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Why I am an atheist – Liz Damnit

This is a bit of a tricky one, since there’s no one particular moment. Instead it’s been a gradual unfolding, a gradual freeing from the need for a god-construct and spirituality itself. I was raised Catholic, and in my own kiddy way, was pretty observant. But I recall questioning certain edicts early on, especially those against non-procreative sexuality or sensual pleasure itself (stick a horny kid in a room filled with naked paintings and tell them that sex is wrong…yeah, sure). However, the real first crack in the base was linked with money and class-consciousness.

We were the only “poor” family in our middle class town. We couldn’t make tuition every month at the parochial schools I went to, so we relied on extra work at functions, scholarships, and sometimes the kindness of donors. We were also on assistance for many years, and while we still went to church each Sunday, Mom made a point out of bringing me to every office and explaining every procedure, and showing me firsthand the bureaucratic circus and the pain of stigma. This financial “slump” we could never seem to get out of was the crucible for not only my adult politics but my religious views. Let me explain: growing up without a lot of cash and shaky support networks (even with certain advantages*) exposes a kid early to the damage done to social and political institutions by faith. Take, for instance, the weird link between wealth and religion – that if you’re rich, God must like you, and all the rest can get bent.

This sort of bullshit influenced the policies (and social stigmas) that ruled our lives for much of my childhood (late 80s**, early 90s). It’s still around, present in the miserable treatment many people receive today if they have the “temerity” to not only not be wealthy, but to not “have faith” God (or the whims of the market) will shower them with riches. Even as a kid, I found a direct link between the mind-shutdown faith requires and the kind of thinking that leads people to approve of wealth-worshipping “I got mine, fuck you” behaviors. This was strike one.

I fiddled around with the ideas of religion itself, not necessarily belief. In adolescence I started hanging around with my Mom’s Trekker buddies myself, which is probably the best thing a young teen can do. That scene was and remains fairly diverse, the people I encountered talked to me like I had a brain. There was, at least in this particular group, a widespread sense of “investigate, debate, relate”; investigate what you don’t know, debate stuff you think you do, but always try to relate with someone different. There were exceptions to this, but that’s my takeaway. This was far different from accepting canned responses and handing over a few bucks each week in tithes. Strike two.

At this time, I started drifting towards more neo-Paganism, preferring its more diverse, gender-equitable and sex-positive attitudes, as well as its ecological awareness and interest in history. We were always a pretty matriarchal family, and I was raised on myth and folklore, so this was a natural progression. I tried various flavors of Wicca for a while, but decided it wasn’t for me. I felt silly, even if I did like dressing like Stevie Nicks and keeping track of moon phases.*** I will say this, though – it felt more genuine to me at that stage in my life than Catholicism did, and I’m still fond of the original ideas that attracted me (much like my remaining fondness for the Corporal Works of Mercy). Strike three.

Even my Mom joined in on this venture. I remember one day we were sitting in our kitchen, mutually “coming out” to one another about being dissatisfied with the Church, with the short shrift women got, and with the hypocrisy of it all. For the rest of her life, Mom had a patchwork Catholic/Pagan thing going on, eschewing Mass attendance, hierarchy, and the gender/class stratification that always comes along with organized religions even as she kept her saints and rosaries. This seemed to help her get by, but I still didn’t feel quite happy with it, although it took me a while to come to terms with that.

The last pit stop on my story here, the big one, also revolves around my mother. She passed away in early 2005 after years of illness. In the last stage of her ordeal, she was in a coma, with all function above the brain stem gone. I came to resent the perkiness of the staff, even as I understood why they may have used it as a professional tool or their own coping mechanism. I also resented sunny platitudes of “oh, God is good!”, “the Lord moves in mysterious ways!”, all of that. No higher brain function – it was as devastating and simple as that. I couldn’t take another prayer.

This coma lasted a couple of months, and midway through she was moved to a nursing home. At that facility, there was one particular nurse that inspired my unspoken wrath, even though she was great at her job and probably is a wonderful human being. She seemed to take a shine to my mother, as much as Mom could have been said to be there. She’d join my family and sing and pray, pat my Mom’s head and call her pet names, call on God to wake her up. Now, I was hardly in my right mind, but I found this one of the most obscene things I’ve ever seen. I’m grateful for the care this nurse gave, but I wish I had the wherewithal to gently tell her to stop, that Mom had passed away, and we were keeping a vigil by her body. To wave belief around in my face, after what I’d been looking at for weeks,well, a punch to the gut would have been preferable. Belief itself was an insult at this point.

That crystallized things for me. Questioning the facile non-answers of traditional religion, and the oddities of non-traditional religions were actually a piece of cake. As I continued along, however, I started to feel more strongly that it was more immoral to chalk things up to a god or gods. I had increasingly difficulty in justifying the impulse to blindly “trust” in something one could never see, never speak with, and never guess its whims. And in the last few years, watching what’s been going on in the US and the Catholic Church – I am more firm in my refusal to sign back up to that. This is far from the cold and lonely stereotype some believers have of atheists and secularists – this was an absolute joy, a feeling of expansion. While I can still understand – but not approve of – why people would cling to a religion or a spiritual framework, it’s not for me. As Joyce said through Stephen Dedalus – non serviam!

