I am an ex-Christian because I know the Bible isn’t actually true and I am an atheist because I see no evidence at all that a god of any kind actually exists. God never says, thinks, or does anything at all except in the minds of believers, and that’s a sure indication to me that he/she/it does not actually exist. But, I spent 15 years of my younger life as a very devout fundamentalist Christian. I also have bipolar disorder, so I spent those years swinging between periods of devout religious belief and periods of doubt and unbelief that usually featured heavy drug and alcohol use. I realize now that both methods were my attempt to self-medicate the bipolar illness that I didn’t know I had at the time. And I have realized recently that religious belief is so tied to my bipolar disorder that, for me, it can never be real. When I am manic, God seem very REAL to me, and I become very spiritual and sometimes I flirt with a return to Christian fundamentalism. But when the mania dies down, the religious beliefs inevitably go away too. My feelings of the presence of God, which have been very intense at times, are just a product of mental illness and nothing more. There is a part of me that misses my religious days and a part of me that wishes that I could share in the faith of my Christian friends. But, I know it’s not real. God doesn’t actually exist, prayer doesn’t actually work, and Jesus Christ, if he indeed lived in history, is long dead. And the Bible? It has been thoroughly debunked online for many years now… so, though I wish on a purely emotional level that it could all be true, I know it isn’t. And I think facing reality as it actually is and living in the REAL WORLD is very important, so that’s what I strive to do. Knowing that this life is it — the only one I will ever have — makes life so much more precious and I value every moment I get to experience here on Earth, and I value every moment I get to spend with those that I love because I know that life is not forever and that it will really and truly end. There isn’t a heaven waiting for believers and there isn’t a hell waiting for nonbelievers. There is just very likely… nothing. But that doesn’t really bother me. If there is no life after death, then I won’t exist to care that I don’t exist. And if there is something after death, there is no evidence that there is anything to be feared. So… I do my best to be a good person and a contributing member of society and I live my life as though God doesn’t exist… because there is no evidence that he does. And I believe that that is the Truth! Glory!
Posted this to Facebook and thought I would share it here too. Glory! 🙂
Those of you who have been friends with me on Facebook for a while know that I used to bash religion – a lot, and usually I wasn’t nice about it at all. But back then I was still stuck in the “anger” phase of de-conversion. Walking away from 15 years of devout religious belief was not just a matter of me shrugging my shoulders and thinking, “Oh, well, that sounded nice but it’s not actually true” and moving on unscathed by the experience.
There are phases to religious de-conversion that closely correspond to the stages of grief. They are essentially the same. The five stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Most of the time now I find myself in the acceptance stage of grief, but for a long time I was stuck in anger and also in depression.
When your God dies, that is an event of major importance! We all grieve when a human or animal loved one dies. But when your God dies? That’s far worse, and it’s just as painful as a human death is, if not more so. Because when your God dies, so does the hopes you had for an awesome and eternal afterlife and your hopes of being reunited with lost loved ones at some future date. And what also dies is your hope that at some future date your God will dispense righteous judgment, right all wrongs and wipe away all of the suffering associated with this life.
When your God dies, so does everything supernatural associated with that belief. What dies too is belief in angels, demons, heaven, hell, and activities such as prayer that require a supernatural component to actually work. When your God dies, what you are left with is what is actually real and that we know actually exists — the natural world in all of its grandeur and beauty — the vast cosmos consisting of billions of galaxies, of which our solar system and our beautiful planet are but a very small part.
When your God dies, what dies too is the belief that you were specially created to serve and worship this God. What dies too is your belief that you are special to this God and that He loves you and cares about what happens to you. When your God dies, you realize that you are not the special creation of a God, but rather the product of millions of years of biological evolution, and you realize how amazing it is that you are here at this moment in time and you realize how precious and incredible and amazing this life is.
My God died almost 17 years ago, in early 2000. It was a death brought about by doubts and questions that had plagued me for years that I never found satisfactory Christian answers for. It was a death brought about by a great deal of thinking, reading, and research. It was a death brought about by seeing just how easily people on the skeptical side of the fence dismantled my cherished Christian beliefs not with ridicule and derision, but with solid, credible evidence and verifiable facts.
My God died a long time ago, and I have lived quite happily free from the fear, guilt, shame, and ignorance that so defined and drove the fundamentalist religion that I was once so deeply involved in.
So… when your God dies, that is a life-changing, life-defining event of major importance. When your God dies and everything that you believed was real dies along with him, it takes a long time to process and to come to terms with. It takes a long time to rebuild the framework that defines your reality. But it is possible to come out on the other side of the grief and all of the processing of it through its various phases complete and whole and happy and grateful to be alive.
If you want to know more, I wrote an article describing what it’s like to make the journey from Christianity to Atheism a few years ago. You can read it here:
I can only speak for myself and my experience, but I hope this gives you a better understanding of me and what it was like for me to experience the death of my God all of those years ago.
I’m depressed. There is so much hatred in the world, and sadly, much of it stems from the fact that in the 21st Century, people are still killing each other over mythological religious bullshit that ignorant men dreamed up thousands of years ago. We are still killing each other over whose Imaginary Friend is better or more powerful! Here and now in the 21st Century! I would like to think that most of us know better than that now.
Fundamentalist religion is a HUGE problem here in the US and throughout the world. Fundamentalist Christians routinely use their religion to hate on gays, transgender folks, and women. It is particularly nauseating to hear hatred against gays regularly preached from the pulpits, yet these hateful, bigoted religious assholes never say a word against eating shellfish or wearing clothes made of mixed fabrics, both of which are condemned by their ancient holy book.
