Matters of Faith


I woke up this morning with a sinking feeling, wondering “Did I go too far?”  See, I have my posts here set up so that they feed up to my Facebook page, and the discussion on my FB page concerning my post yesterday got pretty animated.  I have a few friends who are hardcore Christian, and they bravely took a stand in defense of their faith in response to my post yesterday.  And I am completely fine with that, I really am.  I am all for open discussion.  We do not have to agree on everything to get along, right?  Still, I am always very conscious of the fact that my friendships with people whose Christian faith is such an ingrained part of their identity are a little tenuous.  I always feel like one wrong move on my part, and I’m out.  Maybe I’m wrong about that – maybe that’s just me projecting my own bullshit.  Maybe my Christian friends really do accept me unconditionally.

Still, even though I feel it’s very risky of me to vocalize my position on matters of faith, I do it anyway.  Because I believe that I should be afforded the same courtesy to be vocal about my beliefs/nonbeliefs as the Faithful are afforded.

But of course, before it was all over, the discussion turned unpleasant.  I was told that “It would be nice if you could show some respect this weekend of all weekends.”  (Being that it’s Easter, a religious holiday that holds absolutely no religious or spiritual meaning for me, but I’m supposed to refrain from vocalizing my own beliefs, from raising valid questions, in honor of those who do find religious meaning in this weekend?)  I was ominously told that one day I will “stand before Him . . .”  I was accused of “indoctrinating” my children into Atheism.  And comments have come in directly to my blog today expressing pity for my children and the fact that they’re being raised without God.

I open myself up to this stuff merely by virtue of openly discussing my beliefs.  I do it knowingly, but it still rankles me every time.  I get the strong feeling that people can accept/tolerate that I’m atheist so long as I’m quiet about it.  Christians get to be as vocal about their beliefs as they want.  They get to post on their blogs and their Facebook pages praising the lord, asking for prayers for this and that, quoting bible verses, etc., etc.  And it’s all very socially acceptable.  But the moment I, an atheist, vocalize something publicly about where I stand on matters of god and faith, I can expect a firestorm in response.

I have faced A LOT of adversity in my life – less than some people and more than others.  I think of myself as a pretty resilient person.  I get through the hard times, sometimes falling apart, but always getting back up and recognizing everything I have to be grateful for.  That’s grace – being able to recognize and appreciate the good even in the midst of adversity and hardship.  I’ve faced some adversity as a Christian during my life, and some as an atheist, and I’m here to tell you that there’s been no difference in my ability to deal with things.  When I was a believer, I didn’t have any more or less strength or resilience than I do as a nonbeliever.

How arrogant it is of you Christians who think you have better tools of coping at your disposal than I do merely by virtue of your faith.  How arrogant of you to think that your life has more meaning than mine, more fulfillment.  Believers face the same rates of depression, divorce, financial difficulty, and crime that non-believers do (did you know that the vast majority of prison inmates consider themselves Christian?  Very few are atheist).  In fact, probably higher rates just because there are more believers than nonbelievers per capita.  How arrogant of you to think that your children are being raised better than mine are because you are teaching your children to believe in god, and I am teaching my children to think for themselves.  You cannot possibly demonstrate that your life is any better than mine, or that your children are any better off than mine are.  So it all boils down to the afterlife.  My poor children are being deprived of eternal life in Paradise because I’m not indoctrinating – yes, indoctrinating – them into YOUR belief system.

What a crock.  It makes me mad.

I feel for children who are taught that there is only ONE path to salvation, and that if they don’t follow that path . . . well, we all know the supposed alternative.

Don’t feel sorry for me or my children.  I have a wonderful life.  Yes, I have faced tremendous ordeals at times, but I experience love – giving and receiving – to the fullest.  I have a solid marriage to a devoted husband and wonderful father to my six beautiful children – who are all well-loved and cared for.  I have a nice roof over my head and plenty of nourishing food to eat and clothes to protect me from the elements.  I want for nothing.  I am raising my children to be honest and loving and compassionate.  Why would anyone be so arrogant as to presume they are in a position to feel sorry for any of us?

Get over yourselves already.

