Christians, it’s time to stop picking bad fruit from a bad tree.

  
I hope I start to see changes in how many American Christians talk about LGBTQ people and equality issues. Because if you tell us that you’re sorry for our suffering today, but go back to opposing our rights and demeaning us for being LGBTQ tomorrow, then your words of love are empty and pointless. If you falsely accuse trans people of putting you in danger in bathrooms but you don’t work to stop the REAL violence we face every day, then you are a hypocrite.

You must reevaluate how you address LGBTQ issues. You MUST start accepting us, even if you personally still disagree with us. You can’t claim to care about me and still oppose legislation that would help protect me and those I love from violence and discrimination. You can’t claim to care about us when your anti-LGBTQ teachings are literally driving young people into depression and suicide at record rates, and encouraging people to see us as threats which results in violence. You don’t get to claim to be loving when you spread misinformation about us that puts us in even more danger. Many Christians believe in sin, but they don’t expect non-believers to follow their religion’s standards and they don’t put us down for it or fight our legal equality. This I understand and can even respect. But you have NO RIGHT to expect anyone else to live by your religion’s standards, or to socially punish people for not conforming to your personal ideas of morality and normality. It’s literally killing us, and has been for a very long time. But you don’t see it. You don’t want to see it. You want to see us as bad people who are persecuting you, instead of the other way around. 

  
You keep picking bad fruit off the tree and saying it’s a good tree. But the fruit of homophobia is pain and death. Why are you still watering a poisonous tree? 

Do I have to scream for you to hear me? Do I have to bleed for you to see me? Cause I grieve; you’re not listening to me. (A song from my Christian days. It seemed appropriate.)

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Orlando Gay Club Shooting

  The worst shooting in US history was targeting a club full of gay people. While we don’t know his motives for sure yet, it’s possible that the shooter was a religious extremist and he was definitely homophobic. Homophobic people are already gleefully saying that this was “God’s work”. The shooter may have possibly been Muslim (we don’t know this for sure yet), but Christian extremists and other homophobic people are already applauding his actions. Even if he’s not a religious extremist himself, he’s revealed the violent natures of so many others in the US. 

Can you see why so many LGBTQ people live in fear? Why we are trying to get society to accept us? It’s about survival, not us pushing our “lifestyles” on you. When a minority group of people is not accepted by their culture at large, it makes them a target for violence and abuse, and it encourages terrorists like this to target them.
LGBTQ people face discrimination and violence all the time in the US, and from people in every belief system. Religious doctrines that condemn homosexuality or gender differences, plus rampant general social stigma against us, have resulted in a culture where LGBTQ people are regularly abused and targeted for violence. But many Americans don’t believe them because they aren’t personally affected by it. A mass shooting targeting a gay club is pretty hard to ignore though, isn’t it? 
I’m really glad I’m in Canada right now. The US scares me. It’s not a very safe place to be LGBTQ. 
My heart goes out to the victims and their families. I hope people of all beliefs come together to help them. 

Socially accepting the LGBTQ community is important.

  My artwork above.
We need society to accept LGBTQ people as normal. Not because we care about what other people think about us, or because we want others to become gay or to give up their beliefs, but because we are abused and mistreated and shot down in cold blood because so many people see us as immoral, disgusting, and deviant. Being treated as abnormal and immoral is not only hurtful and emotionally damaging, it is dangerous. 
When you say there is something wrong with us or that we are abominations, remember Orlando. 
When you say gay marriage or gender non-conformity will ruin our nation, remember Orlando. 
When you oppose our equal rights and are silent when we are bullied and oppressed, remember Orlando. 
Remember that hurtful and violent people will listen to what you say about us, and and they will always take it much farther than you intend. Your words against us are not harmless, even if your intentions are good. Are you encouraging them to love us, or fear us? Accept us as equals, or see us as threats to their way of life? 
Silence only benefits the people hurting us. Silence encourages their awful actions against us even more. How much violence and harm could be avoided if more people stood up for us when people put us down or mistreat us? 
It’s a shame that it takes a mass shooting for people to take the rampant oppression and violence against the LGBTQ community seriously. How many more of us have to suffer or die before people will put aside their judgements of our personal lives and stand by us as human beings? 

“Godlessness” is not to blame for Orlando. 