*Those advantages are twofold. First, there is race: I am Caucasian and the recipient of many benefits based solely on my skin – unfair as that is, I acknowledge it and try to subvert it when possible or at least make a big noise about its nefarious nature. The second is the kind of education I received: for all the Catholic stuff, those schools did do a pretty good job otherwise, and I’m well on my way to being the first woman in my immediate family to receive a MA!

**I like to joke that I came into the world just in time to see Reagan rip off the White House’s solar panels. Yay, me.

*** Which is still fun, but for secular reasons :)

Liz Damnit
United States

Comments

  1. peterooke says

    I am at a bit of a loss here. You seem to be a decent person and yet it was not some great tragedy or abuse you suffered at the hands of the church (which seems to be the cause of most atheism) that turned you into a non-believer but rather it was the kind work of an observant nurse. It baffles me really.

    Pete Rooke

  2. generallerong says

    Tnx, Liz, I found this an inspiring read.

    As to the religious nurse thing… This is one of the reasons why I think religion is a mind parasite. It takes normal, admirable human impulses to behave with kindness and charity and cloaks them with self-righteousness. As, “I wouldn’t be performing these good deeds were I not inspired by my religon.” Therefore everybody needs religion to behave humanely. Or to suffer misfortune and death with courage.

    Ick. I can see exactly how this would be a slap in the face to your mother’s and your suffering through her illness and death – “Cheer up! It’s god’s will! All will be well in the afterlife! Let’s all get churched and be happy!” I’d have had a hard time, too, not giving that nurse a big, fat face slap.

  3. Rey Fox says

    The church never abused me, either. It just offended my intellectual honesty and curiosity about the world and my modern ethical sensibilities.

  4. michaelwilliams says

    Rooke: Have you read any of PZ’s excellent “Why I am an Atheist” serires, or indeed any deconversion stories online or anywhere else? The “cause of atheism” as you put it, is RARELY “some great tragedy or abuse suffered at the hands of the church”. Go back and examine these stories, and you will find most of them relate journeys of discovery, rational exploration and internal struggle against the comfort and familiarity of a church community. No one here is “angry with God”, or “lashing out” at a church that treated them badly. Most ex-believers surrender their faith sadly, even reluctantly, but are simply unable to reconcile the reality of the world around them.

  5. chigau (同じ) says

    Peter Rooke
    Most people who become atheists don’t do it because they’re angry at God.
    They do it because there is no God.

  6. janine says

    Rookie, why do you think that a person had to be abused by a person of authority in order to reject religion?

    (As an aside, when I became an atheist, it was not because the pastor of the church I went to was abusive to me. In fact, I liked him and got along well with him. The congregation was always nice and helpful to my family.)

    You want to know what this sounds like? The reason why you are homosexual is because you were abused as a child.

    Rookie, for years you have read this blog and yet you are absolutely clueless about who anyone here is and why they think as they do. Despite the fact that many of us spell it out.

  7. peterooke says

    Well were does the anger and vitriol come from then? The language of the movement is becoming increasingly hostile. I was recently called a faith-head to my face. No this is not merely an academic argument but something much more profound.

  8. stonyground says

    The bit about Paganism is interesting partly because the ceremonies that are practiced by the Catholic Church were very likely adopted from pre-Christian religions. I’m pretty sure that the bread and wine is my body and blood routine was ised in Mithraism.

    @peterooke
    Some Catholics are good and kind people, therefore the Catholic religion is true.

    This is what is known as a non sequiteur. The first half of the sentence is the premise, the second half is the conclusion. There is no logical path from the premise to the conclusion.

  9. concernedjoe says

    Liz -nicely done

    Peterooke – are you for real? where do you get “some great tragedy or abuse you suffered at the hands of the church (which seems to be the cause of most atheism)”. Seriously where and how do come to that observation/conclusion (i.e., be the cause of most rejection of the supreme being fairytale or even Liz’s such rejection)?

    I cannot speak for anyone but myself but I gather from the blogs like this one (ones with an atheistic clientele that voice it) that essentially it is a reasoned conclusion and decision to be atheist.

    It is not anger, nor hurt, nor peer-pressure, nor any one person that drives the calculation that god is a fairytale and without substance or truth.

    One IS atheist and then the absurdity of substituting reality with the fairytale snaps into focus. So for instance – the nurse – kind and competent as she might be otherwise – was offensive (to use a word) in her actions.

    I could explain in formal form what I mean, but I think this says it all: if you had a beloved mother in that condition and someone – no matter how well intentioned – thought it their duty, right, and privilege to overtly and intrusively appeal to Zeus and all the Greek gods and goddess over your mother – would that not make you feel uneasy? – perhaps even angry inside? – perhaps even sick at the thought of being subject to such idiocy at a time of crisis and sadness?

