Thursday, April 29, 2010

On the Road

I'm on the road! I left my sorry ex-boyfriend and finally made it out, alive and well, if without any furniture. I'm heading to Denver, but in the meantime if you're in the St. Louis, MO area you can catch me at the local meetup Saturday afternoon from 2-4.

On a side note, aren't delayed posts awesome? I'm writing this about 12 hours before it's going up. Because I'm cool like that (and because, after multiple attempts to screw up my plans and leave me destitute at the last possible minute) I gave my ex a false departure date. Why let that douche have any influence over me?

More details to follow as I get further and further away from Florida. All I can say is a big fat Thank You to everyone who helped out with the finances necessary to make my escape, and with your words of encouragement (although no prayers that I'm aware of.) I should be settled with internet at my new place within a week, and I'll try to be available by email during the transition. My next BlogTV show will be on Tuesday after next, so if we don't talk before then, I hope to see you there!

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Attack of the Boobs

Photo taken in 1967 or 1968. The mother was on...Image via Wikipedia

Oh.My.Goodness - the concern trolling my Twitter pal (and new hero) Jen McCreight has received! In case you haven't caught my totally-unadvertised BlogTV show (tonight and tomorrow night at 9 EST!) and haven't paid attention to your Facebook wall, Twitter feed, or whatever methods you use to keep in touch with the rest of humanity, today is BOOBQUAKE day. I know I laughed when I first read about the Iranian cleric who claimed that female immodesty is the cause of Iran's many earthquakes. From Jen's blog BlagHag

On Monday, April 26th, I will wear the most cleavage-showing shirt I own. [snip] I encourage other female skeptics to join me and embrace the supposed supernatural power of their breasts. Or short shorts, if that's your preferred form of immodesty. With the power of our scandalous bodies combined, we should surely produce an earthquake.
It's a bit of harmless fun - a juvenile prank meant to mock and ridicule the cleric's claims, nothing more. And I for one think it's hilarious. (Of course, I also think is hilarious - because I have the maturity level of a 13-year-old boy.) Dressing "immodestly" is par for the course here in Florida because, well, it's 80-some degrees Farenheit most of the day for like eight months out of the year.

I read some of the comments on CNN's BOOBQUAKE story, and there was the mixture of catcalls and puns ("Glad you're keeping us abreast of this story! I find it titillating!") There were also, of course, slut-shaming messages along the lines of, "Well maybe immodesty doesn't cause earthquakes but it DOES cause women to not be respected and/or leads men astray." To this I say, what men have no responsibility for their actions at all? One feminist blogger's employee contacted me in the hopes I'd promote her boss on my blog. Here's the reply I sent, scrubbed for identity (because public infighting is bad for any cause. Just look at the GOP.)
I'm very sex-positive (although quite blushy myself) and I don't think a woman enjoying, celebrating, displaying her own body is automatically doing it for the benefit or titillation of male penis-having men, even if some number of them are likely to enjoy it. I think both the religious/shame-based AND feminist/concern-based modes of telling women to cover up can be equally damaging, and I had to fend off both attitudes a LOT during the 18 months I breastfed my sickly son.

I think the more Americans become comfortable with breasts as "those nice looking and useful parts of women" and the less we freak out about Janet's wardrobe malfunction, the higher our rates of breastfeeding will be. Women in European countries breastfeed at significantly higher rates and for longer periods of times, especially countries with topless beaches. I don't think men in those countries AREN'T pleased to see breasts, but no one makes as big a deal, which means they can actually be used for their *intended* purpose more.

Boobs are something I feel quite strongly about, and not in accord with many women around me. I AM participating in Boobquake today, and I frequently show cleavage in my YouTube videos. I do so exactly TO show a Baptist how his thinking that I ought to "cover up" is *exactly* the same as the Muslim who thinks women ought to wear burqas.
That's right, I'm pro-boobs. And I'm also pro-women using their boobs how they see fit. I definitely encourage nursing - the benefits really can't be over stated, for both mother and child, and I fought through thrush, oversupply, undersupply, milk blisters, plugged ducts, and nipple rejection in order to give my son the best in nutrition, antibodies, and IQ I could through the power of my magnificent, wonderful BOOBS. I never really appreciated my boobs till I used them for their evolutionary, biological purpose and now I have to say I'm a big fan of them. (Did you know breastfeeding reduces the risks of cancer for both the nursing woman AND the infant? It also reduces the infant's risk of developing obesity, eczema, and possibly even multiple sclerosis. Oh, and applying it topically to a cut can treat infections and reduce the appearance of scars, like your very own homemade Neosporin. Boob milk is almost magic!)