  
When you blame “Godlessness” for this weekend’s violence, remember that the LGBTQ community is bullied and mistreated in the name of God every single day, and the murderer believed in God too. There are pastors calling for our deaths because the Bible says homosexuals should be stoned. Extremist Christians are cheering for the shooter, saying he did God’s work and there are a “few less pedophiles” to ruin America. I don’t know if the shooter had religious motivations, but it doesn’t matter. The name of God has long been used to oppress us, and people are still using religion to hurt us. Godlessness caused this? No. Hate caused this. 
There are good and bad people in every belief system. It is not godlessness or religion that is ruining this nation, but hate and fear and pride- and it’s found in every group. We need to put aside our differences and start countering hate and fear with love and understanding. 
We don’t need religion or atheism to be good to each other. We need compassion and empathy. We are all capable of this. 

The Bank of Emotional Goodwill: Some Christians are Abusing It.

In every relationship, there is a level of accumulated emotional goodwill. We’ll compare it to a bank account. We all start out with an empty bank account, and we fill it up with positive interactions with each other. When we ask something of the other person or hurt them, we drain some of that goodwill. If we deposit more than we withdraw, then we have good relationships. If one person withdraws but rarely deposits, we eventually run out of goodwill and then a negative balance occurs- this is when frustration and anger comes up.

Here’s the problem with being a Christian in Americasome of you are constantly draining our tanks of goodwill and you don’t even realize it. You assume that we should be totally fine with how you’re treating us, and that we should never complain about it. Then when you make yet another withdrawal on an empty balance, we snap. You can’t figure out why we’re upset because you don’t understand how you’re draining us on a daily basis.

This is how some of you drain our tanks of goodwill:

  • When people change their beliefs, you make them feel bad about it. “You’ve disappointed us by changing your beliefs and making decisions we don’t approve of. We can’t be happy because you don’t share our beliefs anymore.” Forcing someone to choose between their conscience and making their family happy is a terrible burden to put on anyone. I am not responsible for your happiness. If you cannot be happy because I don’t share your beliefs, then you have a personal problem and you’re taking that problem out on me. That’s unfair.
  • When people change their beliefs, you accuse them of abandoning or betraying you. But we’re just following our conscience, same as you. Just because I started out believing something doesn’t mean I am obligated to continuing believing it. In fact, changing our minds is a normal part of growing up. Of course I started out as a Christian- I didn’t know anything else! One of the worst feelings in the world is knowing that you have failed the expectations of those you love.
  • There is something seriously wrong with you for thinking this way. You are a broken, immoral person for not thinking like us. You must be deceived by the Devil or be mentally compromised somehow; it’s inconceivable that you could change your mind without something being terribly wrong with you. You must be going crazy!” If you have said or implied any of this to your loved ones, then congratulations! You have most likely ripped a hole through their heart and they will forever bear the scars. You have made them feel like a pile of horse dung, destroyed their self esteem and self confidence, and then when they get upset with you for hurting them so much you’ll shake your head and wonder “what did I ever do to them?”
  • Unresolved conflict. Problems don’t just go away because we don’t talk about them. If you’ve hurt someone and have refused to change the hurtful attitudes or actions, or if you won’t even acknowledge that the hurt took place and apologize, then the other person will be forced to deal with that pain in silence even if you have forgotten about it. Every time you post or say something that reminds the person of the hurt you caused them, you are reopening the wound all over again. The only way to solve this is to stop avoiding the problem and fix it head on. If you won’t fix it, then don’t complain when the people you’ve hurt sometimes get emotionally triggered and get upset with you over seemingly nothing. It’s not nothing; it’s all the underlying hurt that hasn’t been resolved. You just poured more salt in the wound and then wonder why they’re mad again.
  • You knowingly and willingly worship a god that you believe will melt the flesh from my bones because I believe the wrong things. The fact that you think I deserve this kind of punishment makes me sick to my stomach if I think about it for too long. Sure, you have a right to believe this way, but you’re not free from how this makes your loved ones feel.
  • You demonize those who disagree with you. It’s one thing to say “I don’t agree with your opinion on this matter.” It’s another thing to imply or outright say that the other person has no morals, is incapable of sound judgment (“deceived by the Devil”), does not deserve compassion if they make decisions you don’t like, and so on. I have many Christian friends, and most of them I get along with perfectly fine because they don’t make me feel inferior to them– we respect each other even when we disagree. So if people are getting mad at how you’re expressing your beliefs, it might be time to reevaluate your methods and attitudes. Don’t blame us for getting mad at you if you’re making yourself needlessly offensive to people.
  • You demean us. “Gay people are unnatural and deviant and they are sexual predators. They will destroy society! I can’t have those perverts around my children. Transgender people are abnormal and shouldn’t be accepted by civilized society. Atheists can’t be trusted. They’re always angry and selfish. They can’t possibly have moral standards and they’re going to ruin society.” Listen carefully- THIS IS VERY HURTFUL STUFF YOU’RE SAYING OR IMPLYING HERE. Also, LGBTQ people face high rates of suicide and assault because these attitudes and inaccurate stereotypes keep being perpetuated and used against us. Something to keep in mind.
  • You tell me what I believe. When my beliefs changed, many Christians immediately applied their atheist/Pro Choice/Feminist/Liberal stereotypes onto me without even bothering to find out who I really was and what I actually believed. And most of their stereotypes were wrong. So they created an image of me in their head that was based on fiction, not fact, and then couldn’t understand why I was upset.
  • You oppress others. Disagreeing with someone is one thing. Even if you’re rude, I can still work around that. But opposing their legal rights? That’s a different story. It’s gone from disagreement to you actively forcing your personal beliefs onto them. Opposing my right to make my own decisions in regards to who I marry, how I plan my family, and opposing my right to not be discriminated against… when you do these things, the message you send is this: “I should make your decisions for you. You aren’t good enough to choose your own path. My personal beliefs are more important than your personal liberty.”
  • Your “Us vs Them” attitude. Mainstream Christianity has declared war on the rest of society because they cannot tolerate the rest of us living or believing things differently than them. And many of you align yourself with this movement and say the same things that they do. If we’re not on the same side as you, then we are either potential converts or enemy combatants. And then when we say “Hey! Back off and let us live in peace! Just end the war already and coexist with us!” you claim that we are attacking you. When you start a war, don’t be surprised when people fight back and tell you that you’re not very nice.
  • You equate disagreement with persecution. People disagreeing with you or telling you that you’re hurting them is not persecution. People asking for the same rights you have is not persecution.