    No we may be angry at the sins of organized religion – just like we may be angry at the actions of some other harmful and fallaciously privileged organization. But being angry at the stupidity and harm of anti-vaccine organizations is not the cause of my adherence to the reality of vaccines.

    Hope you get this. Although I suspect you are one that thinks we are atheist because we are angry at god (that always cracks me up BTW!).

  10. says

    Someone called Pete Rooke a “faithhead”? Good grief, where have our standards gone?

    There are much worse things Rooke deserves to be called than that simple factual statement.

  11. janine says

    Rookie, where was the anger in what Liz Damnit said or how any of us replied to you.

    But here is one brief answer to your question, why the anger? Being queer, I have been told plenty of times that people like me are evil and responsible for the decline and possible destructive of society. My anger is not at any god, I am not angry at something that does not exist. I am angry at people who use the belief an an excuse to condemn other people.

    But this has been pointed out repeatedly to you over the years. Yet you refuse to listen. And you going to change you habit and try to understand.

    (I am convinced there was a damn good reason why you were called a faith-head.)

  12. says

    Hey Rooke…want to not take a dump on the story of someones mother dying with a derail.

    Its that sort of entitlement that you can basically brush aside someone baring their heart and fart on them that makes nonbelievers angry.

    Not only was the writer now denied being able to grieve her mother without someone moving focus to jesus but now they can’t even talk about that without someone doing the same thing?

  13. janine says

    PZ, Rookie was not called a faithhead here. But give me time. If the Rookie insists on being so clueless, many here will be happy to have our old chewtoy back. My pelt has not been so very sniny of late.

  14. baal says

    Liz, thanks for your telling and moving account.

    kind work of an observant nurse

    Rooke, This inability to understand the view points of others is a problem of pretty much every faithist I’ve met. The author was grieving for her will-not-be-returning mother. The nurse was cheerfully foisting a culturally sanctioned contrary view. It was insensitive of the nurse to do that. Insensitivity in the Lord’s name is not a good thing.

  15. concernedjoe says

    And peterooke.. some of us atheists can no longer suffer fools and we show our impatience with the willful stupidity, willful ignorance, willful circular reasoning, and/or willful imposition of the fairytale on society.

    Some one may have just had it with you and the pot boiled over.. or someone may have little tolerance for fools and you felt it.

    But think of this – if I kept saying to you that you must cast the gremlins from your engine with 2000 year old incantations if you want your car’s MIL light to go out and the computer to clear itself of all trouble codes – and unless you believe that you will suffer for eternity horrible things – wouldn’t you be less than cordial to that person?

  16. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It baffles me really.

    Simple PR, your deity is imaginary. Your holy book is a work of mythology fiction. Your whole theology is based on those twin lies. You are such a delusional fool you can’t see the lies through the bullshit. Frankly your ability to swallow such big lies baffles any intelligent person.

  17. peterooke says

    I hesitate to accept the point made in comment 13. I’m not clear if many agree with this point of view (or, more importantly, if Liz does) but if so then I regret the clumsy way I’ve expressed myself (or, more accurately, the forum I’ve chosen). And PZ Myers: that is by no means the worst abuse that has come my way over the years. My mental state has been called into question. Is this a surprise though when Dawkins himself is happy to speak of religion as a ‘virus’? No it’s not a surprise. The language and behaviour of the movement typified by incidents like the desecration that goes by the name of ‘crackergate’ is tantamount to incitement. Janine (no. 12), I understand why that type of thinking is wrong and immoral and why it would make people angry. I think most thinking Christians would reject that type of language.

  18. janine says

    Please, Rookie, please explain what Ing said that you disagree with. And I will tell you, all of us have examples of dealing with the death of friends and family members where true believers made the grieve all about Jesus.

  19. CJO says

    The bit about Paganism is interesting partly because the ceremonies that are practiced by the Catholic Church were very likely adopted from pre-Christian religions. I’m pretty sure that the bread and wine is my body and blood routine was ised in Mithraism.

    The eucharist had its origins as the same basic kind of ceremonial meal that was practiced by all manner of Greco-Roman era associations, and not just religious ones. Breaking bread and sharing wine is, after all, as universal as human beings sitting down (or reclining, as the case may be) to share a meal.

    However, Roman Mithraism was a 2nd century phenomenon, so not pre-Christian (though it predated Catholic Christianity), and very little is known about exactly what sacraments were practiced (we have no liturgical or narrative sources, just sculpture and a few inscriptions, mostly dedicatory). A ritual meal would be standard, but there needn’t be any direct connection because of the ubiquity of that practice. If Mithraists did a similar song and dance to the Christian eucharist, it’s entirely possible the influence went the other way. Pagans in late antiquity took quite an interest in the novel rites practiced by Christians in lieu of participation in traditional rituals of sacrifice, and the language of the eucharist was even parodied in one of the Greek Romances.