Christianity has been anti-woman from the word “go”. According to the ridiculous creation myths in Genesis, it was the woman, Eve, who convinced Adam to eat the magic fruit from the magic tree after the talking snake convinced her to eat it. Eve was the bad gal! Women have been getting the short end of the stick ever since, though obviously, the ridiculous mythical story never actually happened. According to the same silly ancient myth, God in his infinite love, made childbirth extremely painful for all women because Eve made the mistake of listening to a lying talking snake and she ate the magic fruit from the magic tree that God had told them not to fuck with. Religion has been used for centuries to subjugate women and relegate women to the status of second-class citizens. For a very long time, women were little more than property. And according to the Apostle Paul, they should be silent in church and they should not have positions of authority. And in the here and now of the 21st Century, religious Republican politicians are continually trying to deny women the right to decide what they can do with their own bodies! In the minds of these women-hating religious assholes, it would be better for a woman who has a legitimate need for an abortion to get it in a dark alley with a coat hanger than in a much safer modern hospital setting. I’m a guy and I don’t have a vagina, but I am 100% with the women shouting at these assholes to stay out of their vaginas! Oh, and according to many of these religious assholes, rape is consensual or the woman asked for it by the way they dressed! Holy shit!
The Christian religion has a very long and very sad history of suppressing social progress and scientific discovery. The Bible is a flat-earth, geocentric book from cover to cover, and for centuries people believed that the earth was flat and supported by pillars because the Bible says so. And it was believed that the flat earth was covered by a solid dome firmament with the stars stuck in it because the Bible says so! It took Copernicus and Galileo to move us away from this ridiculous primitive cosmology, and the Church resisted every step of the way!
Scientific discovery was flourishing in ancient Greece and in other places in the ancient world, but then Christianity came along and snuffed it out for centuries. The Christian religion is directly responsible for that awful time in history that we know today as the Dark Ages. The Church had tremendous political power, and religious ignorance reigned supreme for centuries. The only place that science had a chance is in the Islamic world, and we owe a debt to Islam today for preserving what scientific knowledge had been gained before the Christian Dark Ages snuffed out the proverbial candle.
The Bible quite clearly teaches that mental illness is caused by demons, and that belief was used to, well, demonize the mentally ill. We know today that mental illness has genetic and environmental causes, and obviously it has nothing to do with mythological evil spirits. But, of course, this same Book claims that the cure for leprosy is a magical incantation and the blood of a slain bird…
In the Islamic world today, fundamentalist religion is still used to marginalize women and to deny them even the most basic human rights. Women have to cover themselves completely, and they can’t vote and they can’t drive a car. I’m pretty sure that in countries such as Saudi Arabia, women are still little more than property… if they do enjoy status better than that, it’s not much…
And fundamentalist religion is being used right now to justify mass murder in the form of suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism.
Isn’t it time for the RELIGIOUS MADNESS TO STOP??
Isn’t it time for the voices of REASON and SANITY to be heard above the din of religious INSANITY and HATRED??
I realize that this post will be ignored by my religious friends and it’s gotten way beyond TL;DR status anyway for most folks… but that’s my 2 cents…
I am tired of the religious hatred and insanity that is tearing this world apart! It is PAST TIME for us to throw off the chains of fundamentalist religion and this ancient mythological religious bullshit that has NO DISCERNIBLE BASIS IN REALITY, and it is time now for us to work together to build a much better and much more peaceful world!!
Again, my 2 cents… Glory!
This is very important reading, whether you are religious or not. But it’s especially important if you are religious.
While the New Atheist movement isn’t, and has never been, a monolithic phenomenon, its primary motivating idea can be reduced to a single statement, namely that religion is not merely wrong, but dangerous. In fact, religion is dangerous precisely because it’s wrong: it commands believers to act according to “moral” precepts and guidelines that are ultimately based on private revelations had by ancient prophets claiming special access to the supernatural. Put differently, religion is our very best instance of institutionalized bad epistemology, and this is what makes it unreasonable to accept. And when its doctrinal systems are put into practice, they often compromise our well-being and prosperity.
Copious evidence substantiates this contention. On the one hand, history is overflowing with bloody conflicts driven by antagonistic religious dogmas held by fanatics who cared more about the otherworldly than the worldly. And, as the 2014 Global Terrorism Index affirms, religious extremism constitutes the primary driver of terrorism around the world today. Even more, numerous empirical studies have shown that, to quote the sociologist Phil Zuckerman, secular people are “markedly less nationalistic, less prejudiced, less anti-Semitic, less racist, less dogmatic, less ethnocentric, less close-minded, and less authoritarian” than religious people. And the most secularized countries tend to be the happiest, the most peaceable (according to the Global Peace Index), and, as reported by the Economist’s think tank several years ago, the “best places to be born.” While Christopher Hitchens’ declaration that “religion poisons everything” might be somewhat exaggerated, religious belief is consistently associated with diminished levels of human flourishing.
I’m an ex-Christian, an Atheist, and a Humanist. I believe that we could build a beautiful world right here and right now if we just were willing to put aside our differences and work together. But the most important thing we can do right now is to fight the religious extremism that is threatening our very survival as a species. I’m certainly not one of the biggest atheist names on the Net right now. But even so, the realities in this article are why I speak out against religious belief and why I feel it is so important for us to leave religious belief in the dustbin of history as the bad idea it was and is and move on to much healthier ways of believing and living in this world.
A part of me just doesn’t understand why so many people still cling to religious belief when it is so manifestly ridiculous. I mean, come on, Christianity is based on the belief that the world is as it is because a talking snake convinced two obviously mythical people to eat magic fruit from a magic tree. And the mission of Jesus? He came to earth to magically undo the magical damage that the magic fruit caused (1 John 3:8). And after Jesus magically undoes the damage that the magic fruit from the magic tree caused, He’s gonna kick the Talking Snake’s ass once and for all.
How much more ridiculous can religious belief get? Christianity is absurd and it’s very easy to refute, yet millions of otherwise intelligent people cling to it and believe in it very strongly. In a way, I understand that because I was there too for fifteen years of my younger life. But I realized it was bullshit and I walked away and, of course, I’m much better off for it. I wish for everyone to be FREE! That’s why I speak out, so that hopefully I can leave the world a better place than I found it.
These are books that I have authored that I hope will be helpful to others.
This is my story of my struggles with bipolar disorder and bouts of extreme religious belief.
This is the story of my journey from devout Christian religious belief to atheism.