But I'm also cool with women using their boobs sexually. Most weeks when I remember to, I change my Twitter avatar to a picture of my bra, as part of the #BoobieWednesday campaign to remind women to do self-exams on their breasts. Why should men be the only ones to profit from the allure of the female breast, through advertising campaigns and the largely male-owned porn industry? Boobs are attention getting. (Hell, as my post from earlier this week has taught me, even knees that look like boobs are attention getting!) But the more we get over our hangups about boobs, the more likely new mothers are to use them to feed their children.

So I say - Boobs! Love 'em. Check them for lumps, treat them well, and they'll treat you well, too.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Blogging Naked

How am I in blog, baby? Naked. If I had to pick just one word to describe my blog, my writing style, my approach to my online persona, that's the word I'd pick. (Fortunately I don't have to choose just one, or this would be a really short post.) is holding "We Only Like You Because Your Good in Blog" as an opportunity for skeptical, rational bloggers to write about what we do, and the how, and the why.

Remember in middle school, when adults used to always say, "Just be yourself?" I hated that. How the hell was I supposed to know who I was anyway? Between growing up in a cult (not exactly a nurturing environment for carving your own path or unique identity) and having mental illness, half the time I didn't even know if I was real, much less who or what I was.

It's only been in the last year that I've been blogging that I've started to understand myself. Bafflingly enough, as I've poured my heart out, confessed my "sins", and let all of you in on the crazy ramblings and Bad Thoughts in my head, in the last year I've started to like myself.

I'm a mix of many things, passion and drive and sloth; humor and blasphemy and a catalog of Monty Python quotes; empathy and sadness and anger. Naturally, since blogging naked is my goal, all of these come through. I love single topic humor blogs like CakeWrecks and the exceptionally immature (and therefore hilarious) AccidentalDong, but I know I'd get bored too quickly if I tried to do something like that. And humor isn't all of who I am, although you might not guess it from looking at my list of 100 Questions for True Christians. I think of myself as an activist and humor is the way I cut through compassion fatigue, and also how I give my readers a little bit of an emotional break, after sharing with them the child sacrifice in Uganda, anti-choice measures around the world, and deaths of children at the hands of faith healers. (Oh yeah, and the Catholic church. Is there anything they can do that doesn't make me wanna shove my fist through a stained glass window?)

The best advice I could give to new or aspiring bloggers is this: Treat it like it's your job. If someone asks me what I do, I say "I'm a blogger" before I confess to being unemployed - after all, which is the one I "do" every day? My own blog has suffered a bit of neglect as of late, and I've missed it. I know when I make the time and write something - whether that's every week for you or every day for me - I feel better. If I've accomplished nothing else in a day (besides those other unpaid jobs I do, like cleaning my house and paying bills) I feel satisfaction when I know I've put something good at there. That being said, don't let perfection be the enemy of the good. Not every post will be a masterpiece, but as long as every post does some good - brightens someone's day, brings awareness to a cause, or gets me one page closer to my goal of writing a book before unemployment benefits run out - then it was worth it.

The second piece of advice I'd give, especially to autobiographical bloggers like myself, is don't WHINE. We all have our burdens, some larger than others. Being open and real about those is important, and healing, and can help someone else with the pain of their own life, or with understanding the pain of a friend or lover. I try to be an alchemist - turning the manure-coated straw of my life (the abusive childhood in a cult, horrible marriage, and multiple mental illnesses) into gold. Depression may not be avoidable, but optimism, activism, and just making yourself do one thing everyday, even if it's just writing a post that says, "I feel like hell, but I'll be back tomorrow" ARE choices we can all make (or not) every day. Will my blog help someone else? Then it's time to click post. Is it just self-serving whinging? Then maybe it needs a few edits, or I need to take a few deep breaths, or at the least I can include a link to the Suicide Hotline.

My goal with blogging is simple, yet hard to pin down. I want to write. I want to communicate with the world - to connect - and I want to invite people to connect with me, and each other, as well. Whether I'm Messin' with Mormons, debunking Christian apologetics, or confessing how woefully unskeptical I have been most of my life, it's a way of connecting.

