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Sep 09 2010

Picking Up the Pieces

When I receive a communication like this one, I don’t know whether to be happy or to cry. On the one hand, it’s nice to be able to help someone. On the other hand, I’m sorry to have to help someone put their self-worth back together after it’s been badly damaged so unnecessarily.

I received this note privately from someone on Facebook:

I watch AE on ustream and just wanted to say that something you said really helped me work through a few things :) Forgive me for being candid about the subject!

While not brought up in the Catholic faith I went to Catholic schools and have suffered problems relating to sex due to various things (minimal relationship advice from embarrassed parents, virtually no sex education from school other than in science lessons). I have been in emotionally abusive relationships since a very young age and was taught to feel nothing but guilt and shame about anything sexual. Being English (and from Yorkshire to boot), we just don’t talk about those things with our parents.

Through my self-education over the past few years (and my interest in issues related to atheism) I have started to work through these things that have plagued me since I can remember. It really clicked for me however whilst watching you responding to a caller on one of the archived programmes a few days ago. You were explaining to the caller how we do not need saving from being human. You stated that seeing a person and thinking sexual thoughts is a normal state of being and entirely natural (even essential) to being human and why would we need saving from soemthing so inherant to us?

It sounds silly to say it now but I had never thought of it that way. I’d had so much misinfomation and guilt piled on me that I couldn’t see the blindingly obvious.

I’ve been reading John Gray recently and this concept of the human as animal and natural is only just now sinking in (I don’t agree with everything he says but that part got to me). It seems that you don’t need faith to be still affected by some of the dogma!

I turn 30 next year and have had so many good relationships ruined by this, so many tears and recriminations that I can’t explain it here. I can’t even begin to think how much I have lost.

I’d been working towards it for a while but you really made it finally click with your matter-of-fact approach. I felt like “duuuuuuuh” when I realised the crap I put myself through! And it was totally unecessary! :D

So thank you. I managed to open so much of my life recently and this was one part of the puzzle that bound me to that old guilt.

###

All I can say to her is “you’re welcome, and best of luck.”

And all I can add for anyone else is “Don’t tell me the average believer doesn’t cause any harm.”

25 comments

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  1. 1
    doo"p

    this just breaks my heart……..and reminds me that i have been there myself!

  2. 2
    Guillaume

    Each time I read here a testimony from someone who was a Catholic or was close to them, I shiver.And by the way Tracie, last year's September strip of Atheist Eve was one of the most eloquent and moving thing about 9/11 I ever read.

  3. 3
    Jeremiah

    Well the good news for this person is that at 30 they still have a lot of life ahead of them. Some people never realize things like this until their death beds when they wonder about all the "what could have beens". Guilt is such a powerful way to manipulate emotions. We as humans make so many bad decisions because of improper feelings of guilt and it is sad that religions exploit this to peddle their beliefs.Anyways, I am sure it is gratifying to hear things like this. It reminds everyone that speaking out isn't pointless and really can make a difference. Good work Tracie. :)

  4. 4
    Betty

    Thanks for this post. I also feel I was emotionally abused by religious teachings as a child. When you're a woman and you're told constantly that you are a lesser human, and that this is the opinion of the being that made you, it can really hurt. I had a cousin who tried to commit suicide, and I am still convinced that it was because of the things we were taught (she got a bigger dose of it than I did) about how women are just good for having babies, etc.

  5. 5
    Aaron Deemer

    It's just disgusting that someone's family contributed so much to her feeling that deep down there is something fundamentally wrong with her as a human being. For enjoying looking at men (or women) and thinking sexual thoughts!

  6. 6
    Dances_with_the_beast

    Catholics love misery. They're making headlines by banning funerals from being a celebration of the deceased's life.Here

  7. 7
    skepticmatt

    "Don't tell me the average believer doesn't cause any harm."Exactly. A belief system that has as it's fundamental teaching the idea that it is evil and shameful simply to be human (and even moreso to be a human female) is inherently harmful. How could it be otherwise.

  8. 8
    Sparrowhawk

    Pffft! It makes total sense for a god to punish you and belittle you for being the way he made you. /sarcasmSeriously though, thinking this way is eerily similar to the psychology in abusive relationships. "Without me you'd be nothing" and "Why are you making me do this to you?".