This is my tribute to my cat Tasha. I had her for 16 wonderful years, and I held her in my arms as she passed away at the vet’s office on February 5, 2015. Worst day of my life, and the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
I recently attended a freethinker meet up in my area. I was looking forward to the meeting since we were all bringing food to donate to a local food bank called the Freestore Foodbank. This is a cause I’m always up and ready to contribute my time to since I know pretty often what it’s like to live on a scrap food budget. My cupboard is chock full of discounted food like scratch and dent can goods, re taped dry good boxes, and tons of dollar bags of beans and rice. Yes, I appreciate all too well the assistance of a food bank.
This group get together wasn’t just about the food drive though. There was also a guest speaker by the name of Derrick Strobl, who was visiting on behalf of the Humanist Community of Central Ohio. His visit was to better clarify what humanism was all about. In that process, he shared quite a bit of his personal experiences as a youth that brought him along the path to becoming a humanist. There were several stories he related that I had completely identified with. I was probably shaking my head in agreement during most of his talk without even realizing I was doing so. One story in particular was to do with a Sunday school class, and being taught via a construction paper book, the colors of salvation: black is sin, red is the blood of christ, white is purity, and gold represented Heaven.
I distinctly remember this same lesson, but not with a homemade booklet. My teacher used large cuts of fabric in those colors, and he would drape himself with them as he explained each one. Except, he had two black drapes instead of one. This youth pastor would always start with the black of sin, explaining how it permeates every aspect of who we are. Then he would wrap over Christ’s redeeming blood, which cancelled out the sin for those who repented. White, being purity, was the result of said redemption. And then he would drape the yellow-gold cloth on the cross on the wall by the podium, explaining we had eternal reward waiting for us since we accepted God.
Then our pastor would get very quiet, still clutching the mis cut draperies around his body, nothing showing but the toes of his shoes and his stern face bobbling on his exposed neck. He would walk over to the second piece of black cloth, telling us how once we accepted God there was no going back to sinning. If you went back to sinning? He would then dramatically cover the previous three layers with the extra piece of black cloth saying seriously, his eyes looking almost wrathful,”You get nothing but darkness in your life. No rewards. No blessings. Nothing.” That son of a bitch would walk around like that the rest of the lesson! I must have seen this routine at least half a dozen times while attending that church, and it always riveted me.
It did more than that really. That black cloth quite literally colored my thinking. It covered every redeeming quality I thought I had going for myself. Just knowing that any good I had done could be so quickly discounted to nothing because of sin really upset me. I already was living in a home of impossible standards. Now this? I was overwhelmed. Of course, I knew that all I would have to do was pray for forgiveness every time I sinned, but how many times were allowed? Was there a limit to how much sinning I could be forgiven for? And I was also skeptical. If you pray for forgiveness, part of your motivation is trying to keep on God’s good side, so was it really genuine repentance if part of your brain evenly remotely worried about going to Hell and wanting forgiveness to avoid it?
I believe in my case, lessons like the colors for salvation do more harm than good. At least, the way my youth pastor delivered it wasn’t the best example. I left those speeches always focused on trying to be rid of sin. I never invested time in the purity part because I was constantly praying to be forgiven for thinking about my mom in mean ways, or for sneaking into the pantry and having eaten half the canister of the French’s fried onions. There was never any purity because all I saw were the mistakes I made. That programming is still very much present my mind today. It is very hard for me to recognize any benefit I bring to the table in relationships, whether they are personal or social. For my entire childhood my home echoed with constant criticism of who I was.
Some have often told me after hearing this part of my Bible studies as a child that obviously my church focused more on “talents” than grace. Grace, which according to some and not others, should be all you need to get into Heaven. Which never made sense to me either. Why have a judgement day if I accepted God? Does it matter how much I sinned if I’m automatically saved by grace? I thought you didn’t lose grace. These were questions I never received a good answer to simply because no one could completely agree. I walked away from the question with the idea that I’m saved by grace, but the palace high life is optional. After all, why should I care if I had a nice palace or lived on the streets of Heaven? I mean, we’re talking about Heaven here. Anywhere in Heaven. A street corner was suitable enough to me so long as I didn’t burn forever.
This type of psychological abuse was taught to me in church, and taught to me at home. This is all I’d come to learn about understanding myself in the first twenty-five years of my life. The phrase “It’s all your fault” became “It’s all Kate’s fault” and I embraced it wholeheartedly, totally believing that there was always something I was doing wrong that was ruining the happiness of others. But it didn’t stop at just letting myself be the whipping boy so to speak. No, this programming took an even more sinister turn as I got older.
So, if I was black with sin, God could reject me. Essentially, He could potentially take away that which Jesus–which is ironically part of Yahweh in mortal form–granted me. Kind of like the way my parents would take away their approval of me over the littlest of things, and it was such a bear to earn that favor to begin with. Or like the way a lover demands the return of all he has invested after a break up, even if the relationship lasted nearly fifteen years. And sure enough, my distrust of those offering help, gifts, and even love, was born. Everything had a hook, and I decided that I just wasn’t a good risk to bet on. The hook wasn’t a normal type of tit for tat catch though. The hook was something worse. It was a disbelief that this person really knew who I was and still wanted to be with me, and at some point I was going to trip a switch and send this person running for the hills angry and hurt by me. This led to a very controlling nature about my environment, my personal possessions, and willingness to be vulnerable. Distance became my best friend. Despair flavored every sip of life I tried to drink.
This is just one small layer of the damage I’ve been peeling away year by year, day by day, sometimes hour by hour. I went through a lot in order to get myself out of the emotional battering of my mind in a religious community, and the physical abuse still follows me around. But there are those who have it worse. There are those who are stuck. Completely helpless at the mercies of a doctrine they don’t even want to believe! Some of the things these closeted skeptics go through easily dwarf my own experiences growing up religious. Can you imagine being denied contact with the outside world if you don’t attend church? What about mandatory corporal punishment when you’re nearly twenty years old? There are things that go on in this country that many in the atheist/skeptic/humanist societies do not realize. Some say,”How hard can it be to say no and just move out?” If you aren’t raised in an environment where you have personal liberty, it’s hard to even realize you can say no to begin with.