For me blogging is about being naked, being real. I think it can be tempting to paint ourselves beautiful - to treat blogs like resumes and only show our "good" parts, but that's not the connection I'm looking for. I want to show all of who I am, and be able to be proud of it. Blogging, and knowing I blog, keeps me honest. As a Sunday School teacher in my early 20s, I used to ask myself, "Is this something I'd be embarrassed to have the kids know about?" Now I ask myself, "Is this something I can tell the whole world about with no shame, no airbrushing, no creative reinterpretation?" Living my life openly helps me to lead a life I can be proud of, because I am done with secrets and shame.

I've talked about painfully personal things - my failed marriage, my mental illnesses, my status as a rape survivor. I've talked about controversial things - my stance against spanking in the home, my anti-theistic outlook on religion, my recent abortion. I talk about everything. I reject the idea that a blog must only be about one thing, or one topic, or one cause, or one style. When I hear about something upsetting and important, something which needs our action, I write about it. And when I'm in desperate need of a laugh, I compile all my favorite blasphemous stand-up in one place.

My name is Angie and I am an autobiographical blogger. This is the story of me, told through words and pictures, stories and songs. This is how I see the world and how I see myself. It's not an approach for everyone, but for me the benefits aren't counted in blog hits or YouTube subs or ad revenue. The benefit of blogging is meeting other real people, with real strengths and weaknesses, passions and pitfalls, who see me for who I am and still say, "I like you."

So, my Anteaters, was it good for you?

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Safe, Legal & Common

I'm pro-choice, but that label has gotten so muddled, so dampened, so infused with "I'm pro-choice BUT..." that I feel a need to clarify my position. I am PRO-CHOICE. I'm for your choice, and my choice, and my other choice. And I'm pro-abortion.
It's been two months since I had an abortion and chronicled the experience, and I haven't suffered any "post abortion syndrome" depression (because it's made up, unlike the very genuine post-partum depression,) nor have I tortured myself with fantasy visions of what my "baby" would have been like if only I'd been so "unselfish" as to bring an unwanted, unplanned, and quite probably special needs child into the world.

Every week I read stories about abortions and about abortions denied - Guess which ones makes me sadder? I was furious with the Brazilian Cardinal who excommunicated a 9-year-old girl's mother and the medical team who saved her life by performing an abortion. She was pregnant with twins after being raped by her stepfather (who, interestingly enough was not excommunicated. I guess raping children is more Catholic than saving them.) But at least she got to have an abortion. A 10-year-old girl in Mexico, also a rape victim, also by her stepfather, can't get an abortion because she is "too far" along - at 17.5 weeks. In the United States it wouldn't be legal for me to hire this girl as my babysitter. In Florida, it's illegal to leave a 10 year old unattended in their own home. Yet in Mexico, bastion of the Catholic faith dominated by men in dresses, she is being forced to endure pregnancy and childbirth, as surely as she was forced to endure a rapist's penis in her body.

There are two times in life when a girl or woman may choose abortion - when the pregnancy is unplanned and unwanted, or when the pregnancy is unsafe or inviable. THAT'S IT. Every other detail we want to go over from one woman's abortion story is a variation on these two themes.

Obviously, a girl who becomes pregnant due to rape is having an unplanned pregnancy. So is the girl who's condom breaks, or (properly or improperly taken) fills fail, or whose IUD falls out. So is the woman who thought she was post-menopausal, who was assured by her doctor she couldn't conceive, or who already had a tubal ligation. So is the girl who gives into pressure from her partner that "condoms don't feel good" or "I'll pull out." I don't need or have the right to know WHY your pregnancy is unplanned or unwanted. Knowing that it is is enough for me.

And what about the health of the woman? (Please, let's stop calling all potential mothers "mothers" or else we should label every baby girl ever born as a mother, and every baby boy as a father.) Nebraska is doing its part to further marginalize the health concerns of women.

Claiming that a fetus at 20 weeks can feel pain and therefore shouldn't be subject to an abortion (a claim which is not supported by science, by the way,) completely ignores the well-established fact that women can and do feel pain. Doesn't it logically follow that they therefore shouldn't be subject to a forced pregnancy and birth?
Under current law, the medical indications for late-term abortions include fetal abnormalities and the health, including the mental health, of the mother. The new law narrows the definition so that a doctor must be able to prove that the pregnancy could cause death or "substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function." The law explicitly excludes the threat of suicide as a reasonable threat of death or substantial impairment.
Women's health matters. Mental health matters. Going to college, being in a stable situation, and actually wanting to be pregnant MATTER.