  20. says

    Irene/Janine: Yeah, I know, I was aiming more for snark than strict accuracy. If Petey is complaining about being called a “faith-head,” despite supposedly having been called much worse, I really don’t think enough people are calling him mean things.

  21. janine says

    Ibyea, speaking only for myself, it is good that the Rookie is back. I love the comedy.

    (Sometimes, I am not a nice person at all.)

  22. peterooke says

    Janine, I feel that as with many people on here were we to actually converse face-to-face (i.e., Google+ Hangouts which you may have heard of recently) you would realise that we are not too dissimilar and agree on a great many things. BTW, I have no desire to end up in the dungeon again thank you very much…

  23. Brownian says

    Well were does the anger and vitriol come from then?

    Well, the dishonesty and complete lack of morals or intellectual rigours among Christians such as yourself comes to mind.

  24. lizdamnit says

    Hey all,

    I’ve been reading PZ and other FTB’ers for a while now, more than long enough to admire the feisty guardianship of the topic threads. So thank you, Pharyngula readers – I’ll let you handle the ten-foot pole and direct my attention to a couple other points.

    @generallerong #2 – Excellent labeling of the “mind parasite”. Shutting down questioning, dissent, or even conversation with a “god is good” always seemed fishy to me. As I get older, it’s one of my bigger complaints about the world. Bluntly: Bad shit happens (disease, for one), for identifiable reasons, and it can bet understood, even through emotional pain. That’s comforting – not what you read above.

    @stonyground #9 – Spot on. It was hardly a large leap to make to “go back to” paganism, especially given the amount of Marian veneration in my family. Not to mention the parts I hooked up with were really academic-friendly with the amount of reading and research they recommended – that was a welcome break from the RC church. Still not my cuppa, though :)

    @concernedjoe #10 – Yes! Anger featured into this, but it was not the only factor. To me, becoming atheist (or anything) only out of anger is a false de-conversion, as one is more concerned with hurting the old way, the old community, than with doing something different in the world. Anger is helpful but simply not enough.

    So yeah, off I go!

  25. says

    @Rooke

    No stop it. Get out. Just shut the fuck up. This isn’t about you. This isn’t your pitty party. No one gives a shit about you.

    You pushing aside and dismissing one person to complain about your wittle feelings. Stop it right now.

    Fuck you should be put back in the dungeon for this. You’re a sociopath.

  26. lizdamnit says

    Oh, man, Just saw my first posting and it was more robust than intended. I promise my comments won’t run into paragraphs…that often…!

  27. rowanvt says

    Dear Pete:

    Why the angry language?

    I’m frequently told and frequently hear that, because I’m an atheist, I *deserve* to suffer the most horrific pain possible for all eternity. If I walked up to someone and said “You’re child is annoying, s/he deserves to be lit on fire”, people would be rightfully upset with me. But if an omnipotent being says the same thing, it’s ‘good’?

    No. Flies like a lead brick.

    People have praised me as being a ‘good christian girl’ when I do kind things. When I tell them ‘thankyou, but I am an atheist’ they look befuddled and some have even asked “then why did you help me?”

    You think I shouldn’t be angry that people think that I, as an atheist, should be nasty, unhelpful, and incapable of kindness?

  28. janine says

    Janine, I feel that as with many people on here were we to actually converse face-to-face (i.e., Google+ Hangouts which you may have heard of recently) you would realise that we are not too dissimilar and agree on a great many things.

    *snort*

  29. says

    Janine, I feel that as with many people on here were we to actually converse face-to-face (i.e., Google+ Hangouts which you may have heard of recently) you would realise that we are not too dissimilar and agree on a great many things.

    This has always baffled me and is part of the human condition I can’t grasp. I can’t get how Mahr and Coulter are friends for example.

    No shit, of course we have many things in common sharing a species. You’re not disliked or that, you’re disliked because of the areas of disagreement are big. It’s quality not quantity. You think it’s fine to push others aside and dismiss their feelings to praise jebus, I don’t. We’re not gonna get along as long as you keep doing that.

  30. janine says

    Rookie, instead of telling that in we could be friends in meat space (Not bloody likely), please explain why you disagree with Ing’s post at #13. You are the one who brought it up, now spill.

  31. peterooke says

    rowanvt, I am not a spokesperson for the actions of every religious person. I lived in the US for only a few years and never witnessed anything even remotely close to the discourtesy and downright abuse you describe (and this was in Florida). Indeed I was friends with a number of non-believing Unitarian Universalists and I don’t believe they faced any behaviour of that kind. In the UK I think it is even rarer. The belief that any one of us is able to claim that another of us deserves to suffer eternally is sociopathic. We are not all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful.

  32. says

    @Rooke

    yes tell us more about your life bec-OH WAIT THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU!

    God Glob man! Do you have no sense of empathy at all? Are you just entirely narcissistic?

  33. janine says

    Shorter Rookie: I do not acknowledge seeing it so I doubt it happens. But I was called a faith-head.