Take the story of Lauren and Jennifer. Home schooled in a Christian setting. Mother controls nearly every aspect of what they think, do, dress, eat, or even read. No major extra curricular events. Total isolation. No freedom. The eldest sister gets out, but had to leave her younger sister behind. Her sister almost didn’t go to college because her parents took the liberty of planning her life for her. No choice in the matter. The sisters had to communicate secretly since all email and phone calls were monitored. Christ, the younger sister wasn’t even allowed a key to the house. It took until her 18th birthday to get out, and her older sister had to come and get her. That mad dash for freedom still ended up in a physical altercation with their mother. Without her older sister, Jennifer might not be attending college, possibly set up for marriage by a man of her father’s choosing.
Now, this isn’t the norm, but it isn’t uncommon either. Most religious families aren’t going to let one of their members “just say no and move out”. You’re their property because you’re their child. That’s how you are viewed, even in biblical doctrine. And I’ve seen instances of extreme control like I showcased above in families where all the children are grown and in their thirties. If you substituted mom with boyfriend or girlfriend in the story of Lauren and Jennifer, one would automatically think this was a notable domestic abuse situation. And this is where the problem lies. Many atheists do not recognize that the type of control exerted on Lauren and her sister is indeed domestic abuse. The only difference is that the violence is being perpetrated by a parent in the name of belief. In this country, it’s pretty much a protected type of abuse unless it makes headlines because of a “God told me to drown my kids” type of situation.
I ran into this the other night at a Freethinker meeting I had attended. At the end of the meeting, when everyone kind of wanders around and takes a few minutes to talk with the guest speaker or event organizers, I took a few minutes to ask a few members about what the group does to help those wanting to escape, or are just biding their time while hiding their growing disbelief. Looks of confusion greeted the question. I clarified a little bit, explained I was wondering if there were any support for individuals who were literally trapped in religiously abusive situations, like with family that won’t let them leave the home, or those who are subjected to excessive priest interventions because a mother cannot handle her child rejecting God. The reply I received from one was,”I wasn’t aware that these kind of situations occurred.”
Now, I’m not in any way trying to criticize someone’s ignorance. How can I? If you didn’t know, you didn’t know. To clarify, it was explained to me that Recovering From Religion has branches within both of these skeptic groups, which I am thankful to hear. The guest speaker’s own organization has crisis line information to be offered as well, but not in relation to domestic abuse. This initial lack of understanding was probably a surprise to me and these two members I spoke with. More than anything though, it really highlighted what I’ve been seeing in attitude around the web and at other skeptic groups the last eighteen months.
I’m not talking about money here. I’m talking about privilege of personal freedom. While atheist and humanist groups all over the United States will have guest speakers who escaped cults like the Branch Davidians, or former ex-Muslim soldiers who are now atheist, there is almost zero dialog about those escaping the mainstream Christian faith. I expect this lack of coverage if I were attending a faith ministry, but not a skeptic society. There is a genuine need for activism on the parts of the helpless in the Christian faith community. If you read the story I linked to Lauren and her sister, you can see that even their own faith community didn’t want to step up until after things had reached critical mass and their mother had physically struck Jennifer in the face. And it seems the skeptic community hasn’t even reached that place yet.
I don’t know if it is a situation where unbelievers want to see that others in their community have “earned their stripes”, or if religious domestic abuse isn’t a territory we’re ready to start addressing head on. But for all the cries of how religious indoctrination shouldn’t be forced on the young, that religion doesn’t belong in the classroom, and teaching children that they are grievously imperfect is abuse, how can we not be ready? I would wager if more cases of domestic abuse of a religious nature were brought to court, we might see a clearer path to more definitive legislation that guarantees the right to choose what you believe without abusive retribution.
Look how we rally against towns that have a large Haredi Jew majority that won’t allow their women to drive? The cause for the disbelievers at the mercy of religious parents isn’t any different in importance, regardless of the brand of faith. Right now there are grown men who had to move back home to be able to finish college, and if his parents have made it clear he must renew his faith or leave to the streets. Don’t you see? We do have a social form of Sharia being practiced in this country already, and it isn’t just utilized by some members of Islam, but by its sister’s believers in Christianity.
Atheism is about liberty of thought. The freedom of self to decide what you want to believe or not. There are many who know they don’t believe, know they need out, but they don’t know how to accomplish this. This is where many humanism and atheism groups could step in and at the very least have information to succeed in doing so safely. I’m not saying we need a team of special atheist forces to storm castles and rescue people, but sometimes just simply having a resource to vent with, a regular meeting once a month, or even an anonymous online group, just to have a haven for information to be shared can make a huge difference in the lives of those who are trapped.
For those who would like to read more about the types of difficulties today’s generation of youth face when coming out atheist, please check out this link. Here is a prime example of the absolute extortion some grown adults go through even when they are out in the open atheists. The problem is real.
This is probably one of the most absolutely ridiculous notions in America today. Seriously. What makes it worse would be the fact that everyone wants things to be like Mayberry. They wish for Mayberry whenever they hear news about legislation that favors quicker immigration is being considered. They cry for Mayberry’s Christian family values whenever they hear yet another state is willing to acknowledge and offer benefits to married gay couples.
Even politicians use the good ole times excuse when passing discriminating legislation. Take Asa Hutchinson, governor of Arkansas for example. He was just about to sign into law one of those Religious Restoration Acts, and after seeing the backlash in Indiana, has become nervous about what he is about to do, deciding to send the legislation back for revision instead. His public statement? “….in ordinary times this bill would not be controversial, but these are not ordinary times.”
Which basically is saying,”Why can’t we be in Mayberry again?”
I hate to break it to you, but the circumstances of Mayberry never existed in America. Never, ever. Never, ever, never, ever, ever, EVER. People see that 1960’s family show and treat it like an honest representation of the all American family. God, common sense, and small government. This governor I was mentioning grew up watching the show, and others with similar themes. He doesn’t understand that Mayberry, while set in the 60’s expanding economy, was based on the simpler times of the 1930’s. There was a desire for nostalgia to be brought into the show, and that is why folk music, church, and focus on family were incorporated.
So, what? Then let’s go back to the 30’s then. They were good times, right?