  9. 9
    TDR

    This is a great message, thanks for posting it. Being human is nothing to be ashamed of, and being sexual is an essential part of being human. We are what we are, for better or worse. There are many ways of being, and beating ourselves up or feeling guilty, especially about things that are perfectly natural, is a terrible waste of time and energy. Unfortunately, it is also terribly popular. And religions are happy to exploit this. Along with marketers, politicians, conmen, and other exploitative types.I am very glad to hear that the writer has made progress working through her issues and is starting to make sense of her life. She's only 30 – she has a lot of life left to live!

  10. 10
    ernobius

    I'm happy too to hear that she realised what was the problem and got rid of it.Nowadays I'm thinking quite a lot about all the bad effects (and some "good ones", that always disappear when you dig deeper, or are normal human emotions). And I'm interested whether there is a study on this. (If not, it's a "must" that is long overdue)

  11. 11
    DavidCT

    Catholics have no monopoly on the guilt trip. I was raised in a family that was basically secular. My parents had had an overdose of religion growing up and both not longer had anything to do with practicing the faiths they were brought up in. In spite of this the message about sex was no spoken message. The topic was avoided as if there were something wrong. Religions are about control and there is nothing better than taking a normal human activity and making it into something to feel guilty about. Then the church or mosque sets itself up as the only path to forgiveness. What a con!! These people then preach they they should be the spokes persons for morality of society as a whole. Yes there is a lot of damage here!!

  12. 12
    Pombolo

    As I believe Darrel W. Ray (author of The God Virus) said, when you had him on AETV, it's not the sinning that the Church worries about – it's making sure that you feel the guilt and shame afterwards… that's what brings you back into the Church's grasp.Religion is all about setting impossible tasks for humans (never think sexual thoughts of anyone but your spouse), and then providing the recriminating 'comfort' when people (inevitably) fail in those tasks. It's abuse by any other name.

  13. 13
    Michael Nam

    This reminds me of Phil Och's song, 'When I'm Gone'."And I won't feel the flowing of the time when I'm goneAll the pleasures of love will not be mine when I'm goneMy pen won't pour out a lyric line when I'm goneSo I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here"Sorry, I get maudlin this time of year.

  14. 14
    Sillysighbean

    Way to go Tracie, a wonderful example of how important and meaningful your work on AE is towards truly helping others.

  15. 15
    Kari Twilight Mist

    Um hi. I'm kinda confused about the whole religion/not religion and what to believe so I went here to learn and will read more. :D Anyway has there been a post about homosexuality since the Bible is supposedly against it but you guys think the Bible is wrong? I mean no offense whatsoever I'm just really curious to see if you have a non Bible-thumping debate since I have yet to find one.Anyway if there is what post is it? I will look through all of them but it looks like that will take a while to do. Thank you if you help. :D

  16. 16
    Ing

    @KariThere are really 3 justifications for the claim that homosexuality is wronga) it is unnaturalb) it is unhealthyc) it angers GodObviously we find C not worth mentioning.A) Homosexuality and bisexuality is well documented throughout human history. While European christandome condemned it it was a normal part of life in ancient European times as well as in non european cultures. Furthermore, it is an interaction that shows up cross species. Female pigs will mount eachother if in mutual heat and some sows show exclusive preference to this interaction (I've worked with pigs and seen this personally). Most beef is produced via animals made form artifical insemination. This process relies on the bull's homosexual tendencies. One bull copulates with another and the…result is collected.Just about all trammels as well as certain birds will show homosexuality. And that doesn't matter at all since "it's natural" is a fallacy. Cancer is natural, we don't like it not because of any naturalness but because it's unpleasant. B) as mentioned homosexuality is ancestrial to humans. The scientific evidence shows that any harmful effects of being gay on a person are due to how others treat them, not from actually being gay. Gay people are physiologically like everyone else and are no more prone to crime, anger, perversion, rape, pedophilia, etc than any other demographic. Evidence also shows they are as acceptable as parents as heterosexual couples.C) The only way this has any validity is if there is a god AND homosexuality is a choice. Evidence indicates that homosexuality is most likely a predisposition, people choose their actions but not their sexual preferences. And of course there's no evidence for a God so it doesn't matter whether it's an innate tendency or a choice. Since a homosexual relationship neither hurts nor helps anyone outside of that relationship, it is a non issue ethically. It hurts no one, if you're not involved you have no standing to object. hope that answers some questions.