I've been accused of a lot of things over the past two months. I've been accused of not actually being pregnant (by a Catholic Monseigneur who will certainly never have to undergo female reproduction himself,) to getting pregnant on purpose in order to stage a publicity stunt (yeah right!) to somehow being culpable for my son's special needs. I know it must drive you bonkers that I actually was pregnant, actually did try to prevent it, and actually am not a "crackwhore" (as one commenter on CafeMom intimated, in reference to my son having a genetic disorder which causes developmental delays.)

When I stated that, for my part, health considerations played a huge role in my decision to abort, people demanded to see my charts. Complete strangers wanted to know, "What's your reason? How can I discount you? What can I do to cause you guilt over exercising your legal right to bodily autonomy? How can I minimize the pain, suffering, and probable death you may experience if you don't abort?" And I wouldn't tell them my exact medical reasons - because I didn't think it mattered. My doctors told me not to get pregnant again, and that carrying to term could kill me. That should be more than enough. But, oh Nebraska, you're making me upset people even more. I had an abortion because not having one would've killed me, and I would've been the one to do it.

I live in hormonal hell. I have one of the worst cycles of any woman I know, and the two times I was hospitalized for suicide attempts during my teens were during the days leading up to a period. Even in our faith-healing home, my mother made an exception and required me to take Pamprin (against my own brainwashed no-medicine religious beliefs) to manage my PMS. Hormonal forms of birth control have nearly killed me. I went on Depo-Provera when my son was 2 and I had access to student health services at university, to try to get rid of my horrible periods. Instead it made me suicidal (kinda like Prozac.)

I sat in my car, crying out to the god I still believed in, "Please don't let me kill myself. Please don't let me kill myself. Please don't let me kill myself" - over and over, for hours on end, for months. I figured it out fairly quickly, but had to wait 80+ days for the hormones to ebb out of my system before the fog lifted and it was one of the darkest periods of my life. I wouldn't wish that on anybody, not even my cult-leading grandmother.

Even though I was excited to be pregnant, desperately wanted my son, and am glad to be his mother now, there is NO WAY I would go through with another pregnancy, in part because there's no assurance I'd survive it. I tried to kill myself three separate times during my pregnancy with Little Man, and I contemplated it every day, even before I knew I was pregnant. The fact that I was about to become a mother had nothing to do with my suicidal depression; the fact that I was pregnant had everything to do with it.

Those of you who read my blog regularly may have noticed things started to go bad in January. I was writing less, and more and more of what I was writing about was depression, thoughts of self-harm, and how crazy I felt. Even at the time I suspected pregnancy was the culprit because nothing has made me feel so horribly bad in my life as that. I went through four pregnancy tests to get one that would read positive, because I knew pregnancy might well be the cause of my sudden and severe suicidal depression, and if it WAS the cause, there was something I could do about it.

Someone left a comment on my Abortion video last night. It read "Girls who are considering an abortion please read this message. Don't kill your baby. Go another route. Abortion wont solve your problems. If a baby is growing in your womb God put it there its yours. If you kill your baby not only will abortion be painful for you but youll feel grief and later on in life realize how you MISS your baby and wish you never killed him or her. You'll live your life in sorrow and pain and guilt... This video should not influence u. Babies have rights to!!!!!"

But here's the thing - if your problem is an unplanned, unwanted, unhealthy, or inviable pregnancy, an abortion absolutely WILL solve that problem. Brace yourselves, I'm about to say something controversial: I wish there were more abortions.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Remember how I was gonna move in the middle of June? Make that May - 1st. Oh joy, nothing like taking already badly laid plans and cutting the deadline into a quarter to really help out with that whole anxiety thing, huh? I had hoped to let Little Man finish out the school year (and to, you know, find a place to live) before going but it looks like my time here is short.

Over the last year of having this blog, I've asked you to help the Atheist Association of Uganda, Planned Parenthood, RAINN, and MyCharityWater. I've asked you to do what you could, through activism, fundraising, and consciousness raising to help the world around you, but now I have a more selfish request. I hate to do this, but I have to ask, can you help me? A friend and fellow ex-cult member is helping me locate a place out in Denver, and will help me get settled once I arrive (finding a new pediatrician and school and where the food stamp office is) but the fact of the matter is, I don't have nearly the time to save up as I'd planned on having. My tax return should arrive soon enough to be a big help, but as we all probably know, moving takes money.

