Monthly Archives: September 2010

This I Believe

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When i was just a baby atheist, I was listening to NPR. NPR, as you know has the “This I Believe” thing that comes on ever so often(don’t know which day).  Well, one day I was listening to NPR, and that segment came on. As I prepared myself to roll my eyes or facepalm when I heard who was doing their reading: Penn from the duo Penn and Teller.

The first I had was “How in the world is he going to do this?”. Heck, even the person introducing him admitted that he didn’t know where Penn was coming from until he read Penn’s entry.  I held my breath during the reading, only exhaling at the finish.

The entry was funny and precise. It put a fire under my ass, so to speak. I wanted to get my entry on NPR not for the ability to be like “I’m on NPR bitches!”, but more of a “Hey, there are more of us nontheists out here. We’re positive(for the most part) and not wanting to eat your kids.

So here is my rough draft:

It happened when I came out as a nontheist to my very religious mother and grandmother. After mutterings of “What are you thinking?” and “You need to believe”, I tried to calm down my family by saying “But I do believe.” This caused a moment of awkward silence until my grandmother, my madea asked me: “Well, what do you believe?”

As I swallowed hard and collected my thoughts, I found that only two things came to mind. The first, love sounded like the most logical response at the time. The other, doing good for the sake of being good, appeared to be a type of landmine I’d want to avoid. So I chickened out.

“Love”, I said with a quaking voice.

My family looked at me as if I had three heads and resumed their discussion among themselves. As I walked away, I felt as if I were the proverbial gum on the bottom of the universe’s shoe.  I then reasoned to figure out what I believed, or if I had any beliefs at all.

I learned about religious groups, bought a few books on nature based movements, and even debated with a few friends. Each step was a movement towards self discovery. Sometimes painful, sometimes funny, each moment lived brought me to an epiphany of my belief status.

I believe that I have one life to live. As a citizen of earth, I must live my life to its fullest potential. Apathy and Ignorance are my enemies, not the fellow citizens that I share the world with. For  they also have only one life. This compels me to weigh the repercussions of my actions and attempt to rebuild any bridges from times that  I was less than conscientious.

I believe in doing good for the sake of doing good. This was taught to me at a young age, and stays with me to this day. There are those less fortunate than me who need a person to talk to or a bowl of soup. The least I can do is to oblige when I am able to.

I believe in the vast beauty of the universe. My five senses allow me to see an awe-inspiring beauty of a starlit night, feel the cool sea breeze as I walk the beach, and taste the sweetness of a sun-ripened strawberry. These senses allow me, in my very limited view, to explore that is there on earth be it the Rocky Mountains, the remains of the Coliseum, or the bottom of the ocean. They also allow me to see what is outside of our pale blue dot: asteroids, other planets, or the pieces of the galaxy that man is able to see at this moment.

I believe that I should respect others, even if I do not agree with them. This goes past toleration. To respect someone, in my mind, is to hear them out and kindly say where you agree or disagree. To cut any person off is a great disservice to them and myself. I lose the chance to learn something new while they may lose the respect the once had for me.

All these things push me into being the best person that I can be now, while I am still alive. At the end of my life, I wish to leave a stable legacy which will go on even in death in the way of my recorded thoughts and the lives of my not yet born children. Because to live on in the positive thoughts and memories of my family and friends would be the greatest second life that I can think of.

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Some Scary News

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So, in Palmdale California, five adults and eight children are currently missing. The reason? They are preparing for the rapture and used language such as “we will see our dead relatives again”.

I sat on my butt to think about what to say about that, as that I heard about this around 8 am but didn’t know what to say.

Now I do.

Folks, before anyone says that a “true” believer wouldn’t be caught up in something like that, let’s realize something. The five adults were passionate about their faith. I can’t say anything for the eight kids because they are children and would probally do what their elders ask them to do. That being said, don’t fool or delude yourself into thinking it couldn’t/wouldn’t happen to you(if you are a fervent believer).

Basically, it just happens. You can educate yourself and make sure it doesn’t happen. Heck, learn what your faith means to YOU and not a bodly commission. Engage in using reason instead of just leaning on ‘Well that is what our pastor says”. Practice the art of verbal self defense. Don’t let someone hack you down to size or even speak into your life just because they have a church, hold a seminary degree, or calls themself “Minister”, “Pastor”, or “Prophet”.

