Because I am an atheist: Stephanie Zvan

Today’s submission comes from fellow FTBer (and friend) Stephanie Zvan of Almost Diamonds:

Because I am an atheist…

…I am alive. That sounds hyperbolic, but bear with me.

There is much about my life now that I love–being able to write for (a small amount of) money, having the kind of love life that most people will never even strive for because they don’t believe it’s possible, having excellent friends and challenging work both as an employee and as a volunteer–but I had to survive long enough to get here. There have been plenty of times when that was in doubt.

I was physically and emotionally abused at home. I was pathologically shy. I was scared of everything. I was a year younger than everyone else in my class in school. I was serious and brainy. I didn’t wear the same clothes or haircuts as other kids. I attended six different elementary schools in three states. I wasn’t uncoordinated, but I had very little interest in competitive sports. I was poor in the exurbs in the 80s. I was targeted by one sexual predator when I was about nine and another (more successfully) when I was fifteen. I dated more than one guy who blamed me for his inability to act like a decent human being.

In short, lots about my life sucked. The first time I remember seriously contemplating suicide, I must have been about thirteen. That has never stopped entirely.

The one thing I’ve never had to deal with, through all of that, is the notion that life must somehow be fair. “Why me?” has never meant any more than “Can’t this just stop already?” Individuals had certainly told me why I was so worthless as to deserve what was happening to me, but they could be argued with, even if weakly.

No one ever told me that what was happening to me was God’s plan for me. No one ever told me that it made sense in a way I was simply inadequate to understand. No one ever told me to be grateful.

They do that, you know. They tell people to be grateful for their trials because they come from God. They really say that to people who are in unbelievable pain.

I didn’t know a lot about gratitude then. What I knew was that I wanted it to stop. I lived in a little fantasy world where someone or something would make it stop because I couldn’t. If I’d been told then that it wouldn’t stop because it was The Plan, if I’d been told someone I could not defy wanted things this way, I would have had only one thing I could do.

I would have died.

Because I am an atheist, because I was an atheist then even though I didn’t really know the word, I lived. I defied a lot of people to become who and what I am today.

Also because I am an atheist, I know that the pain I see in those around me is not inevitable. It is not part of some Plan that we cannot defy. So where I once fought for myself, I know it is possible to fight–and win–for others. I do that too. But I never would have made it to the point where I could if I were not an atheist.

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  1. Katalina says

    Thank you for this, Stephanie. It’s true that they tell you it’s all part of the “plan” when terrible things happen to you, that you’re being tested. That was one of the most insidious things I heard after I pressed charges against the vile man who raped me. But because I’m an atheist, I have been able to learn from the experience and help others who have suffered similarly. (The other really awful thing people said, aside from of course blaming me for somehow causing it myself, was that I ought to quickly find a man and get married so I would see that sex isn’t always a bad thing… a chaplain said that to me!!!)

  2. says

    Oh yes. And how about let’s add to the list of vile things about religion, the stupid and morally bankrupt saying “God never gives you anything you can’t deal with.” Not only is the Plan that you suffer, if you’re not up to the “test”, then what?

    * I just googled this disgusting notion and found out that it comes from Mother Teresa. Surprise.

  3. says

    Katalina, I have a friend who frequently offers (kiddingly), “You want I should take care of him for you?” I can’t think of a better response to that chaplain. Ugh. I’m sorry you had to deal with all that on top of the rape.

  4. Katalina says

    Yeah, I was pretty floored at the time. Of course, the fact that it was in the context of the Army shouldn’t surprise anyone… The good ol boys have each others’ backs, not quite as much as in the past, but the network is alive and well.

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