XBF is giving me and Little Man the requisite frequent flyer miles to get *to* Denver, but since I've grown rather attached of sleeping indoors the past couple of years (and no longer have a beat up station wagon for me and the Kid to live in like we had to do two years ago), I gotta swallow whatever pride I have, and whatever qualms I feel about asking you to spare your charity donations from more deserving causes this time. Sure, I'm writing this in a (hopefully?) amusing and self-deprecating way, but I really could use your help. I hate to ask, but there it is. At times like these, I really wish I had a family that didn't suck, that cared, that would help. But I don't. I have you guys instead.

Please don't feel guilted into this - if you don't have the means, or if donating money to someone on the internet who isn't a registered non-profit organization makes you nervous, don't do it. To those who have contributed in the past to site maintenance and my own life maintenance, thank you. Once the moving in costs are covered (oh the deposits you must pay when you have terrible credit!) I should be able to maintain a lower class lifestyle like I have the past couple of years, through a combination of creative budgeting and low expectations :p My unemployment benefits and ad revenue should be able to cover monthly expenses. I'd just hoped to have more time to save up before the moving day came.

Sorry I have to ask. If you can and are willing, please click on the yellow PayPal button in the top right corner of the page. If you can't, please don't worry. I'll make this work; I always do. If you aren't willing, that's okay too. I know we all have pinched resources in the present economy and I'd hate to think of someone else going without, whether that's you personally or a more deserving charity you allocate your funds to.

I'm gonna go cry in a pillow now. Love you.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Why is there Evil? pt. 2

Once again, my heathen horde, we're tackling the Problem of Evil as excused by (You can read Part 1 here.)
We've all tried to make life work without God. Why do we do that? Probably because we've all bought the notion that there's something more valuable, more important, than God. For different people it's different things, but the mindset is the same: God isn't what's most important in life. In fact, I'd just as soon do it without him altogether.
Once again, the author is trying to make independence into a value judgment - that something is more important than God. (And since the God of the Bible is a jerk, even if such a being did exist, I'd tend to agree.) But when I was a Christian and perhaps, oh I don't know, studied for a test, rather than relying on prayer to get me an A in class, that wasn't because I'd analyzed the situation and decided that studying was more important than God - it was more that prayer didn't tend to yield the same grades as studying. Perhaps the real reason so many believers don't "cast their cares on Him" is because doing so often leaves someone in a precarious and undesirable situation. (Y'know, like having a two year old die because God doesn't magically remove yellow jacket venom.) If prayer actually worked, I'm sure Christians would rely on it more to this author's liking.
What is God's response to that? He allows it. Many people experience the painful results of others' or their own choices that run contrary to God's ways...murder, sexual abuse, greed, lying/fraud, slander, adultery, kidnapping, etc. All of these can be explained by people who have refused to give God access and influence over their lives. They are going about their lives as they see fit, and they and others suffer.
I'm with you on the idea that much of human suffering is caused by other humans (although I do have to wonder how opposed to God's will this list of actions is, when you consider King David was called "a man after God's own heart" and did, um, ALL of them.) However, God's not really off the hook for allowing these things - He is, after all, supposed to be ALL powerful and ALL loving. surely whether or not somone "allowed" God to have access into their lives wouldn't have such an impact?