If you think, just even a little bit that you may be either a spiritually abusive/dangerous group(religious or no) then go to this link: http://www.rickross.com/faq.html

It gives great infomation on what constitutes a cult, what makes a cult dangerous, and the mindset of a person in a dangerous cult. I’ll give you the big three which constitute a dangerous cult:

  • A charismatic leader, who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose power. 
  • A process [is in use] call[ed] coercive persuasion or thought reform. 
  • Economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie.
  • If what the husbands say are true, and the folks who went into that desert are in over their heads, there is very little you can do. If they are already in that mindset, it would take a while to break that cycle.  For one, they’d have to want to get out of it. If they are what one would call a “true believer” to the point of doing this, any type of logic on them would just push them more into their cocoon of delusion. They may be found alive, but the adults(believing they are in the right and this is just satan’s regime trying to hold them down, if they are that far gone) will try and do it again.

    Because they want to please God with all of their being(or please their leaderand therefore please God). So they won’t question, and if they do, they’ll use thought stopping techniques like singing, scripture quoting, etc. If someone does raise the alarm and ask questions, they will be either compelled to repent or be kicked out of the clique.

    So the desire to conform would be strong.

    That being said, there should be a search mounted because there are children involved. Nonviolently, if possible. If the women were just sitting around praying and there was literally nothing amiss, then chalk it up to overreacting.

    But if it is as neferious as the husbands allege, then remove the kids. I know that might sound like a jerk thing to say, but when you bring children into a cult, let’s just say you’re scarring them and causing them problems down the line. Also, may I add, they are not willing participants on this ship of SS clusterfrack.

    And notice I never said these folks were not Christians are believers in Christ. Two reasons. 1) Despite the divider the other folks would like to put inbetween this and orthodox Christiantiy….these folks are Christian. They believe in Jesus and all the bells and whistles there of.  2) Because of that I refuse to believe that anyone who has said the sinner’s prayer while in that group or apart is not a believer.

    They are, in every since of the word, a bit extremist. And some news for those still reading, this is NOT new. Ever since the idea of the rapture,doomsday/rapture groups like this have been around. That being said, here is some info on that:

    In 1843 and 1844 there was the great disappointment, where William Miller assumed that after doing some math, the second coming was due in 1843. He claimed to have it right in 1844. Folks in his congregation did as these 13 people did: leaving their land, families, etc because they were going HOME because Jesus was going to annihilate everyone.

    Only they didn’t.  And he didn’t.

    Charles Taze Russel, of Watchtower fame(he created it) set so many dates that to write them all down would cause a cramp. Just look it up.

    Jack Van Impe was wise in the fact he never set dates. He would say “I believe that Christ is coming mid 80’s” Then the 90’s and onto now.

    Edgar Wisenaught wrote “The 88 reasons why the Rapture is in 1988”. It didn’t happen. So he wrote another book for 1989.

    Then some guy named Stuat Cobbs set it for October 3-5(like it was some multiday event) in 2005.

    There is a trend now among Rapture Enthusiasts to set it during Jewish High Holy Days. To make it sound more Godly I guess. To me, it seems like a thinly veiled attempted to say that they are the “chosen” people now…and what other better way to prove it then by setting the rapture during another religion’s high holy days.  But enough on that.

    What I want you guys to walk away with is this: cults are not new, they occur more than you think(if you go by the broadest definition), and when you see a red flag run like hell.

    And take your towel with you.

    The news thing I was talking about:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/19/cult-suicide-feared-5-adu_n_730601.html

    End of the world predictions:

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/end_wrld.htm

    What is the rapture?:

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/rapture.htm

    Fire in the brain(My journey in M I while I was a believer)

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    I thought I was going to need  a stiff drink to start this entry.But by the time I even thought of the world “alcoholic beverage” my brain said no thanks. I am strong enough to be sober to say this.

    I’ve always desired the attention of humans. Well it sounds weird because I use the term “human” which makes me sound like some alien from light years away.

    Ha, if only things were that easy.It would explain my obsessive interest in bento boxes, cat ears, and trident gum.

    And how, 10 years later from graduating high school, I’m in what would be called “an extended adolesense”. Well, to a point.

    I try to do what “adults” do: school or work, serious relationships, and thinking and preparing for the future.

    But yet, it all rings hollow.

    Mostly because I didn’t expect to live this long, to be quite honest. Or should I say, make it to this age. I’m honestly surprised, given the fact that I’ve tried to end my life on various occasions. Or at least pray fervertly that the rapture would happen(when I was a fervent believer) or that I would die in my sleep.