We hear these messages constantly, day in and day out, sometimes with flowery language but sometimes almost as bluntly as I wrote it here. (Did I tell you about the Christian online who told me that I deserved to lose most of my friends when my beliefs changed?)

There is nothing wrong with me for being an atheist, for being Pro Choice, a Liberal, or for not being heterosexual. And yet so many people have made it very clear that these parts of me are utterly unacceptable to them- there is something wrong with me because I don’t agree with them anymore.

I’m crying as I write this. You cannot tell me that I’m deficient and a bad person for changing my beliefs without hurting me deeply. There is nothing wrong with me– and yet you think there is. I will never be whole again in your eyes.

Well guess what? Being rejected and judged for who you are hurts, and it causes low self esteem and stress. So in a way, people create their own self-fulfilling prophecies. “People who leave the faith are always angry and lash out at us!” Well of course we are angry! You spend so much effort making us feel inadequate and bad for not believing like you- of course we will not be happy with you and will probably be mad at your religion when we finally leave it! Yes, sometimes people go overboard (I did at first), but you are also making it pretty rough for ex-Christians and then blame us when we get upset.

The Tank Gets Drained

So our tank of emotional goodwill gets drained, and drained, and drained some more. What happens when the tank gets empty and then you make another withdrawal? It goes into the negative and we get irritated. We develop a short fuse with you. You’re taking and taking without depositing enough to fill it back up again. So when you are not depositing, but then make a withdrawal (like posting another thing that reminds me of how little you think of me), you have now pushed us into the negative. It should not surprise you when we get snappy with you when this occurs- after all, you have been abusing our goodwill bank for a very long time.

Understand Your Position of Dominance and Privilege.

Yes, this goodwill bank account thing does go both ways. You have a goodwill tank with us too and we also need to be mindful of how we treat you in return. I’ve never claimed to be perfect at this, and I’ve apologized before for responding in ways that I shouldn’t. But you must understand the difference in power and social dominance here, and understand that for the most part we are forced to be on the defensive against you when we would much rather just live in peace.