Tell me, how DO Protestant Christians deal reconcile such a God with the Catholic pedophilia and cover-up scandal? I mean, they can obviously claim Catholics aren't "real" Christians, but that doesn't absolve God of his guilt, his complicity. If He exists, God is an accomplice to every rape, theft, kidnapping, and murder (and not just the ones He ordered in the Bible.) And please, don't give me that nonsense about "free will." The free will of a victim is violated in the instance of every rape; if God is okay with that person's free will being suborned, why not the rapist's? What kind of God cares more about the free will of a repeat offender priest raping children than about the free will of the children who do not wish to be raped? (An evil god, or an imaginary one.)
What's God view on all of this? He's not smug. In fact, God could rightly be viewed as leaning forward, compassionate, hoping we will turn to him so that he can bring real life to us. Jesus said, "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." But not all are willing to go to him. Jesus commented on this when he said: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing."
Not all who turn to Jesus, weary and heavy-laden, GET the promised rest. In fact, I usually felt despair, loneliness, guilt, persecution, and rejection from God when I believed in such a megalomaniacal being. And again, the situation is being turned to humanity's unwillingness, as if what we were willing to do or not do ever had anything to do withe capabilities of an ALL powerful god. It also blames the victim and ignores child victims. I was a completely devoted Christian at age 7 when that dirty septuagenarian man first took off my panties and licked between my prepubescent lips. Where was God then? Was it my "unwillingness" to turn to Jesus that allowed me to be so harmed? No. I turned to Jesus in all I did, but he was fictional and unable to help me, no more useful than any other imaginary friend a child of that age may have.
Again, Jesus brings the issue back to our relationship with him. "I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Again, following Jesus did not keep me in any kind of light - my life was in shambles from the time I was born into an intensely religious and highly dysfunctional family till I was homeless at 25, the month before I became an atheist. My entire career following Jesus is marked by pain, abandonment, and lack of protection; it's only been as an atheist, as I've learned to protect, heal, and care for myself that my life has improved and I've come out of the darkness Christianity kept me trapped in.
But what about when life is unfair? What about those horrible circumstances that hit us in life, caused by someone other than ourselves? When we are feeling victimized, it's useful to realize that God himself endured horrendous treatment from others. God more than understands what you are going through.
So, since God designed a plan where He'd be crucified (or, y'know, His son who is also Him) that means He understands what it's like to be molested as a little girl in a religious culture that treats female virginity as purity? He knows what it's like to lose a child to crib death, or cancer, or a fatal car accident (one who will not rise again in three two days time?) He knows what it's like to live a life in constant pain, like a person with Tay Sachs disease, or what it's like to have your heart broken by an unfaithful lover, or what a lifelong disability feels like? Because I doubt it.
There is nothing in life that could be more painful than what Jesus endured on our behalf, when he was deserted by his friends, ridiculed by those who would not believe in him, beaten and tortured before his crucifixion, then nailed to a cross, in shameful public display, dying of slow suffocation.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, passion of the Christ, crucifixion is bad, yadda yadda - freaking Holy Week! We get it. But it is categorically false and absolutely ridiculous to say "There is nothing in life that could be more painful" than that. Besides all the things I listed above, there's Cystic Fibrosis - a lifetime of slow suffocation. There's debilitating mental illness, like schizophrenia. There's post-partum depression and post-partum psychosis. And of course, there's God's preferred method of execution - stoning. (WARNING: That link takes you to a graphic and painful video of a woman being stoned to death. If you're more merciful than God, it will probably tear you up to watch it. Yet He, supposedly, continually sits idly by - when He's not ordering it Himself, that is.) Apologist, please, the crucifixion just wasn't that big of a sacrifice and on some level, you know it as well as I do.
He created us, yet allowed humanity the freedom to do this, to fulfill Scripture and to set us free from our sin. This was no surprise to Jesus. He was aware of what was coming, foreknowing all the details, all the pain, all the humiliation. "And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 'Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and deliver him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day."
Of course, the author glosses over the idea that Jesus knew this would happen because it was His/daddy's idea and not merely because he was psychic. Those Scriptures He wanted fulfilled? Yeah, He was supposedly behind them. Sounds more like a masochist than a martyr to me.
Imagine knowing something that awful was going to happen to you. Jesus understands emotional and psychological anguish. The night that Jesus knew they would arrest him, he went to pray, but took some friends with him. "And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, 'My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here and watch [keep awake] with me. And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, 'My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as thou wills." Though Jesus confided in his three friends, they didn't understand the depth of his torment, and when Jesus returned from prayer he found them asleep. Jesus understands what it's like going through pain and extreme sadness alone.
Expectant mothers can make it through the torments of labor and childbirth, because they know it's coming and they know something good will come as a result of it. Anyone who has ever made a sacrifice to a cause did so because they believed some good would come of it. Chemo patients withstand that particular hell because, again, they *hope* something good will come of it. Your Jesus was not the only one to ever suffer knowingly, and He had the benefit of knowing He'd be god afterwards, worshipped forever, and that His "sacrifice" would have the power to save millions of souls for eternity.