    Most folks don’t say that about their Christian Walk be they either believer or nonbeliever. I guess it’s a type of overshare that makes people go “Dear God, what the frack was wrong with you?”

    Well, it would have to be one part mental illness, one part unresolved issues, a smidgeon of bad descions and a host of sycophants in one place you have what we call the perfect storm.

    That sounded all “cool” how I said it? Eh, it sounded cooler in my head.

    Heck, this whole note sounded cooler in my head, mostly because it was said by Billy Dee Williams.

    But I digress.

    The reason for this note, is to talk I guess. Say what I would like to say from my heart, expose myself(not that way), or just to keep to my promise that I’d be real.

    I know, the irony doesn’t escape me either.

    But, what pushed this thought that I need to write about this, was a church service. A normal spirit-filled church service.

    Well, normal if were raised in it. If not, then you are in for either a treat or something that is also a t-word: trauma inducing.

    For me right now, it was a little bit of the latter because I started having flashbacks in service. I kept quiet, as I always do, but I felt the distinct need to bolt and get it out of my system. But, because I was surrounded by folks who were engaging in speaking in tongues, the laying on of hands, and just general shrieking….I was frozen still.

    Mostly because I’m a coward.

    And something happened. I started having what one would call flashbacks. It was so inocuous, really. I began to “remember”(as in the sense that I was there) encounter retreat.

    For those who know(which I think is everyone), I went on two of those at Bethany. One for general folks and the other for leaders.(yup, someone thought that I should be a leader).

    And well, they were intense.

    Intense in the way that if you are suseptible to sensitivity, mental illness, or just all around cluelessness…you’re screwed.

    I think I was all three. And if you have a low viewing of who you are, then doubly so.

    The blame doesn’t fall totally on the folks there though. I could have not gone. But, I thought it was like every other christian camp I went to(oops).

    It was more like a quick spiritual military thing. They tear you up to build you into what the ideal Christian is.

    First it’s the questionare which questioned you on sins that you’ve done EVER, the sins you’re parents have done, and so on.

    I became irritated by the time I got to the “witchcraft” section because by checking eastern star and the masons, I implicated that not only my grandfather and grandmother were into witchcraft, but because of that…I might be a carrier of this spiritual gene.

    By the time I was done, I was convinced, at least tenatively that I was possessed/oppressed by13 or so demonic spirits.

    For those who are still reading, if you have a question on that..I can explain briefly.

    See, in Charismatic Christianity(or Spirit-filled if you will) and even in some main denominations…the idea that folks can become possessed by demons is not new or shocking. Some even say that those who are not Christians are at least controlled by demons. That’s for another story. But believers, when they accept Christ, are saved. In the total sense of the word. He(Jesus) comes to live in your heart and basically become Christ’s property. You are hallowed ground. Sealed by the Holy Spirit even(kinda like a spiritual homing device). But despite that, you can get involved in something or someone and leave with with entanglements, roots, or even soul ties. The three terms I just named may make you go “wtf” but ask me in the comments and I’ll try to explain to the best of my ability.

    Anyway, thse things can crop up in your life, and if you don’t catch them and deal with them, can open  the door open for Satan to wreck havok in the form of demonic oppression(among other things).

    Well, like any doctor who will tell you you are obviously sick and only they have the antidote to the poision they put in your tea, they said “you must do deliverance THIS way” or you must do things THIS way to get THIS result. 

    And the THIS way that they spoke of was the deliverance service. Now for those who know the story, you can think of bunnies.

    A deliverance service is basically this: you have a bunch of cell leaders and a bunch of soon to be cell members(don’t think they knew that bit….) and a list of sins. They say a sin, you go up and get prayed for.

    Well, that was the premise at least.

    What it looked like was less of a serious event and more like a circus. People writhing on the floor screaming, one of my friends was having some type of mental break that was atributed to demonic activity….it was basically a demon hunt.

    Example, I went up one time because they asked if anyone ever engaged in Judaism or something like that. Well, me being the grade A idiot, went up there because I thought they meant if you thought about it or even read on it.

    No, they meant full on left the fold or never was in the fold and you just happened to be ___________________.

    So yes, I got the spirit of whoredom cast out of me. Or more like yelled out of me. And well, Amy saw this part:

    I curled up in a ball and started to cry. I was literally breaking mentally. I think we both thought it was a spiritual breakthrough instead.