You tell me.
The only thing good about the 1930’s was the increased desire for simple living, and that’s mostly because they didn’t have a choice back then. With the desire for simple living came an increased demand for folk music and art. Jobs were scarce thanks to the Depression. Add the agricultural disasters like the Dust Bowl on top of it? Food was scarce too. Tradition became king during that decade before WWII broke out, and so did a tough as nails attitude when faced with desperation to survive. Mayberry never bothered with any of that. It had the lush economy of the 1960’s story setting to keep the ugly struggles of the Depression away.
The Andy Griffith Show was brilliant in its almost seamless meshing of our cultural past with the modern reality of the 1960’s. Writers of the show used the traditions of the past and the modern conveniences of the future to show an ideal situation for us all to admire and look toward for our own lives. But in reality, it was an illusion. It was used to cushion the depressing news of Vietnam’s bloody loss of lives. It was an escape from the torrid television coverage of news coverage of the draft, desegregation, and outright riots in the streets at major university campuses.
Mayberry never truly existed in our history. The good ole days, depending on which generation you look to, never had it as good as Mayberry. The entire purpose of the Andy Griffith Show wasn’t to highlight reality. It hid the ugly racism that demanded blacks sit at the back of the bus. The show didn’t touch on sexual revolution that was occurring in America of the 60’s, preferring to focus on what would be seen as wholesome and Christian like in nature. And that is what a television show is supposed to do. Provide a feel good atmosphere to distract its viewers from the harsh reality of the world around them for a little while.
I doubt the writers ever intended for its young audience to actually twist their story into an unconscious remembrance of actual time and place though, but that is what has happened. Certainly the producers never intended for their little imagined town of impossibility to become an actual goal for modern society. It just won’t work.
Yet, that is what many who long for the good ole days want. They want modern convenience, traditions of the past, and all the issues of the world to magically go away and just follow their desired story line. Keep things simple by making everyone follow the same structure of reality. If you don’t want to play along, go away and be quiet so everyone else can be comfortable. If you don’t be quiet, then they’ll legislate you away. These ultra conservatives refuse to accept Mayberry’s perfect store fronts, comical barber, and admired sheriff as the illusion they truly were. Much like their bibles, conservative Christians cling to the idea that simpler times are a panacea for all the sin in the world. That in a Mayberry setting, who can say no to God? After all, there is less temptation, less opportunity wander off the divine path to Heaven.
And if everyone is godly, then society will automatically improve. This is something that Mayberry never ever even remotely insisted upon.
Ironically, Mayberry has several characters that never quite fit in. Even more ironic is that, despite not fitting in, or even truly conforming, one character really did have a positive impact on the town. I think you all know who I am referring to in particular.
Yes, Ernest T. Bass is who I’m talking about. Deputy Fife saw him as a nut. Myself? Ernest was an innovator. He showed ingenuity, determination, a knack for making people think outside their own interest. He even managed to garner support from Sheriff Taylor himself. All the while he completely clashed with the fundamental principles the town operated on. And he wasn’t the only one that showed doubt about the moral reasoning of his fellow townsfolk. I particularly enjoyed an episode where Barney and Andy get into a bit of a debate about psychic phenomena.
Again, there is wiggle room, and even a willingness to understand where the other is coming from, as you see Andy completely indulge Barney’s agnosticism about Aladdin’s Lamp. While this particular scene is meant to be humorous, it shows a willingness to meet in the middle, and at least discuss why a person feels a certain way. On top of that, you also see it is okay to just agree to disagree. This is how society has to work in order to succeed. How all these truly wonderful examples of functioning society have been blatantly ignored in favor of an impossible one size fits all lifestyle is beyond me.
Many evangelicals are simply banding together because they share a common belief structure, with little care of how crude and divisive their behavior is to the society around them. They are removed from the rest of America’s citizenry. Rather being pit against the entire world than be willing to compromise, this mentality will cost them dearly in the future. Someone needs to effectively demonstrate that strength isn’t necessarily in just numbers anymore, but in that of overall unity. Being contrary simply because of cultural differences is both foolish and costly for our future.
Will they ultimately decide to leave our shores and found their own country like the Pilgrims or Puritans? I hope not. The Pilgrims at first found England too corrupt, so they left to Holland. In Holland, their children were assimilating to Dutch culture, and they found that unacceptable and then left again, this time to America. The Puritans left England and started over in America later. What happened once in America? They started to divide against each other, and formed their own separate churches. You had witch trials. Heresy charges. Adultery? Capital charges that could get you jail time, public whipping and more.
The bottom line here is that Christianity has to quit running away from the world and consider picking up a few lessons from other cultures. This doctrine, and its leaders, obviously can’t handle it out there on their own, constantly running away from problems or insisting everyone else must conform to their standards. It’s time for them to make reasonable accommodation for the world around them, not the other way around.
There isn’t a land large enough or a television show’s interpretation well written enough to give these zealots the perfect Christian theocracy they desire. They are the authors of their own destruction, even when on their own with only the same ilk around them.
I wrote the following a few years ago, and it was quite the cathartic experience. Getting these thoughts out finally allowed me to get past the “anger” phase of religious deconversion and start healing. I am FREE now, and I plan on staying that way! A few years ago, I was experimenting with Eastern religion, and while I like and respect teachers such as Eknath Easwaran, I’ve come to realize that religion-based programs such as theirs, while positive in nature, are not for me.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about positive changes I need to make to my life, which of course includes my thought patterns and the way I choose to respond to life events.
I have been harboring a tremendous amount of (completely justified) anger, bitterness, and hatred toward Christianity for about ten years now, ever since I came to the realization that I had been intentionally lied to, brainwashed, indoctrinated and deceived for 15 years of my life by an evil cult that doesn’t deserve even the slightest bit of respect. There is a part of me that would love to wipe the evil, destructive scourge of Christianity off the face of the earth and erase 2000-years worth of bloodshed, religion-sanctioned ignorance, and severely stunted social and scientific progress, if I had the power to do so.