Again, where's your point in all this? Oh, it's by ignoring the very real suffering of very real people and focusing on the single bad day of a deity. Huh, what a crappy way to make a point! As for Jesus going through all this alone, was Jesus ever really alone? I mean, He was god right? Or God's son, or gee, it's so hard to keep straight. Regardless, He was a man constantly surrounded by followers and disciples, and while he may have suffered a bout of loneliness, it just doesn't compare to the lifetimes of it some people endure.
Here it is summarized, as John describes in his gospel: "He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God." "For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
Oh Christian, I know you love John 3:16, but why oh why don't you apologists EVER include John 3:18? Ahem, *throat clearing* He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Ah, so loving! Why do I bring this up? As a reminder that your god is not loving nor merciful; He cares only for belief - for praise. He doesn't seem to care one way or another if someone is moral, merciful, helpful, or good - only if they pay him the proper lip service.
There is no question that there is pain and intense suffering in this world. Some of it is explained by selfish, hateful actions on the part of others. Some of it defies an explanation in this life.
Defies explanation - is that how you're gonna brush aside natural disasters, disease, and global poverty? You know, those questions you used to open this passage up?
But God offers us himself. God gives us the knowledge that he has endured also, and is aware of our pain and needs. Jesus said to his disciples, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
My friend had two daughters born with a rare form of brain cancer; one has already passed away (she was four at the time.) Go ask my friend (a Christian woman) if she'd rather have "peace" about her daughter's death, or have her daughter alive, and she will tear you a new one, or else start crying. Peace through suffering is not what people desire, and is often the least we can do; alleviating suffering, working to make life more fair than it is, trying to prevent suffering - this is far kinder and vastly superior.
There is ample reason to be afraid, troubled, but God can give us his peace, which is greater than the problem before us. He is after all, God, the Creator. The one who has always existed. The one who created a universe on the backstroke.
The one who created a universe, but isn't moved to stop crib death.
Yet even in his power, he's also the one who knows us intimately, even the smallest, insignificant details. And if we will trust him with our lives, relying on him, though we encounter difficulties, he will hold us securely. Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."
If he's overcome it, why let us continue to suffer in it? Oh that's right, because we "asked for it." (Just like rape victims, eh?)
He went through our ultimate threat -- death -- and overcame it. He can take us through the difficult circumstances of this life, and then bring us into eternal life, if we will trust him.
Death isn't even in my Top Ten list of fears or threats I worry about - suffering is. And not by any means just my own suffering; I am moved to tears by the suffering of others - victims of human trafficking, rape, and medical neglect, or simply children who are not adequately loved by their parents. The difference between me and God (other than the fact that I am verifiably real) is that I am moved by this pain in others to do something about it. Yes, to help people through their pain, but also to prevent future pain.

We raised over $1,200 together towards building a well in the developing world, during a time of pretty serious financial distress for many of us, yet God - infinite in knowledge and love and ability - won't provide all the people of the world with clean water. He's either imaginary or he's a douche.
We can either go through this life with God or without him. Jesus prayed, "O righteous Father, although the world has not known you, yet I have known you; and these have known that you sent me; and I have made your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them."
The kind of love that watches from the sidelines as children are raped, cut up for witchcraft sacrifices, belittled, lied to, and told they are sinful, dirty creatures? The kind of love that does nothing to stop the rampant spousal abuse within the evangelical community, supported by His supposed Word? The kind of love that sends his son/self to go through crucifixion? Yeah, I think I'll pass. That sounds too much like hate to me.

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Why is there Evil?

Hello my faithless Anteaters! Sorry I've been so sporadic as of late. (I'm still working with BF on understanding what I mean by "Please don't talk to me before 2 pm so I can work." to wit, Don't talk to me before 2 pm so I can work.) But hey, the weather is beautiful here in Florida and I'm out in my backyard "office" with a fresh new counterapologetic on the Problem of Evil or PoE. This was one of the hardest issues for me to reconcile as a Christian, and with good reason. Obviously an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful god cannot exist within the framework of the world we live in. Here's Why.
Why do people get cancer? Why are there earthquakes that destroy entire cities? Why do people have to work so hard just to have enough money to barely feed their families?
Because the universe is cold and uncaring, resources aren't evenly distributed, we haven't yet conquered disease, and because people aren't paid a living wage perhaps?
Subconsciously, we probably ask ourselves questions like these quite often. But consciously we rarely do. We're so busy living our lives we rarely stop and wonder WHY?
Uh, speak for yourself, please. I have *always* asked myself these questions, subconsciously and consciously.
But then something happens to wake us up. Our parents get divorced. The girl down the street gets abducted. A relative gets cancer. That wakes us up for awhile. But then we can often sink back into the denial. That is, until another tragedy hits, another incongruence. Then we're likely to think, Something isn't right here. Something is really, really wrong. This isn't how life's supposed to be!
Again, I never required something to happen within my own life or immediate circle to wonder these questions. Simply turning on the evening news is more than enough to trigger such questions, or passing by a homeless woman on the street, or simply being aware of how people around the world live (often on less than $1 a day, and in sever malnutrition.)