  34. Irene Delse says

    @ janine:

    <3

    @ CJO:

    However, Roman Mithraism was a 2nd century phenomenon, so not pre-Christian (though it predated Catholic Christianity), and very little is known about exactly what sacraments were practiced (we have no liturgical or narrative sources, just sculpture and a few inscriptions, mostly dedicatory).

    Well, the fad for Mithraic mysteries in the Roman Empire started in the 1st Century BCE, so it grew alongside Christianity. It was probably the most popular at the time, but not the only one, of the Eastern pagan religions centred about a divine being who died and was reborn again to bring the gift of eternal life to the initiates.

    The similarity to Jesus Christ is obvious here, of course.

    After the 4th Century, when Christianity became the state religion in the Empire, Christians converted to churches many shrines to Mithras. They also used a lot of similar imagery: the figure of Christ depicted in the same attitude and with the same attributes as the Mithraic sun god, for instance.

    Contrary to other forms of mysticism originating in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire (Eleusynian mysteries, etc.), which only appealed to an rich and educated elite, the cult of Mithra was ubiquitous in the population. From its origins in Persia, Roman soldiers brought it to the Westernmost part of the Empire, the British Isles.

    Another popular religious trend to influence early Christianity was the worship of Isis, mother of the sun god Horus, which can be linked to the worship of Mary. Depictions of Mary with the infant Jesus were modelled on earlier ones of Isis nursing Horus as a baby!

  35. says

    Also Mithras fought a bull!

    (or according to Doctor Who killed an psychic parasite alien that sets themselves up as gods to drain a population)

  36. lizdamnit says

    @Peterooke On the subject of this derailment business. Yeah, I was going to ignore you, but here we go.

    Yes, Pete, I do agree with Ing and a fair amount of other commenters about entitlement and the damage it does. Entitlement is possibly the biggest stick in my craw….The entitlement to say “this is the only answer”, or “your thoughts/way of living/your very body is wrong, and I am totally right”. The entitlement to say “well, if you weren’t so lazy you’d get ahead”, or “if you would just play nice”. The entitlement of derailing a death, one of the most intimate, intense of human experiences. Or perhaps the entitlement of derailing a narrative – another profoundly intimate human experience. You could have at least lied better, to make it look like your points had a glancing contact with my essay.

    If I don’t fit your image of an atheist, ever so sorry, do tell me where I can pick up my rage-bursting eye capillaries and spittle foam so I cam more properly fulfill your victimization needs.

    Otherwise, unless you’re willing to (ha!) really read, with a quiet mind, my original post and the comments you object to, I really can’t be bothered any more.

  37. rowanvt says

    @rooke:

    Reading comprehension fail.

    I live in California and still see this. The fact that you appear to have been blind to it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen and that it doesn’t happen really really often.

    And all it takes is as seemingly “innocuous” a phrase as “I wish you would return to Jesus Christ”… why? Because then I’d go to heave, of course. The alternative being Hell. And since I won’t turn to Jesus, and it’s Jesus who forgives sins, and everyone is a sinner, and sins deserve punishment, the end result is that I apparently deserve hell.

  38. peterooke says

    Janine – it’s not a derailment. She mentioned the behaviour and stated that it was a catalyst for her non-belief and that it offended her. I dispute neither of these facts. I merely expressed my bafflement.

  39. lizdamnit says

    @ Irene on 44 – I love those Isis/Horus statues! And I still like the Mary/Jesus art, for chubby baby purposes.

    I like to turn “spot the pagan influences” into a nice art history drinking game :)

  40. says

    Janine – it’s not a derailment. She mentioned the behaviour and stated that it was a catalyst for her non-belief and that it offended her. I dispute neither of these facts. I merely expressed my bafflement.

    Out of 5 comments I count, 4 have been you talking about you.

  41. truthspeaker says

    peterooke says:
    12 January 2012 at 1:25 pm

    The belief that any one of us is able to claim that another of us deserves to suffer eternally is sociopathic.

    It is. It’s also one of the core teachings of Christianity. Do you understand the anger now?

  42. says

    I should also point that that Rooke apparently doesn’t understand how going into a place for said group and asking why a person telling a personal story doesn’t conform to a common negative stereotype and then playing martyr would make that group peeved.

  43. peterooke says

    lizdamnit, I accept that. The nurse was treating others as she would want to be treated and not necessarily as they would want to be treated. That is a natural tendency. We all do it.

  44. says

    The nurse was treating others as she would want to be treated and not necessarily as they would want to be treated. That is a natural tendency. We all do it.

    You do not speak for everyone.

    Selfish unempathetic people like you do that. Some people actually care about the other’s feelings rather than presuming everyone is like them.

    Goddamn you’re just insulting.

  45. Irene Delse says

    lizdamnit:

    If I don’t fit your image of an atheist, ever so sorry, do tell me where I can pick up my rage-bursting eye capillaries and spittle foam so I cam more properly fulfill your victimization needs.

    Oh, noes, atheists who are not angry! The End is near!