    By the end of the whole thing I felt emotionally worse than I did at the beginning. I felt as if I was rode hard and hung up wet, as a manner of speech.

    Yet, everyone else around me looked happy, looked free.

    They had us do a “spiritual soul train line”. I joined in.

    Because I was convinced that it was what I should do. That and to be honest, i invested so much time into my faith that it wasn’t the right time to obviously question what God had in store for me.

    That and I honestly had no idea of where I would go if i were to leave the church.These folks, in my mind, were to be the family I never had.

    Well, what we desire and what is the truth are two different things. The truth is that while the speech of “we are family” comes out, the truth is that folks still form their cliques and “favored” ones in church. It was like a game to a point. “What can you do to be noticed for being a good person/spiritual/super Christian?”

    And I know someone is possibly gasping, but even if you’re a Christian(or not), the desire to belong, if left unchecked will cause you tolerate some things. Or do some things. Nothing unsavory, but it ends up becoming a spiritual game of one up the other believers. 

    It was stupid, and of course didn’t work.

    Damn Ego.

    But on the other side, I tried to work on myself spiritually, almost to a manic level. Oh, who am I kidding. It was manic. Mostly because if I really want to do something(please God) I’ll go as far as I possibly can(pray at 5 am) if someone even hints that Jesus would answer my prayers more, I’d be a better person, etc.

    I say this, because at this time, i felt something that I felt for a long while. I never really talked about it, because i didn’t want folks to think I was nuts.

    I literally felt as if I was being consumned by darkness and literally split down the middle. I could never really “focus” on something unless I pushed myself a little bit harder. That was normal because I thought/knew I was a lazy person.

    But it got to the point where I thought I was either never really all “there” or I would respond emotionally on the scale of 11. When I did focus on thinking or doing whatever, the pain that physically assailed me made me want to retreat and stay in my head.

    For the longest time, I thought there was something neferious going on in my life. Maybe I wasn’t a good enough Christian, or maybe I had the wrong reason for doing the right thing…and God was punishing me.

    Or even worse, that I had a soul tie(deep relationship) with someone who I shouldn’t have. Because of this fear, I kept folks at arms legnth. I really wanted to be close to someone, but I didn’t want their spiritual smegma junking up my life and dragging me to hell.

    Or that my reading about satanism, watching stuff on other religions, or even going to a public school opened me to attacks.

    Never did it occur to me that I was crawling out of my skin because I had a mental illness.

    So I tried to fix myself with every time i went up to the prayer line to get hands laid on me. I prayed, lasped in prayer, and then would pray some more.

    When I became older(during my sophmore/junior year), and my symptoms got worse, I would lock myself in a room and pray for hours on end after an hour or two of praise and worship.

    Still, it didn’t let up. I started having delusions that God was displeased with me and had turned his back on me. The only thing that would happen during my prayer sessions now would be me rocking back and forth, shreiking because I felt such intense pain in my body, and crying asking God wtf did i do wrong.

    By this time, I had two personas. Monica A was a polite, kind Christian who knew the scriptures backwards and forwards. Wanted to be a pastor, witnessed to anything that moved and laid hands on folks. Not in the violent way, but…you know.

    Monica B would shake, repent every five minutes because she was SURE she did something wrong just a few seconds ago…

    She would self-injure because she felt worthless and like a nonperson. She was angry at herself for being angry at others. She was angry because she hated herself, and she was angry because she wasn’t dead yet.

    She felt as if she was outside of God’s grace. Just for existing.

    By this time, I abandoned any thought of seriously attending school. Oh, I would go, but i wouldn’t be all there for fear that whatever was attacking me, would find me and attack me during class.My grades suffered because I would walk out before I began bursting into tears and yelling at the devil and commanding him to leave me the hell alone. By this time, I developed three nervous tics.

    In three months, I had a myriad of sucide attempts under my belt.

    On the home front, mom responded to my depression as me feeling sorry for myself. So she made me repent for harboring the spirit of self pity.

    I resented her a long time for that.

    At church, the folks I thought would prop me up let me fall. They would give me trite answers as “rest in God” or “just read the psalms”. I tried those things, and well, the psalms worked….until I stopped reading them so I could cook or clean.

    And the “resting in God” felt like I was being an idiot doing nothing and being lazy. 

    I would try to talk to my cell leader, but she blew me off.

    I resented her alot for that.