As Christians in the USA, you are in the majority- 70% Christians (of various sects) versus 3% atheists and 3.4% LGBTQ.

Please read those stats again. WE ARE THE MINORITY HERE. BY A LANDSLIDE.

When we say something against you, it is NOT the same as you saying it against us because we do not have the social power and privilege behind it like you do. You’re in the overwhelming majority; we’re so small that we have to scream to even be heard compared to you. We face social ostracizing and rates of physical violence and discrimination that many Christians simply can’t relate to because they’re never had to personally see or experience it for themselves. They’re so used to their position of social dominance and privilege that they can’t comprehend what it’s like to live in the US and not have those freedoms.

Almost all of our political leaders identify as Christians. They pray and believe in God, like you.

For LGBTQ or non-Christians to earn the SAME rights as Heterosexual Christians, we have to fight tooth and nail for it just like women and people of color have had to fight for theirs.

And even when we finally win and get some equality, mainstream Christianity gangs up on us to take our rights away again. How many Christian politicians talk about reversing marriage equality, or ending safe abortion access?

Do you have any idea how many millions of dollars are spent by American Christians just to oppose LGBTQ equal rights? It is literally a nationwide campaign to make sure LGBTQ people have to live by Christian values. And in return? LGBTQ people have never once tried to pass laws requiring Christians to marry someone of the same gender, or to become transgender. All we want are equal rights and to be treated with dignity, just like women and people of color have fought for. That is not persecution. This is us asking to be treated fairly, and Mainstream Christianity is freaking out that they don’t get to control us anymore.

Mainstream American Christianity is a massive social machine with one focus- to make America a Christian nation. Christians of this sort are constantly pushing to have their beliefs be adopted by all of society- and then they wonder why minorities like me, who have very little voting power or social power in comparison to them, get so angry about it. You’re acting like bullies, guys. 70% Christians vs 3% atheists/3.4% LGBTQ and you act like this is a fair fight, or that you are somehow the victims.

So you and people like you are draining our goodwill all the time even if you’re not talking to us directly. We see the things you say and support regarding people like us, and we’re not impressed. We are a pitifully small minority in comparison to you, and yet you use your massive influence to paint us as awful people and you actively fight our equality. Our goodwill bank account is constantly in a state of withdrawal, and we are expected to put up with this treatment from you even when you give us nothing in return and contribute to immense societal harm against us. If we object, then we are accused of attacking you.

Expressing Your Beliefs Without Oppressing Others.

If you want non-Christians to stop getting so easily upset with you, then look at how much you and your fellow Christians are draining from our goodwill banks.

When you tear us down by constantly telling saying how bad you think people like us are, are you making a conscious effort to build us back up again? (And no, telling us about Jesus does not count. That’s only a good thing in your world, not ours.) If you want us to respect you, then stop beating us down with your Bible and politics and start making positive deposits into our lives!

It’s hard to get angry at someone who makes you feel good about yourself. And you know what? When you build people up instead of tearing them down, they may actually start to open up to what you have to say. Even if they don’t agree with it, they’re not likely to be hostile towards you if you have treated them with respect and dignity and supported them when they’re being persecuted and needed help.

If you align yourself with Mainstream Christianity, we may start out very apprehensive or nervous around you because we’ve been burned by people affiliated with you so many times before. You can show us that you’re different- and we’d love to see that! But if you do or say the same things to us that everyone else does, then don’t get offended when we respond to you like we do to them- with irritation and justified anger. You’ve shown you’re no different than the other millions of Christians that have made the USA an awful place for us to live in.

So how can you express your beliefs without being oppressive?

First, stop crying persecution all the time. This isn’t the Middle East. It’s very frustrating when you say we’re persecuting you when we just want you to leave us alone so we can live in peace. Or, for you to say we’re attacking you when we ask to be treated as equals. Yes, some people are jerks and will argue or throw insults over anything and they’re out of line, but most of us have genuine grievances and have good reason to be angry. That doesn’t mean we’re persecuting you.

Second, make sure you are treating us with respect and dignity. You greatly outnumber us, so it gets overwhelming dealing with stuff like this from all of you all the time. Don’t be another hurtful voice in a sea of hurtful voices. You will not win anyone to Christianity that way. You just make people even more hostile to your religion because you’re hurting us with it.