The fundamentalist Christian cult destroyed my life. They claimed to have “God’s Truth” for everybody for all time handed down from God in a divinely inspired, infallible and inerrant book. Instead, what they offered me was a severely flawed myth-error-atrocity -absurdity-bad “history”-ridden “holy” book, a pack of ancient myths and lies, false and severely psychologically damaging doctrines, and many false promises. They seem to have originated the “bait and switch” tactic that shady salespeople are known to use frequently. They got it straight from the Church!
Christians talk a lot about love but rarely show it. I heard about love in church – about how much God allegedly loved me and what Jesus had supposedly done for me. This “love” comes packaged with an immense amount of psychologically damaging guilt, shame and fear designed to lock the unfortunate victim of this mental and emotional abuse into the cult belief system for life.
How do Christian cultists define “love”? “God sacrificed himself to himself to save us from himself.” The absurdity of that doctrine aside for the moment, how exactly does that equal “love”?
Christianity can be humorously (but accurately) defined as shown in this graphic:
Much of the world has been enslaved to this absurd belief system for 2000 years. Much of the rest of the world has been and still is enslaved to the equally (at least) absurd, evil, and damaging religious nonsense known as Islam.
I spent 15 years of my life believing that I was a sinful, depraved, essentially evil (without Jesus) worthless being who had no chance of being “good enough” for God (without Jesus). I spent those years fearing hell and fearing angering God and a tremendous amount of time feeling religious guilt and shame that I now realize was needless and without any basis in reality. I also spent those years fearing that my “unsaved” family and friends would be going to hell to burn and be tortured forever.
To say that Christianity is a very dangerous and damaging belief system would be stating the case very mildly! It is a clear and present danger to anyone who has the misfortune of getting sucked into it. Instead of enjoying its completely undeserved status as a socially acceptable belief system and instead of being allowed to trot out its pack of dangerous and damaging myths and lies and false promises on a weekly (at a minimum) basis, the fundamentalist Christian church should be revealed publicly as the dangerous cult that it is and condemned by the mental health community as strongly as is possible. There should be strong warnings against the doctrines and teachings of this evil cult not only on the Internet, but in every conceivable media outlet. The proper authorities would do no less in the case of a tainted food, water or disease outbreak and psychologically damaging, dangerous belief systems should get no less. In no way should they be given any special protection nor should they be allowed to freely prey on the unsuspecting public.
I live every day with the damage done to me by the fundamentalist Christian cult even though I walked away from it eleven years ago. The damage done was severe and it has been lasting.
Knowing intellectually that Christianity has no basis in reality and that the same goes for the fear, guilt, and shame that I was subjected to for so many years is of course a good and valuable thing, but it doesn’t address the psychological damage done or the strong negative emotional baggage I have been left with which I have been unable to resolve.
I know intellectually that I am and always have been a good, caring, loving, giving, and compassionate person. But the emotional baggage and toxic teachings I still carry from my days in the Christian cult tells me that I am a sinful, bad, essentially depraved and evil person who was born deserving to burn in hell forever – that my righteous and good acts are as filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6).
All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
With this kind of belief drilled into me for years, how can I be expected to honestly feel good about myself? How can I possibly really love myself and see myself as worthy of love with this kind of toxic garbage still infecting my thought processes and my sense of self-worth? How can I possibly have a healthy sense of self-esteem having believed this of myself for so long? I am fully aware now intellectually that “sin” is a religious concept with no basis in reality but after so many years of fearing and hating my supposed sinfulness and asking God often to forgive sins both of commission and omission and so often feeling judged and condemned and not forgiven and disregarded or forgotten by God, how do I overcome those toxic beliefs and find healing? How do I go from the “sin consciousness” that was drilled into me by the Christian cult to accepting and loving myself as I am – a flawed and imperfect but basically good and loving human being? Hmmm… I am indeed imperfect as everybody is, but am I really “flawed”? Such is the pervasiveness of toxic teachings, even after years away from the church.
I was taught that “God is Love” in church, but the reality is that most of the Bible portrays God as anything but “loving”. I hear Christians claim all the time that “God is good” and I wonder, “Have they ever actually read the book they claim to revere as God’s Word?” The obvious answer is “NO”. In the Old Testament, God is portrayed as repeatedly either ordering or directly committing mass murder. Genocide was perfectly acceptable if God ordered it or committed it himself. It was perfectly acceptable to beat the hell out of your slaves as long as you didn’t kill them. It was perfectly acceptable to murder homosexuals. God killed a man because he dared to pick up some sticks, which absurdly counted as “work” on the Sabbath. God sent bears to slaughter children who made fun of one of his prophets. According to Psalm 137:9, happiness is bashing the heads of infants against rocks. The New Testament doesn’t get much better. The morally reprehensible doctrine of an eternal hell is introduced as is the notion that it is perfectly acceptable to kill people if they lie to you (see Acts 5). The book of Revelation is a religious lunatic’s fantasy, but it portrays the slaughter of billions (if the events depicted were to occur in modern times) by an allegedly “loving” God and then of course after being murdered in horrible ways they get the extremely dubious honor of getting to spend an eternity in God’s BBQ pit. Praise the Lord!
I actually saw one of my Christian friends (whom I respect as a friend very much) assert on Facebook the idea that if criminals had been given the opportunity to read the Bible when they were children then perhaps they wouldn’t be in prison now. I couldn’t believe what I was reading! Most of the Bible is most definitely NOT appropriate reading material for children! Unless you want them to grow up to be criminals, that is… after all, according to the Bible mass murder, killing infants, murdering homosexuals and stoning disobedient children to death, among other equally immoral acts, are all perfectly acceptable things to do.
I’ve also recently seen the assertion made that America is in the condition it’s in because we have “forgotten God”. And that if we followed “God’s laws” we wouldn’t have the problems we are facing now. What a load of utter nonsense. I guess if we just “remembered” God and apologized for pissing him off, everything would just magically be okay. And especially if we figured out which set of God’s contradictory “laws” we should follow! *rolls eyes*
God is Love? God is good? NOT ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE!