    Heck, even the few folks who tried to shoulder me….got tired of me.

    Rumors were being spread about me at the church, and i caught wind of it through my cell leader.

    “Apparently folks in the youth church think you’re dead”

    Someone who I held in my confidence called the church prayerline, and told them whatever…

    Which lead to folks thinking I attempted suicide(not hard to believe)

    But then it snowballed into that I was dead.

    When I showed up at church the next week, I got some weird stares. No one even talked to me. I would walk up to someone, and they turned their back.

    By the time of december that year, I was convinced that I would do the world, my church(even the cell group I was kicked out of), and my friends a favor.

    I hung myself. Well, at least tried to. The angle was all wrong and shower rods, no matter how sturdy they look bend.

    Another attempt thwarted.

    So, I talked to a friend and told her what I did.

    The next month, I was hospitalized. The doctor at the time asked me what led me to the hospital and I laughed bitterly.

    In my mind, I said “in a sick and twisted way….you could say God, or at least my idea of him”

    I told him and the therapists what caused me to finally try and hang myself.

    Depression he said. I had depression. That and I just tried too hard. He chided me and told me that I needed to have a normal life and enjoy myself.

    And well, I never saw him again because mom didn’t like him.

    The second time I hit the hospital, they sent me somewhere in the country. It was beautiful and clean there,and I felt as if I could focus.

    Borderline personality disorder, he said. BPD, I said…and went..HUH?!

    He had to explain what it was, what happens, and how it occurs. The only problem was I was not a sterotypical BPDer. I acted in instead of out. I didn’t engage in risky behavior anymore…But I did have the really effed up sense of self. My sense of self was so cracked, that if it was a mirror I’d have to throw it away.

    I had a fragmented personality. I cried, cursing my life. I wasn’t supposed to have BPD. I sounded nuts.

    When i went to another psychatrist another time, it was Schizophrenia…..because when I was little I heard voices. Yup. He was a nut.

    By the time I got to Dr. Toops, i was afraid that i would be diagnosed with the plague.

    Nope, it was worse. Bipolar Disorder. Only problem is that all of my mania moments were when i was a teen/young adult. I didn’t engage in risky behaviors and i just had one mood. Morose.

    But she caught onto something no one else did. I had ptsd along with an anxiety disorder.

    By this time, I was already questioning if there even was a God, and if he was so kind why the hell did I have to go through all this crap. Then it was why wasn’t he hearing my prayers. Each time I said something like this, I really felt as if I was crossing into blasphemy land. I was scared silly, because I was taught from childhood that you NEVER question God.

    And I dared to.

    By the time we hit my third diagnosis, I was questioning the very tennants of my faith. I used the term atheist to describe myself, but I wasn’t even ready for that title. Not even.

    Alot of my responses were emotional, and well..I wanted to be sure I knew wtf I was talking about/doing.

    I wanted to be a pillar of logic. Funny coming from a girl who hadn’t had a logical thought in her life. But for once, I was surrounded by folks I could understand and talk to.

    Well, to a point.

    Not because they didn’t try. But I was just weird. I had junk on my plate, and needed to deal with issues that i kept pushing in the closet, hurt from what i felt was spiritual abuse, and dealing with my life as a new nonbeliever.

    I didn’t start stablizing even a little bit until I realized that I could control my life. I was so used to just pushing it on to next week or my mom…

    And I didn’t start “maturing” until I started talking about where it hurt. Which apparently was everywhere.

    I knew at least a little of why I did what I did. i split mentally because that was a coping mechanism. Not the best, but it worked for the times I needed it.

    I also split folks. Not like I would break up a couple, but I saw them (and myself) in either all white or all black terms.

    I thought seeing things in shades of grey was honestly what only nonbelievers did. Either you were the elect or you weren’t. You were a good person or you weren’t. That either/or thinking first came from a coping mechanism from when i was abused as a kid. I wanted to feel safe. So my grandmother, who would drop me off at my abusive aunt rosanna’s house was all good.

    But Aunt Rosanna was ALL bad.

    And I was all bad. I saw the damage I did in relationships. Of course I was ignorant of what I was doing sometimes, but other times….

    let’s just say applogies aren’t always enough.

    But needless to say, it was easier this way. Less painful.

    But when it comes to getting better, sometimes the pain has to come. 

    Well…sorry I wrote SO MUCH. But I had to let it out. At least give a little snapshot inside my head..I think I left some stuff out. Oh well, ask questions.