Thirdly, do not oppose our equal rights. You like having the freedom to make your own decisions, right? You wouldn’t want someone else’s personal beliefs to be forced on you, so don’t do that to us. If anyone ever tried to make it illegal for you to go to church, I’d be right there fighting for your rights. Why? Because I stand for equality- not just for me, but for everyone. It would be nice if you felt my rights were worth fighting for too, but if you can’t support me then at LEAST don’t be one of the ones oppressing me.

 

Sorry this was long, but there are years of pain and frustration that needed an outlet. If you took the time to read it all, perhaps you’ll understand me a bit better now. Either way, I wish you well.

 

Sometimes it IS more than we can handle. Hold on anyways.

hope-463567_1920Growing up I heard the phrase “God won’t send you anything you can’t handle!” I’ve heard similar cliches along that same line of thought even outside of a religious context. The idea is the same: We’re supposedly capable of handling anything that life throws at us, if we just try hard enough.

Bullshit.

Sometimes life throws more at us than we can possibly handle.

It’s why we sometimes curl up in a little ball, unable to function because what life has thrown our way is more than we can rationally deal with.

It’s why some turn to substance abuse or self harm.

It’s why some end their own lives.

It’s why people die of disease or injury. Can you honestly tell me that someone who died suddenly of a fatal disease or a violent crime was able to handle what life threw at them? They may have fought valiantly, but in the end the disease or their assailant won.

Life isn’t fair. It doesn’t look at our emotional or physical strengths and dole out just enough to mess us up without actually destroying us. Watch any nature documentary and you’ll see how insensitive life truly is to what an individual wants or needs. It CAN destroy us. And you don’t have to be six feet under for life to have destroyed you.

I’m not going to tell you that you can get through anything if you simply try hard enough or think lots of positive thoughts. Sometimes it’s just not enough. But I am going to tell you that you should never stop trying. Why? Because the moment we stop trying is the moment we lose any chance of getting through it.

If there’s even the slightest hope of reaching the light at the end of whatever dark tunnel we’re trudging through, we must do what all life has evolved to do- try our best to survive.

Sometimes we can’t see a light anywhere. It’s just darkness and pain. In those moments we may need the help of those we trust to help us see that there is still hope, that life is still worth fighting for. Other times, there truly isn’t a reasonable hope. When someone is undeniably at death’s door, there comes a point where it’s better to cherish those last moments in peace instead of pointlessly fighting the inevitable. But until then, hope is not lost. Even if it’s more than you can handle, as long as you’re still alive your story still has room for happier chapters.

I’m only 27, but I’ve already been through more life insanity than many people twice my age. Those who follow my blog know about a small portion of it. Though I certainly can’t pretend to understand everyone else’s life struggles, I do know what it’s like to have to face the unfaceable and somehow get up and keep going anyways. I know how it feels to be knocked flat on my back over and over, barely being able to catch my breath before another blow comes to knock me down again. But despite all of it, life is still worth fighting for. I know that as long as I’m still breathing there is hope for better days, even if I can’t see it in that exact moment. I know this because I’ve had beautiful moments in life too. In between the chaos and horror, life has shown me beauty and love and happiness too. They’re easily forgotten in the midst of an unbearable event, but that doesn’t mean they never happened or that they can’t ever happen again. And those glimpses of happiness and beauty remind me that life isn’t all bad; it’s still worth fighting for.

I’m not suicidal. Please don’t worry about that. But recently someone in my local community took their own life, and I know many others are dealing with unbearable life circumstances. If you are dealing with suicidal thoughts, please talk to someone who can help you.

http://suicideprevention.ca/thinking-about-suicide/…

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

What Not to Say to an Atheist When They’re Grieving

086b16bebf7132e2b4770016186d4b25So I’ve had some time to process this, and I’m ready to talk about it.

When well-meaning people say that “There is no comfort or hope without Jesus” or “You can’t get through loss without faith” when addressing people who may not share those beliefs, what’s essentially happening is that they are putting down other people’s beliefs and methods of dealing with grief in order to promote their own. It’s exactly what a salesman does- they belittle their competition so their own product is more enticing.

You may personally need Jesus for comfort and hope. But I do not. And that’s ok.