I happen to like and agree with much of what the Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism teach. Buddhists generally lack a belief in a god, but Hindus of course have many though they are generally believed to be the personal aspects of Brahman, the impersonal Ultimate Reality. Christians will readily condemn the Eastern religions as being “false” and “demonic” while they think nothing of the fact that they likely understand little or nothing about what they are condemning while they simultaneously fail to consider the fact that what information they do have is likely inaccurate distortions of what Hindus and Buddhists actually believe gleaned from the writings of willfully ignorant, heavily biased Christian apologists.
I learned very well how to hate, judge and condemn others courtesy of the fundamentalist Christian cult. I learned the joy of anticipating God’s judgment on groups of people I was taught to hate. I was taught to view the alleged coming judgment of people I was led to believe “hated God” as a good thing, as “righteous and just”. It sickens me now to think that I ever could have thought that way or held such beliefs. Nothing matches the power of religion to warp the moral compasses of those who believe in it almost beyond recognition. Evil becomes good and good becomes evil.
I would love to be able to wholeheartedly believe that a loving God truly exists and I would love to be busy finding joy in serving others in any way I possibly can. That’s where my heart is and that’s what I know will bring me true happiness.
But before I can truly live that life – the one I know I am meant to live — and embrace those beliefs I have to find a way to resolve these long-standing negative feelings and toxic beliefs. I will never know the happiness and the peace that I know should be available to me if I can’t find a way to get out from under all of this toxic emotional baggage I have been carrying around for years.
I have information and tools available to me – such as Eknath Easwaran’s excellent 8-Point Program – but to fully take advantage of the positive beliefs and spiritual teachings I have become aware of, I have to get out from under the toxic and negative anger, bitterness, hatred and rage that Christianity brought into my life. I have carried them with me and have been weighed down by them for far too long.
I want to see the positive changes that I want so badly to become a reality in my life and embracing positive spirituality and getting free of the baggage the fundamentalist Christian cult left me burdened with is going to be a huge part of it, but there is a lot of work to be done.
The closing verses of Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita summarize beautifully the person I would love to become. I am far from it right now, but that kind of change and that level of spiritual growth is my goal.
Tell me of the man who lives in wisdom,
Ever aware of the Self, O Krishna;
How does he talk, how sit, how move about?
He lives in wisdom
Who sees himself in all and all in him,
Whose love for the Lord of Love has consumed
Every selfish desire and sense-craving
Tormenting the heart. Not agitated
By grief nor hankering after pleasure,
He lives free from lust and fear and anger
Fettered no more by selfish attachments,
He is not elated by good fortune
Nor depressed by bad. Such is the seer.
Even as a tortoise draws in its limbs
The sage can draw in his senses at will.
An aspirant abstains from sense-pleasures,
But he still craves for them. These cravings all
Disappear when he sees the Lord of Love.
For even of one who treads the path
The stormy senses can sweep off the mind.
But he lives in wisdom who subdues them,
And keeps his mind ever absorbed in me.
When you keep thinking about sense-objects,
Attachment comes. Attachment breeds desire,
The lust of possession which, when thwarted,
Burns to anger. Anger clouds the judgment
And robs you of the power to learn from past mistakes
Lost is the discriminative faculty,
And your life is utter waste.
But when you move amidst the world of sense
From both attachment and aversion freed,
There comes the peace in which all sorrows end,
And you live in the wisdom of the Self.
The disunited mind is far from wise;
How can it meditate? How be at peace?
When you know no peace, how can you know joy?
When you let your mind follow the Siren call
Of the senses, they carry away
Your better judgment as a cyclone drives a boat
Off the charted course to its doom.
Use your mighty arms to free the senses
From attachment and aversion alike,
And live in the full wisdom of the Self.
Such a sage awakes to light in the night
Of all creatures. Wherein they are awake
Is the night of ignorance to the sage.
As the rivers flow into the ocean
But cannot make the vast ocean o’erflow,
So flow the magic streams of the sense-world
Into the sea of peace that is the sage.
He is forever free who has broken out
Of the ego-cage of I and mine
To be united with the Lord of Love.
This is the supreme state. Attain thou this
And pass from death to immortality.
Eknath Easwaran’s 8-Point Program:
- Meditation on a Passage
- Repetition of a Mantram
- Slowing down
- One-Pointed Attention
- Training the Senses
- Putting others first
- Spiritual fellowship
- Spiritual reading
The person I hope to become, though it may take a lifetime of work, is far better than the person I was as a Christian. I would much rather learn how to love myself and every other living thing fully and without reservation than to stay angry at the Christian cult and never come close to reaching my full potential as a human being. That is my goal.
I just posted this thought to Facebook and thought I would expand upon it here:
Somehow, I don’t think that rejecting the idea that the world is as it is because a talking snake convinced two obviously mythical people to eat magic fruit from a magic tree makes me a bad person or worthy of being tormented forever in a flaming hell. I also reject the idea that Jesus was the second Adam because, obviously, there never was a first Adam. The foundations of the Christian religion crumble under even the slightest rational scrutiny…
Rejecting such ridiculous stories/ideas makes me a thinking person and a citizen of the scientifically advanced 21st Century. Many of us have moved way beyond looking for answers in ancient holy books and ridiculous myths. We are waiting impatiently for the rest of the world to catch up and hoping that they do so before we destroy ourselves over whose Imaginary Friend is better or more powerful…
Obviously, rational thinking people don’t believe in talking snakes or in magic fruit from magic trees. But, what about Jesus? Plenty of people in our modern world revere Jesus either as God in the flesh or as a great moral teacher or…something along those lines. But, let’s take a look at what the Bible has to say about who Jesus was and what his mission was. This is not going to be an in depth or deep theological piece. I just want to take a look at some basic claims and subject them to rational scrutiny.
There are two contradictory and absurd creation myths in Genesis that lay the foundations for the Christian religion as we know it today. Putting aside the contradictory accounts of when plants and animals were created, let’s focus on the story of Adam and Eve and the talking snake.