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12 Comments on “Matters of Faith”

  1. Christine Logan
    April 24, 2011 at 9:28 pm #

    I have so enjoyed following all of your posts and the reply’s on this matter. I never post on fb and yet now, here is a second time you have brought me to post. (I just love intellectual people!) So my thoughts are this…I see what you are saying about Christians posting things such as prayer requests or statements of Glory to God. However, I view them in the same way as any person who updates the fb world on trials they are going through or just about anything else that is posted. We are social beings and we long to be social and even more importantly, to be heard. But one thing you said hit me. When it comes down to it, it is about the afterlife. It is a Christians purpose and commandment in life to “spread the word”. One common statement or fear talked about in the church setting is “will your friend, who is standing accountable before the Lord look and you and say, why didn’t you tell me? All those years, and you never told me…” If (and I realize this is a big IF) but, if the Christian belief is right, would you say to one of your christian friends as you stood before the Lord, “why didn’t you tell me?” From what I have read, most would not. It is not as if the average American doesn’t know the message, or the expected outcome the Christians believe will take place. So, no matter how much I enjoy reading the debate and simply brilliant writing, I wonder what it is all for… What outcome does either side really expect to have happen?

  2. Maggie
    April 24, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

    So sorry you’re having this experience. As a practitioner of a non-Christian religion here in the USA, I can relate. What those who proselytize — regardless of which religion they’re preaching — don’t seem to realize is that those of us who are not Christians may actually be non-Christian by choice. That is, the fact that I hold different beliefs from theirs is NOT the result of their ‘failure’ to tell me their version of the good news.

    Personally, I find the overblown Christian rhetoric to be as offensive as if the person was using a racial slur. I have no quarrel with Jesus of Nazareth, who by all accounts really existed and may have been an exceptionally good person and inspiring teacher. But the fact that his birthday is celebrated on Dec 25 should not require Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Pagans, the children of White Buffalo Woman, or Atheists to listen to 24 days of religious music, much less intentional attempts to ‘convert’ us.

    And ‘respect’ for people practicing their Easter traditions is no more appropriate (or no less appropriate) than respect for people practicing their Divali traditons or their Eid al Fitr traditions. And I would love to encourage the Easter people to actively respect these others the way they want us to respect them.

    I love your blog, by the way, both here and at Finnian’s Journey where I first read your writing. I hope the hostile commenters get a life.

  3. beth
    April 25, 2011 at 2:12 am #

    Lisa,

    You know I love this topic! I feel you. I really do. And the one thing you wrote that struck me the most was concerning going through the ups and downs of life both as a Christian and as an atheist and not feeling a difference. You didn’t feel you coped any better with the tools provided you by your Christian faith.

    I understand and relate to what you are saying. I have grown up in the Christian faith. One of the things that is always “sold” to people about being “in Christ” is that you need not fear the things this world may throw at you because God will walk through those struggles alongside you; he will give you the strength to carry on; he will sustain you and give you peace. I must say when I have been at my lowest points ( I know my problems are very “first world” ones, but, like you, I have experienced some gut-wrenching shit), I did not necessarily feel carried through those times or especially comforted or peaceful. In fact, I felt nothing of the sort. I felt nothing. I kept waiting for some of that peace or comfort to “kick in”, and it just didn’t. I felt sort of duped.

    Much of the draw of Christianity has to do with the afterlife, the promise of reward for having believed the right things. Much of the pull it has on its followers is fear of hell.
    Those things don’t make a lot of sense to me anymore. I hope that somehow life goes on after death. I’d love to think that we will be reunited with those we’ve lost. But in the end it just sounds like a pretty story we tell ourselves to make the losses we experience bearable.

    In the end, none of us can know for sure about these things. That’s why it’s called “faith”. The fb friend who thinks you are indoctrinating your children into your Atheist beliefs? I would remind her plenty of people are brought up “indoctrinated” into Christian beliefs and still reach a point where they must think for themselves. Your children will do the same. Many an adult Christian convert grew up in Atheist homes and vice-versa. I sometimes feel guilty for having my kids in church and having them told things by their Sunday school teachers like “God sends his angels to protect you. You never need to be afraid because God will protect you from harm!” Yes, they actually are told this. Everyone knows it’s a lie. Innocent children are harmed all the time. Where is God when children are beaten, raped, or even when they are accidentally injured or killed? Where are God’s angels then? We are giving children a false sense of security and when that crumbles around them (and it will), they too will feel duped and call God’s love into question. Your friend is right at least in that we need to be careful what we tell the children.

  4. diane
    April 25, 2011 at 2:30 am #

    My brother posted this morning on FB “I find it odd that we celebrate the day our lord and saviour became a zombie … ” He doesn’t believe either, I just thought it was funny

    I feel the same way Lisa. There are times I read religious posts and roll my eyes and I know if I were that adamant about posting my non beliefs I’d hear so much shit about it. But then I also look at it this way, those people fill their lives with their god and their religion and they want everyone to think they are just bursting at the seams with it (and some may be, but most just throw it out there a couple of times a year). I fill my life with my children, my husband, my activities and the things that strike me as entertaining (which is what I post about on FB). My choice in thinking for myself does not consume much of my attention, it’s just the way I live. Once in a while, my “untrained” children will make a comment about religion which will strike me as funny, but otherwise it is a non subject in my house and really? I like it that way.

