is best. And believe it or not, I fully support a couple’s decision to wait if that’s what they feel is best for them. I also support a couple’s decision to live together and/or never get married at all if that’s what they want. It’s none of my business!

So why do I even talk about it? Because I grew up in social circles that told me that there was only ONE way to have a successful relationship, and anyone who dared to step outside of this narrow mold was treated differently. They were “sinners”, “doomed for relationships problems”, and were always pressured and encouraged to get married as soon as possible. I was taught that girls who had sex were low hanging fruit, they were dirty and used, somehow broken and less worthy. It may not have been said in those exact words, but the message was crystal clear. I grew up with this intense shame about my sexuality, and I hope to prevent another generation from growing up with the same shame and limitations. I want everyone to realize that they can choose their own path, and for other people to stop shaming and judging  them for doing so.

I also want people to stop telling lies about how much better purity culture is. If it truly offered something better, then the church’s divorce rate should be much lower- but it’s actually just the same if not higher in the church. If purity culture was really all that great, then why do so many people come out of it disillusioned later in life, or have to deal with marital/sexual/mental problems caused by an unhealthy view of sex? And why do states that rely on abstinence only education have the highest rates of STD’s, teen pregnancies, and abortions? It doesn’t work. It just causes unnecessary shame and harm.

Spend Time With Your Family Instead…

So many religious people prioritize their religious beliefs over their family.

It often results in hurt and pain when the religious family members will not fully accept their non-religious or differently religious family members because they do not share the same beliefs. Much effort is poured into “converting them” or “changing them” instead of just accepting them as they are.

Why not put the effort you put into your religion into loving the people around you with no strings and judgments attached? Just a thought.

Church attendance takes priority over family in many cases too. I’ve seen families where the non-religious person isn’t able to visit very often, but when they do the religious members still go to church. Now I understand that church is important to them, and it’s generally not fair for someone to ask a very religious person to skip church (I wouldn’t ask it of anyone unless it was an urgent situation), but wouldn’t it show a lot of love if they voluntarily skipped church one weekend in order to spend a few more valuable minutes with their non-religious or differently-religious family? They can go to church any other weekend of the year- couldn’t they serve God that particular weekend by showing love to their family instead? Instead, it feels like they throw it in their family’s faces: “Church is more important to me than spending time with you. If you want to spend time with me today, you have to honor my religion with me.”

Christians, you’re free to go to church whenever you want. But think about how this affects your family relationships. It doesn’t help convince us to convert to your religion when it so obviously makes you prioritize church attendance above your own family. We don’t want to be like that- so you’re kind of shooting yourself in the foot here.

Changing Our Minds

Remember-that-it-is-okay-to-changeChange is healthy and necessary. To be able to change our minds about something when we’re presented with new information is a mark of maturity and wisdom. If we’re so set in our ways that we can never admit when we’re wrong, so stubborn that we refuse to acknowledge the possibility that we could be incorrect in some of our thinking, then we will never make progress and grow as a person. And we will certainly never change the world for the better.

Some people get upset when a member of their religion stops believing. They can’t understand why that person would make such a drastic change in their thinking. However, this is often a bit hypocritical, since those same people wouldn’t think twice about a major change of thinking if the other person was coming INTO their religion instead of LEAVING it. In other words, it’s only shocking for someone to change their mind if they are leaving a religion.

I have dealt with this personally many times. When I came out as an atheist, some people close to me couldn’t comprehend how I could change my mind so drastically. I’ve been told things like this after changing my mind about religion:

  • “You must be deceived by the devil.”
  • “Did you ever really believe at all?”
  • “Were you faking being a Christian?”
  • “If you can change your mind on this, what else will you change your mind on?”
  • “How could you possibly change your mind about this after experiencing God like you did?”
  • “I feel like I don’t know you anymore.”

The general sense that I got was this: Changing your mind was a scary, negative thing. These people were terrified of change. They actually believed that this kind of change would open the door for me to become a horrible person, like opening the floodgates. What does it say about these kinds of religion, when even changing your mind is threatening to them? Free thought is demonized, critical thinking is twisted to mean “relate everything back to your religion”.

The meme below certainly doesn’t speak for all atheists or all fundamentalist/Evangelical Christians, but it does reflect the general difference between the two. As I’ve stated before, the Christians I refer to in my blogs are generally of the Evangelical/Fundamentalist or similar persuasion because those are the groups that tend to be the most harmful and oppressive in their thinking. I love the fact that many Christian groups today don’t fit these descriptions, and that even in those groups there are those who are breaking the mold. I wish the term Christian were not so widespread because it makes it complicated differentiating between them sometimes.


Worship Service “Highs” Explained

0045667cdac4530c891d3feae1adc011After 20+ years in church and many, many, MANY years of participating in incredibly intense and emotionally charged worship services, I’ve learned that this kind of musical experience is not unique to Christianity, or even religion in general. I experience the same rush of emotions, the same euphoria that I felt back when I was in church: peace and inspiration and deep thought provoking responses, the desire to dance around happily, to just fall on the floor and cry, or to run out and fight a righteous battle of some kind. Except now it’s to other kinds of music with no worship or prayer involved.

Music moves us, drives us, and causes us to experience things that we can’t always explain unless we happen to be psychologists who have literally written books on how it works, or we’re one of those people who like reading those books (raises hand). In a church worship service, the addition of other people experiencing the same thing is very similar to what we feel at an intense rock concert where everyone is singing along. Many people coming together to focus on the same experience creates a sort of group high.

This isn’t a commentary about whether or not god exists, we all have our own beliefs on that count and it’s a different issue altogether. This is just my own commentary on the phenomenon of the musical “high” that churches often claim as supernatural, based on my own experience and what I’ve learned about in science and psychology. I think that much of what is thought of as “God’s presence” in a worship service is nothing more than our natural responses to being in such a charged musical atmosphere. This is probably why some religious sects don’t allow music, because they recognize the power of music in driving emotional responses that aren’t necessarily supernatural. But when you’re raised to associate these feelings with “God’s presence”, it becomes confirmation bias. If God is real or not is another issue- but the whole musical experience thing is something that all humans, religious or not, can access. You could say God made music that way. I’d disagree with you, but at least it’s a more logical interpretation of how we feel in worship services.

So enjoy your music, however you like it. View it as divine or not, it’s up to you. These are just the thoughts that go through my head as I drink root beer and listen to awesome music that I never listened to when I was a Christian. 🙂

Blasphemy: There Is No Such Thing

10407879_727029014017737_7887913191259200617_nWhat exactly is blasphemy? “The act or offense of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things; profane talk.” If someone is truly secure in their faith, then it won’t matter how someone else talks about religion. (Bullying tactics and attacking someone’s character are separate issues.)

Blasphemy is a concept created by people who used religion to control others; blasphemy was a direct threat to their control because it challenged the ideas that allowed them to manipulate and control people. It’s still a law in many countries today, and even in the US today it pops up now and then.

What do you think of blasphemy? Have you ever been called a blasphemer?