Also the statement "This isn't how life's supposed to be" suggests there is some proper way for life to be, and that the life we have doesn't match it. I don't buy that, because I don't see the evidence. Who says life is "supposed to be" any particular way? Obviously I'd prefer that life were more fair, that no one went to bed hungry, that every person had opportunities for work, education, and self-improvement. But when has what I would prefer been what was "supposed to be" in any global sense?
So, WHY do bad things happen? WHY isn't this world a better place? There is an answer to the WHY question, found in the Bible. But it's not an answer that most people like to hear: the world is the way it is because it's the world that we, in a sense, have asked for.
Screw you! I didn't ask for my aunt to die of a congenital heart defect at 10 weeks old, or for my godmother to succumb to her third bout with breast cancer, or to live in a world where pedophiles are protected by religious institutions. The people of Haiti did not ask to lose their children, parents, homes, and limbs in a devastating earthquake.
Sound strange?
"Strange" isn't the word I'd go with. Maybe heartless, cruel, or victim-blaming.
What or who could make this world different than the way it is? What or who could guarantee that life is pain-free, for everyone, all the time?
Well, in Reality Land no one could make a pain-free guarantee, and frankly pain sometimes serves a purpose (ie, telling you not to push your body further before you cause injury.) Even if we can't create a pain-free world, we can certainly lessen the suffering people go through, by providing comprehensive social services, giving all children (male and female) quality educations, by developing new medicines and medical techniques, and by removing the stigmas around mental health, counseling, and talking about painful subjects like rape survival.
God could. God could accomplish that. But he doesn't. At least not right now. And we're angry with him as a result. We say, "God can't be all-powerful and all-loving. If he were, this world wouldn't be the way it is!"
"God can't be all-powerful and all-loving?" Got it in one.
We say this hoping that God will then change his position on the matter. Our hope is that putting a guilt trip on him will make him change the way he's doing things.
Way to guess (and mis-guess) my motives. This isn't about guilt-tripping your imaginary god; it's about recognizing the logical impossibility of such a being existing, given the reality we reside in.
But he doesn't seem to budge. WHY doesn't he?
Because God is imaginary (along with all the other gods.)
God doesn't budge -- he doesn't change things right now -- because he's giving us what we asked for: a world where we get to treat him as though he is absent and unnecessary.
Quick insta-poll Anteaters: Did any of you ask for this? I didn't think so. (Can you say "victim-blaming?" Because I can!)
Remember the story of Adam and Eve? They ate the "forbidden fruit." That fruit was the idea that they could ignore what God said or gave them, and strike out on life apart from God. For Adam and Eve sort of hoped that they could become like God, without God. They consumed the notion that there was something more valuable in existence than God himself, something more valuable than having a personal relationship with God. And this world system -- with all of its faults -- came as a result of the choice they made.
*sigh* I'm gonna have to read you your own Bible, aren't I? Genesis 3:2-6 from the King James (because it's not copyrighted.)

And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Okay so let's look at Eve's motivation (since Adam's isn't really given.) She "saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise." That's not exactly the same as wanting to ignore God, or be apart from him, now is it? It certainly doesn't say anything in the Bible about Eve weighing the relative benefits of a relationship with god against eating the fruit. Someone's reading a whole lot into those 4 verses that simply isn't there; that's pretty typical of Christianity. After all, if they didn't do that, God's punishments would seem even more out of proportion than they do in the above re-reading.
Their story is the story of all of us, isn't it? Who hasn't said -- if not audibly at least in their hearts -- God, I think I can do this without you. I'll just go this one alone. But thanks for the offer.
I've got a couple of objections here. Obviously, Adam and Eve's story isn't any of our story. None of us were born in paradise, innocent and ignorant and set up. (The apples were monitored!*) As a mom, I have to say I despise the idea that God wouldn't want his "children" to learn how to do for themselves. I've learned to ask my son, "Do you want help?" instead of reaching out to do something for him - even if he's struggling. It's more valuable for him in the long run to learn how to zip up his own jacket (and he's mostly mastered that one by now.) Actually, Little Man is quite capable and independent for a 4-year-old, in part because I do let him figure out how to do things for himself. While he can't spread the cream cheese on a bagel, he can get out the bagel, cheese, plate, and knife - and that fills him with pride I wouldn't dream of snatching from him. I cannot grasp how this behavior from Adam and Eve, or from any of us, would be seen as "sin" by any kind of reasonable parent-god.

Part 2 coming soon! (I wrote it today but stupid Blogger lost it.)
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