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. (Genesis 2:7-9, 15-23)
For thousands of years, this creation myth seemed like a good explanation of how mankind came to be. But then, along came modern scientific knowledge. We now know that mankind was not magically created by a god some 6000 years ago. We evolved from a long line of hominid species over a period of millions of years. Modern scientific knowledge renders the biblical creation myth(s) ridiculous or just plain silly. No scientifically educated modern person can or should take these accounts seriously. The first Adam, presented to us in Genesis, is quite obviously a myth. Adam never actually lived and neither did Eve. And a talking snake? C’mon… get real…
What about the second Adam, Jesus Christ? Let’s look at a passage of scripture from Romans 5:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men[e] because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
18 Therefore, as one trespass[f] led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness[g] leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12-21 ESV)
And, also, Genesis 3:15 (commonly believed to be a Messianic prophecy) and 1 John 3:8.
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15)
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8)
According to Christian theology, the first Adam’s sin caused the spiritual death of all who lived after him. Jesus Christ, the second Adam, appeared to destroy the work of the devil (the talking snake), who was responsible for deceiving Adam and Eve and convincing them to eat the magic fruit from the magic tree, which if the story is to be believed, caused the spiritual death of all of mankind. The first Adam is a myth, and so is the second. Without a first Adam, there can be no second Adam. If the story about the first Adam isn’t true, then neither is the story about the second Adam. The foundations of Christianity crumble to dust with just the slightest critical scrutiny… Glory!
The aim of this glorious post is to contrast what freedom means to Christians vs. what it means to atheists. Of course, I think real freedom comes from being absolutely and totally free of religious beliefs and fears. But, let’s take a look at the different views.
John 8:36 says “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!”
The Word says that we can be free in Jesus. And we need to be free, man. Everybody wants to be free. There ain’t but one way to do it. You can’t be free in religion and you can’t be free in yourself. You can be free in Jesus. We have something that is real to celebrate. It is new life. New life in Christ. This new life didn’t come from our parents. I just read in the Word today that the life that comes from our parents will fade away someday. But this new life that comes from Christ is real and true and it lasts forever. … God is love, and his love lasts forever. This is freedom. Enjoy yours!
And here is his song titled “Freedom” that celebrates what he considers to be true freedom — the freedom supposedly found in belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and in surrendering your life to him. I still love the music, though I no longer believe the message.
I can’t help but like Mylon as a person, though I know that he is a typical big name Christian preacher and musician who has made a career out of religion, and he has made a ton of money from it. I disagree very strongly with his religious beliefs and with his definition of freedom now, but I saw him in concert a couple of times back in my Christian days, and once when I was backstage seeking counseling and prayer, I actually got to shake the man’s hand. I commented to him about the concert that “that was fun!”, and he said something in return agreeing that it had been. It was awesome actually getting to meet one of my Christian music idols of the time, brief though the encounter was. Glory! 🙂 Mylon came across as a genuinely nice guy, and I’m sure that he probably really is. And to me, he was the definition of a “cool Christian” back in those days. I may still have a bit of hero worship going on with him though I no longer agree with his message, lol…
Mylon’s definition of freedom I can no longer agree with. It’s impossible to be truly free when you are enslaved to a bunch of fear/ignorance-based ancient myths that make no sense to modern, educated minds and it’s impossible to be truly free when you are constantly worried about religious concepts such as sin and about pissing Jesus off. It’s impossible to be truly free when you are worried about Hell and about people you care about and love possibly going there. I didn’t find freedom in religion at all (and Christianity is a religion. This “it’s a relationship, not a religion” nonsense is just that — nonsense).
The truth will set you free, but first it might piss you off. – Anonymous
I didn’t find true freedom until I got totally free from religious belief and totally free from religious fears! TRUE FREEDOM is the ability to live life authentically and honestly without being wrapped up in endless cycles of fear, guilt, and shame caused by religious belief and indoctrination. TRUE FREEDOM is being able to BE YOUR REAL SELF, free of religious programming and religious fears. I am free to be ME now, warts and all! I am FREE to choose a life for myself now that makes ME happy and that hopefully serves others and makes them happy too. I am FREE to ENJOY LIFE, totally free of concerns that what I think, say or do might piss Jesus off. I am FREE to live my life just being ME, with no reference to God or religious or spiritual beliefs at all. I am a much better person now than I was when I was a Christian. I am no longer concerned with the belief or even in the possibility that there might be a God to fear or a Hell to fear. I am no longer concerned that I or anyone else might be headed for an eternity of torment in a flaming Hell. I left that fear-based religious nonsense behind long ago in favor of the real world. Now that I am FREE of religion and religion-based fear, guilt, and shame I am free to live life honestly and authentically as ME! I am free to love everybody, and that certainly includes people who happen to be gay. People that I would have condemned to Hell when I was a Christian I am good friends with now, though I personally am straight as an arrow. One of my most valued friends over at the ex-christian.net forums is bi-sexual with lesbian leanings, and she is in to BDSM. Does that bother me now? Hell no. Not one bit. She is an awesome person, and I really enjoy hanging out with her online. We have visited over Skype once, and it went really well. I don’t have to be into the same things she is or have the same sexual orientation that she does to enjoy an awesome friendship with her. Our differences simply don’t matter, and that’s one of the most awesome things about being free of religion is letting go of unnecessary and harmful and often hateful religion-based judgment. I really don’t give a shit now what sexual orientation people have. I don’t even really care what beliefs they hold, as long as they are not hurting themselves or others and as long as they are good PEOPLE. Now that I am free of religion, I am free to love PEOPLE exactly as they are, warts and all. I truly love just about everybody on the face of this planet as people. I think I can name the people in this world that I truly hate on one hand, and that’s after 48 years of life on this planet. That was certainly not true of me when I was a Christian. I was busy hating myself for being such a sinner and I was busy hating others because of their sexual orientation or because they held religious or political beliefs that were different from my own. Now, the differences don’t really matter. I happen to be a very liberal American Democrat and an atheist. But I am free to be good friends with anybody I choose to be friends with because I find them to be good people, regardless of what their religious or political beliefs might be. I have good friends who are conservative Republicans and Christians. I don’t agree with them on those subjects, but I am FREE to not discuss or really care about our differences, and that is awesome! I think I have made my point. REAL FREEDOM is amazing, and it is awesome, and I wish it for everybody in this world. Glory!