    ^^°

  46. lizdamnit says

    yes, Irene, sometimes we even have cups of cocoa and feed birds and pet puppies! Oh, the humanity!

  47. peterooke says

    We Are Ing – you’re clearly lacking in self-awareness. How many of those comments are you own? The language you use in your first contribution conjures up an obscene and grotesque image that is entirely unwarranted by my contribution.

  48. peterooke says

    Anyway, I shall remove myself from the debate now because my presence here does not seem conducive to amicable debate unfortunately.

  49. says

    @Peterrooke

    Oh no! Rooke’s feelings were hurt!

    What a surprise.

    It is warranted because you literally cannot open your mouth without proving that you’re a self absorbed ass.

  50. rowanvt says

    @rooke @59:

    No, I’d say that imagery is about correct. Liz was relating a painful story of an occurrence, and you decided that you could not accept that she felt pain due to the actions of the nurse, and thus had to question her experience.

    You took a dump on it.

  51. says

    Anyway, I shall remove myself from the debate now because my presence here does not seem conducive to amicable debate unfortunately.

    The phrase you’re looking for is “I’m sorry for derailing and casting negative stereotypes at you, Liz”

  52. rowanvt says

    The real question is… will he stick the flounce?

    Liz, thank you for sharing your story with us.

  53. steve oberski says

    peterooke says:

    I was recently called a faith-head to my face.

    Is this a cryptic way of saying that someone was blowing smoke up your backside ?

  54. Brownian says

    yes, Irene, sometimes we even have cups of cocoa and feed birds and pet puppies! Oh, the humanity!

    Is…is this where…?

    [Eyes wide with excitement, Brownian calls up an album of pictures of his cat on his iPhone, and holds it up to his monitor before realising how fruitless that is. Embarrassed at his mistake, he closes his browser.]

  55. lizdamnit says

    @Ing, aw, man, all I’m getting is a prayer-request service and Ron Paul.

    @rowanvt – you’re welcome and thank *you* all!

  56. rowanvt says

    @ing, for a while it was giving me ads for reptile stores, which was awesome, but now it’s a prayer service. :/

  57. ibyea says

    @Janine
    I wish I could also enjoy the comedy, but the last time I read his comments was so long ago that I don’t remember the specifics. All I remember is the emotion associated with his name, and it is not a positive one. And his latest comments are irritating me a lot.

  58. janine says

    We Are Ing – you’re clearly lacking in self-awareness.

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…

    *gasp*

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    *wipes tears from eyes*

  59. Brownian says

    Now mine is for a Christian hard drive?

    I get the Puritan Hard Drive ad everywhere. I’ve got to stop using ‘hard’ and ‘drive’ in so many different contexts.

  60. lizdamnit says

    Puritan Hard Drive sounds like something that should be a lot of fun, but is mitigated by the thought of the inevitable morning-after weeping and penance.

  61. Irene Delse says

    @ liz:

    All jokes about poor Petey aside, that was a powerful piece you wrote. Thank you. The part about other Catholics “waving belief around” in your face while your mother was dying resonates powerfully with me. I was raised a Catholic, too, but lost the last remnants of faith a long time ago. When my mother died in 2010, the most difficult thing for me was to go through the funeral in church, and listen quietly to the priest going on and on about eternal life, and thanking Christ, and other old tropes that felt so coldly impersonal at the time. And worse, using the occasion to preach, as a matter of fact, and urge the grieving to believe too! That, that felt kind of obscene.

  62. Koshka says

    lizdamnit, I accept that. The nurse was treating others as she would want to be treated and not necessarily as they would want to be treated. That is a natural tendency. We all do it.

  63. lizdamnit says

    @Irene – the standard Catholic funeral liturgy isn’t exactly the most welcoming thing. Yes, yes, funerary rites are really all about the living, but would it kill them to be a bit warmer? To make the rites (if one must have them) more about the deceased’s life, or their family, instead of a bully pulpit (pun definitely intended!). Hope you’re doing as well as you can in your case, though – you have my empathy.

  64. Brownian says

    What the hell is a Puritan Hard Drive?

    As it’s being marketed to conservative Christians, I can only assume it comes with Ted Haggard’s address book on it.

  65. Brownian says

    Puritan Hard Drive sounds like something that should be a lot of fun, but is mitigated by the thought of the inevitable morning-after weeping and penance.

    That’s a Catholic perspective. The evangelicals it’s marketed to would be more likely to buy the thing while attempting to have computers banned.

  66. janine says

    The Rookie has long been one of my favorite chewtoys, he is just so squeaky. But he did annoy me, suggesting that he could not accept lizdamnit’s story because there had to been abuse involved. As I pointed out before, it is the same type of canard that a LGBT person had to been abuses in order to become queer. It is just infuriating.

    Liz, I am sorry that I did my part in derailing from your story.

  67. Koshka says

    lizdamnit, I accept that. The nurse was treating others as she would want to be treated and not necessarily as they would want to be treated. That is a natural tendency. We all do it.