  17. 17
    Ing

    @KariThere are really 3 justifications for the claim that homosexuality is wronga) it is unnaturalb) it is unhealthyc) it angers GodObviously we find C not worth mentioning.A) Homosexuality and bisexuality is well documented throughout human history. While European christandome condemned it it was a normal part of life in ancient European times as well as in non european cultures. Furthermore, it is an interaction that shows up cross species. Female pigs will mount eachother if in mutual heat and some sows show exclusive preference to this interaction (I've worked with pigs and seen this personally). Most beef is produced via animals made form artifical insemination. This process relies on the bull's homosexual tendencies. One bull copulates with another and the…result is collected.Just about all trammels as well as certain birds will show homosexuality. And that doesn't matter at all since "it's natural" is a fallacy. Cancer is natural, we don't like it not because of any naturalness but because it's unpleasant.

  18. 18
    Ing

    B) as mentioned homosexuality is ancestrial to humans. The scientific evidence shows that any harmful effects of being gay on a person are due to how others treat them, not from actually being gay. Gay people are physiologically like everyone else and are no more prone to crime, anger, perversion, rape, pedophilia, etc than any other demographic. Evidence also shows they are as acceptable as parents as heterosexual couples.

  19. 19
    Curt Cameron

    Kari TwilightMist wrote:"Anyway has there been a post about homosexuality since the Bible is supposedly against it but you guys think the Bible is wrong? I mean no offense whatsoever I'm just really curious to see if you have a non Bible-thumping debate since I have yet to find one."You won't find much debate here about homosexuality, since we're (almost) all atheists. The only arguments against homosexuality that I've ever heard are sourced in someone's religion, so without that, homosexuality is not a problem.

  20. 20
    Lukas

    @KariHey, it sounds like you're new to the subject, so I thought it might be worth it to explicitly clarify a common source of mistakes.Atheists do not necessarily make a certain claim that god does not exist. It is not necessary to do so in order to call oneself an atheist.Most atheists will say that they are simply unconvinced of the religious claim that a god exists (soft/weak/negative atheism (negative in the sense of negating a claim)).Occasionally, you will find atheists claiming certainty of the non-existence of a particular god (hard/strong/positive atheism (positive in the sense of making a claim of its own)). This mostly occurs if the god in question is defined in such a way as to be logically self-contradictory and therefore impossible.An example of this would be the traditional Omniscient, omnipotent, Omnibenevolent deity (see Problem of Evil).Mostly we just content ourselves with asking for arguments and evidence from theists and knocking down their pathetic, invalid attempts at providing such.

  21. 21
    Ing

    @ CurtThat's not entirely true. We do get asshole atheists here who hate gays without the religious excuse. Remember the "but we can't risk the children" bullshit for letting gays raise kids. "we don't know if gays make good parents or not…but we're talking about kids so we can't risk it!"

  22. 22
    Jeremiah

    @KariThere have been a few posts about homosexuality here, for instance the one Ing referenced can be found here.There are a few anti-gay atheists but more often then not it seems atheists have no problems with homosexuality. Draw whatever conclusions you want from that.In any event, always good to see someone looking to learn. Ciao.

  23. 23
    JAFisher44

    I am sick to death of the argument that homosexuality is unnatural. Even if it was proved, beyond question, that homosexuality was "unnatural" who cares?There are plenty of of activities that humans do that are unnatural which are not labeled as sin by religion:drivingflyingcommunicating over large distancesusing tools of any sortThe human race does all sorts of things that aren't "coded in our genes" that is the beauty of being human.Oh, I forgot, that is the problem. We are all broken humans. /facepalm

  24. 24
    magx01

    Natural=exists in nature. Last time I checked, homosexuality existed in nature. :)

  25. 25
    Ing

    Depending on how strict your definitions are Plastic is natural

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