    Tho I do have to add .. I appreciate that I can discuss with my kids different theories. I don’t have to live by doctrine that I grew up with or the absolute fiction I find in the bible, but I can say, “this is what these people believe, and this is what these other people believe, and you need to decide what makes you feel comfortable”. I haven’t met too many christians willing to step outside of their comfort zone and let their children decide for themselves. I think in that respect my life IS better because my kids have no fear in being rejected because of their beliefs (which of the youngest 2, one does NOT believe and the one who does still thinks the Disney princesses LIVE at Disneyland).

    But I’ve also been told I am the epitome of bad moms cuz I won’t pretend there’s a santa, an easter bunny or a tooth fairy @@

  5. Stephanie
    April 25, 2011 at 4:57 am #

    That you’ll stand in front of him one day comment annoyed the shit out of me. I get that all the time, but you’re more brave than I because I rarely post my true religious feelings on fb. Partly out of respect for my husband but mostly because I’m afraid of the blowback from the community which effects the entire family. I hate that it’s like that. I feel like my voice is being censured and I so understand the idea that you can only express your ideas if they’re in line with the status quo.

    You always compliment my honesty and courage at putting my thoughts out there, but really you’re the one that should be commended. Just try and not let it rankle you too much. In fact, I was reading a blog recently where the author asserted that people get angry when you challenge their religious beliefs because you are making them uncomfortable in the thought that their entire worldview might be based on a lie. And I can say as a former believer, that is true. So look at anger as a good thing. That’s how I deal with it anyway :).

  6. Taryl
    April 25, 2011 at 7:56 pm #

    Well you know I’m a Christian, and a fairly vocal one, and I admit some things said on this post can cross the line into hurtful in the same way that things said to you and your family regarding your atheism can. That’s where I draw my personal line – I am solid in my beliefs and convictions and have strong opinions on them, but they don’t need to be stated in a way that is contentious or argumentative. An intellectual discussion is all well and good, but all parties involved have to remember that, at the end of the day, mutual respect is needed for any friendship.

    It is no more respectful of me to insult your methods of raising your children than it is of you to do the same, in return. To remain friends, it isn’t a tenuous prospect son long as we both remember that kindness needs to be foremost in our minds. On the issue of your beliefs, I think my remaining respectfully mum is probably the best idea, as I know you would do to me for the same reason :).

    Love ya, Lisa!

  7. Jackie
    April 27, 2011 at 1:06 am #

    I have waited a few days to respond, I needed to get my thoughts in order. I am a Christian and I would NEVER pass judgment on you or your children. I think judging others gives Christians a bad name. I always think “what if”, what if I am wrong and you or someone of a different religion is right? I do not feel sorry for your children because I believe they are being raised in a loving and nurturing home. While I may not agree with you I totally respect you and I just cannot fathom why “we” (general we) must put each other down and be so disrespectful of each other! I will admit that sometimes I get that “ouch” feeling on some things that are said but then I stop and think wow you probably get that or something similar when I post on FB about asking for prayers or something like that, so in the end I just dont think its a big deal. I realize I am rambling lol, hopefully I made some sense!

    • Lisa
      April 27, 2011 at 1:18 am #

      Perfect sense, Jackie. Thanks for your thoughts.

  8. Rachael
    April 27, 2011 at 6:22 pm #

    After reading through all of this, one question comes to my mind. What is it that has gotten you through all the crap you’ve endured? Friends? Family? Just curious.

    • Lisa
      April 27, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

      Rachael, friends is part of it. Certainly not family – I don’t have family in the real sense. I think I was born stubborn, determined, and tenacious, and it’s gotten me through a lot. That’s not to say that I haven’t had some really low points, or that I haven’t had bouts of depression. And maybe some day, something will break me, but so far, I haven’t been broken.

      • Rachael
        April 28, 2011 at 3:57 am #

        I guess it’s just that I worry about the what ifs for you… I know to be a mom to so many (I have 7 myself and two with disabilities)… and dealing with everything I have to deal with, which isn’t near what you have on your plate right now… I just worry for you. But I am thankful you have friends (and it sucks that it’s NOT your family supporting you in the literal sense) that are standing by you and with you as your family. You deserve a lot of support and some breaks, that’s for sure. And although I know you don’t know much about me, I feel like I’ve gotten to know you somewhat back from the pg.org large families board even before Finn was born, and I want you to know that I am cheering for you and am in support of you.

      • Lisa
        April 28, 2011 at 5:08 am #

        Thank you, Rachael 🙂

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