    Not good enough.
    If someone is grieving you come along and pray at them without any thought on how it makes them feel. Try considering how the other person wants to be treated, not how you want to be treated. How hard can that be.

    And rather than saying it was wrong for the nurse to pray at Liz, you excuse the nurse’s behavior. You lack empathy.

    And sorry for the double post.

  68. says

    @Koshka

    Worse than that. His comments suggest that “we all do that” as if that’s just The Way of Things. There’s no acknowledgment that a) some of us DON’T or b) he could try NOT doing it. It’s like the PUA saying how everyone is a jerk to women

  69. says

    Big problem of religion right there with Pete. Here it’s taken him to a level of morality that is acceptable, and has given him no incentive to be better.

  70. janine says

    That bit about the nurse and your mother reminds me of one of the angriest moments of my life. My cousin was only twenty-one when he was killed by a bullet to the head. His funeral had a baptist minister. He did not know my cousin, he did not speak a word about him. He spoke about how life is short and we had to accept Jesus as our savior before it was too late. It was the kind of shit I could hear from a street corner preacher.

    I wanted to move my fist through his skull. One of my sisters noticed the fist I was making and how strained my face was.

    I wonder if I was alone in feeling that rage.

  71. ericpaulsen says

    I’m right there with you Liz. My father died a little over a week ago while we were caring for him in home hospice and I think you are right, he died when he lapsed into he coma. The rest was just waiting for the inevitable.

    I am part of an extended family that has four pastors that I am aware of (a second cousin officiated the services per my mothers request)and several very devout believers so I had to suffer through a LOT of that “he is in a better place”, “god has a plan” nonsense. I tolerated it because 1) I have been around it so much that I’ve developed callouses and 2) it is their heartfelt belief. It really is really hard not to laugh in their faces when I spent eight days with my dad during the night shift nursing him while Parkinson’s robbed him of everything that made him who he was. Nice plan. It’s too bad that god couldn’t take a little more time with the “miracle of death” after perfecting the “miracle of life”.

  72. lizdamnit says

    @Brownian 81 – HA! and then have big, messy breakdowns when their IT personnel write tell-all memoirs.

    @Chigau82 – thanks, and that is endless, isn’t it? normally I haven’t read those as there’s just lots and lots, but I should go take a dip.

    @Janine 83 – no worries! There’s tangents and then there’s derailments, and his was a derailment based on an oddly…specific narrative. And you’re not wrong – I’ve often likened the deceased-parent thing, and the secular/atheist thing to coming out stories.

    It doesn’t match up completely, and its’ not to say “oh, I *know* what it is to be queer, my mom’s dead/I’m atheist!” but I concur – there’s a similar vibration there, especially when people insist you had to have been abused or enraged and therefore (as I suspect they mean) “not in their right minds”. Absolute hogwash!

  73. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Pete Rooke:

    I merely expressed my bafflement.

    Now Pete, have you really been listening? I don’t think so, and you never have before. You only carp about your treatment like a tone troll, but you offer nothing of substance to the conversation.

    If you want to comprehend why people leave the church, really read your babble, and read it for comprehension of the misogyny, genocide, and capriciousness of that alleged deity, who behaves worse than an amoral crime lord. Reading the babble is a leading cause of atheism. The imaginary deity there is not to be worshipped.

  74. Brownian says

    @ericpaulsen:

    Words seem hollow in the face of what you’re going through but they’re all I have, so please accept my sincere condolences for your loss.

  75. ericpaulsen says

    Thank you Brownian, but please don’t think that I wrote this to elicit condolences, it just seemed apropos to the post. I do thank you for your words just the same.

  76. lizdamnit says

    @ericpaulsen – my condolences, too. for what it’s worth, you’re not alone with this. at some point, one has to weigh between starting up the incendiary topic of even well meaning insistence on “god’s will” versus reality….or just letting it all go to get a break. Sounds like you took a wise route, because when grief is fresh, it’s just not the time to have that battle.

  77. Brownian says

    Thank you Brownian, but please don’t think that I wrote this to elicit condolences, it just seemed apropos to the post.

    Of course. Difficult as it must be, thanks for sharing.

  78. says

    Heh! I’ve been getting the NOTW xian clothing ads with either a)the Rock Beyond Belief or b) wacky t-shirts ads right below! Now that’s targeted advertising!

    I had to attend a Catholic memorial mass this past Saturday, and I have another this Saturday (same person, different town). The RC mass continues to baffle me, despite having grow up with it. And hey! They changed the responses you’re supposed to make! Now it sounds ever wronger than before!*

    *mainly because half the people are still saying the old responses.

  79. geocatherder says

    Liz Damnit, thank you so much. Your story is an encouraging tale of learning to think.