As an atheist, I don’t need prayer or faith to get through sadness and loss. I’ve lived in both belief systems, and I can tell you from extensive personal experience as an ex-Christian that neither offers a superior method of comfort. They’re just different, and some people may do better with one method over another. We all grieve and find solace in different ways; what works for you may not work for me and vice versa. I acknowledge this, and I don’t tell religious people that prayer is useless as a comfort method just because I personally find no solace in it. That would be incredibly rude and hurtful, and also untrue since prayer is a great comfort to many. It used to be for me too, after all. But lately I have heard so many well meaning people say or imply that their faith and their beliefs are the only way to get through difficult life circumstances. And given recent events, it’s been incredibly frustrating- especially since these exact things were said at the funeral. I sat there, listening to people blatantly say that their method of hope and comfort is the only one that works. No hope without Jesus. No comfort without their religion. Anyone who isn’t a Christian must have hopeless, meaningless lives and couldn’t possibly get through this grief. But it’s not remotely true.

Not gonna lie, hearing those words in that context was so hurtful that I felt like punching a wall or leaving the room. Having the loss of my loved one be so blatantly used to push someone else’s belief system on me in my time of grief was nearly unbearable. But I don’t like making scenes and the focus of the day was supposed to be about our loved one, so I held my peace. Afterwards I went to the bathroom where I bawled my eyes out in a toilet stall because one again my beliefs had been belittled and put down so others could promote their own- and right when I most needed support and to feel emotionally safe and accepted. Once again it was made very clear to me that some Christians will never see my beliefs as worthy of recognition and respect and validation; I will always be their project in need of fixing, the heathen in need of conversion. The only beliefs that mattered were Christian ones.

It would have been far easier if all the many people who have said these things had bad intentions. I could have just written them off as rude, but they were well-intentioned people just trying to help. They genuinely thought this was the best way to act. I’ve always tried my best to give people the benefit of the doubt; that hasn’t changed.

I’m bringing this up now because the people who say these things usually don’t realize how hurtful it is to those who don’t share their beliefs. If nobody ever makes them aware of it in a way that fosters respectful conversation, how can we ever mend bridges and learn to get along better? How will they ever learn to stop pushing away the very people that they’re trying to win over?

I’m also sharing this because if I say nothing, people will assume that I’m perfectly fine with them assuming that it’s ok to act this way towards me. I’m not. I am just to polite to make a scene in the moment.

I don’t hate anyone for saying these things, and I won’t hold a grudge, but I’m really (really!) not ok with it. I waited so I could express my feelings without allowing too much hurt to affect my ability to address this without lashing out.

There is nothing wrong with finding comfort or hope in prayer or a religion or in spirituality. It really doesn’t bother me when I see people pray for their own comfort or when they pray for others who want to be included in that, or if they give thanks for their food without expecting me to join in. That’s fine! Go for it! However, the superiority and exclusionary ideology that puts certain Christians’ beliefs and methods on a pedestal above everybody else’s does bother me- especially when I’m grieving and would like for my beliefs to ALSO be respected and acknowledged as valid and important, even if it’s just done by keeping things more neutral when in potentially mixed company. I don’t expect religious people to do atheist things to make me feel comfortable. I want to make that very clear. I don’t need others to participate in my personal traditions in order to feel respected and validated. Honestly I’d much rather try to make everybody feel welcome and accepted no matter what their beliefs are, and to focus on the life of the person who has passed, rather than focusing on ideologies and people’s personal beliefs which people are surely going to disagree on. It’s the exclusion and the implication that my beliefs are inferior and useless that makes me angry and hurt, not the fact that others believe in God and pray.

Please, hear me. Do not ever tell a non-believer that they have no hope or comfort just because they don’t believe like you. It’s pretty much the most hurtful thing you could possibly say to an atheist when they are grieving. Your good intentions may help us look past it, but they don’t make the words any less hurtful or exclusionary.

 

Are you a believer who is unsure how to act around non-believers in these situations? Feel free to ask here. I promise I won’t bite. I’ll just be happy that you care enough to try to learn how to interact with us better. 🙂 Are you an atheist or someone of another belief system who has experienced similar things? Share them if you wish. Everyone must be respectful, however. I wrote this to try to build a better understanding between those who so often just do not understand each other, not to facilitate pointless arguments. We can share our frustrations and grievances in a reasonable manner. Anyone who resorts to name calling or attacks other people personally will be banned.