    Your tale of the nurse, though, reminds me of my mother’s best friend. Both were staunch Catholics. When Mama had been in a coma for days, and even a CPAP machine couldn’t get her blood oxygen above 3/4 of normal, we knew she was gone; her vital functions were shutting down one by one, and her brain had been on substandard oxygen for many days and was probably meaningfully gone, too. In waltzes Best Friend, with Dad and I there. “Kathryne!” she calls my mother’s name out loudly. “We’re going to pray together! And you’re going to get better!” And then she commenced to pray loudly for a good quarter of an hour. At least she didn’t insist on saying the whole bloody Rosary. I wanted to throttle her. Here we were, struggling to deal with the fact that we’d pretty much lost Mama, and now this.

    AAAAGGGGHHHH!

  80. Koshka says

    Liz,

    Sounds like you took a wise route, because when grief is fresh, it’s just not the time to have that battle.

    Everyone has their own way of dealing with shit but I do agree with you here. You certainly don’t want to have that battle with the nurse who is looking after your mother.

    If I can tell a somewhat related story… A friend’s mother died 2 years ago. Her father remarried recently to a woman who claims to have psychic abilities. At christmas the new step mother (if adult children can have step mothers), tells my friend that she was visited by her dead mother. Friend’s husband immediately steps in to say that is not on. Step mum storms off in a huff.

    If a person in grief chooses to respond to unthoughtful comments they risk being cast as the bad guy. Simply not fair.

  81. evader says

    I want to marry Liz just so I can take her last name.

    Can a man take their partner’s surname?
    To google I go…

  82. Jamie says

    It annoys me too that some religious people ignore the fact that their beliefs bother others. Since people are sharing their stories about religion creeping in during times of grief, here’s mine:

    When my dad passed away my older half sisters converted him to Christianity. I wasn’t present when it happened, but it seems like the kind of thing he would do to make *them* happy, so I doubt that he really believed. My sisters arranged the funeral service, and so invited a pastor of some sort to preside over it. I didn’t identify as an atheist at the time, but the fact that the service was religious because he was *possibly* only a Christian for a millisecond of his life was really infuriating and insulting. I wasn’t bothered because it was Christian, but because it didn’t seem like something my dad would have wanted. My mom said that he showed some interest in Buddhism while he was still alive. If the service was Buddhist, at least I could accept it as something that he wanted. Maybe they saw it as doing him a favor by giving him a chance at eternal life, but the whole Christian taint of it all just seemed so selfish on my sisters’ part.

  83. andyo says

    Rooke sez:

    but if so then I regret the clumsy way I’ve expressed myself (or, more accurately, the forum I’ve chosen).

    Rooke meanz:
    “I regret what I said (was heard by assholes)”

  84. Jamie says

    I almost forgot to thank you Liz for sharing your story. I enjoyed reading it and the discussion it sparked.

  85. Ermine says

    Pete Rooke:

    it was not some great tragedy or abuse you suffered at the hands of the church (which seems to be the cause of most atheism) that turned you into a non-believer

    Citation SOOOO fucking needed!

    You know, I just went and read back though all of January’s submissions for “Why I am an Atheist”, and not ONE of them had anything at all about how angry they were at god or what horrible trauma or abuse they’d suffered at the hands of their church. On the other hand, every single one of them detailed how they’d had their minds changed by the arguments of skeptics and freethinkers, and most of them started their journey by reading the Bible itself in an attempt to become MORE devout or learned, only to discover the many flaws and errors of fact or logic in those pages.

    I’ve got to say, Pete, you have been singularly unobservant to be reading this site and not to have noticed all these stories there on the front page every. single. day.

    And then, after you flat out LIE about what makes most atheists, you have the stupid audacity to carp at our ‘anger’ and ‘vitriol’ when we don’t take the slur sitting down?

    I’ll make a prediction, a sort of scientific experiment for all the newcomers and lurkers who aren’t sure who to believe: Pete won’t be able to defend that statement. He won’t be able to point to ANY real evidence from any honest source(s) that indicate that most atheists become atheists because they’re angry with God or their church. Personally, my guess is that he simply made up the claim in the depths of his own twisted little mind.

    This prediction is based on Pete’s previous behavior, as well as the behavior of the majority of god-botherers who come here making this sort of claim. Just as most of the stories say, the apologists *can’t* defend their claims honestly, and if you actually observe and record their attempts, you too will start to see the disconnects and dishonesty they constantly resort to.
    If you’ll actually sit down and read your bible too, you too could be an atheist in no time! Look, Science in action!

    Of course, Petey has flounced out now, so I don’t expect any answer at all. I might be worried about it being a derailment of the topic, but the effect of it was to get me (and how many others?) to go back and read ALL of the last month’s submissions, (possibly the months previous to that as well, before I’m done.), and to look them over to make a real count of how many were convinced by the logic of one side’s responses, and the decided IL-logic of the other. I’ve learned more about my fellow atheists, and about the -real- ratios of cause and effect that bring about a loss of religion and a switch to disbelief and freethought. I even reread Liz Damnit’s entry an extra few times as I was writing this! Somehow, I don’t think that’s the sort of effect that Pete is hoping for.. Ha-ha! ;)