100. singularity

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This story begins with a boy, seven or eight years old, crouching outside on a mid-summer day under a clear blue sky. The boy is peering down into a puddle. It had been raining the day before and there were many such muddy puddles all around. He stares down into it, wondering, perhaps, if (like in The Magicians Nephew or Alice Through the Looking Glass) another world lies just beyond the reflection of the sky above; if that reflection is the mirror image of another universe, with another boy, who is also looking down into his puddle beneath his own clear blue sky.

He stares at it a while, and then it hits him like a bolt. He is looking into a puddle, at his own reflection, at a natural mirror. No such worlds lie beyond. This is all there is.

That, I suppose, is one of the formative moments of my cognitive development as a young person. Growing up on the outskirts of a farming town in rural Kansas, there weren’t many opportunities for… entertainment. So my two younger sisters and I had to create our own. We read books. We ran through fields. We acted out our favorite movies. We developed our imaginations.

Growing up in a fundamentalist Christian family was perhaps not the ideal upbringing for a boy with an inquiring mind and insatiable curiosity. I was always the child in Sunday school asking questions, trying to figure out the story or the lesson, and aggravating the hell out of the adults with my persistence. In church during the sermon I would draw as the pastor talked, illustrating what he was saying in a way that made sense to me. In fact, one week one of my drawings was even published in the church bulletin as an example of how young people were “taking part in worship.”

I’ve been asked over the past several months why, after nearly twenty-five years (you can’t really count the first five, can you?), I suddenly became an atheist. My answer is always that there was no “suddenly” about it. Like the slow progress of evolution over billions of years, my own “coming out” as an atheist was a slow journey; with countless small changes and adaptations along the way, being gradually divested of what I wished were true, what everyone was constantly telling me was true, and accepting what is true.

At first I considered beginning with September 11th, 2001, driving in to college with my father and listening to the first reports of the attacks on the World Trade Center on National Public Radio; and then watching in chapel as the first and then the second tower fell, knowing that there were doomed people still inside them; or later that day watching the footage of people leaping from the top floors of the buildings rather than burn to death in the jet fuel inferno.

But that would be too easy.

Perhaps we should start in my living room when I was about eight years old, sitting in an orange arm chair and watching a Billy Graham crusade on television, and the reality of hellfire and damnation sinking in for the first time as he described the eternal suffering of those who died without having Jesus as their savior. There were tears that evening, and it frightened me so badly that I begged God to please spare me from that fate. I searched my soul for some sin that I might confess, sure that I’d done something to offend God at some point in my life.

A while later I ended up praying “the prayer” with my father, largely after my younger sister had done the same with my mom. I didn’t want to be left out, after all. And for a while things seemed good. I had Jesus now. I was “in.” But any changes I experienced didn’t last very long, and I found myself praying over and over again for that same feeling of newness that I’d experienced the first time.

It was never to last.

It wasn’t until my family moved to Minnesota and we found the church that I’d be at for the next fourteen years that my training as an evangelical really began. My fifth and sixth grade Sunday school teacher was an ardent Creationist, and at one point she even arranged for Ken Hamm to come and do a seminar. Those days were exciting.

My church also had several pastors who were great teachers and apologists. These men knew the Bible, and were able to communicate biblical truths in a way that was both relevant and instructive. There was no screaming, finger wagging or podium banging from the pulpit, and to this day I honestly believe that these men love God and love people. One of the pastors in particular deeply engaged my mind and my intellect, and challenged me to think.

And overall it was a positive experience. The people at my church formed a family of believers, both inside the church and out. They mirrored a kind of Christian love and acceptance that still produces warm feelings to this day. Some have experienced unspeakable shame, threats and all manner of psychological trauma at their churches growing up. Me, I recall the little old ladies in their red hats, and evenings in choir practice. (For a time we had a top-notch group, and not your regular warbly church choir—we were an auditioned and solid vocal ensemble.)

But on September 11th, 2001, I watched the towers fall and for the first time God seemed powerless and even uncaring. How could such a thing happen? How could God allow it? Didn’t God care about those people? And I had to assume then that there were many who “died without Jesus,” which meant that they were ushered from one hell directly into another. And it was the will of God.

I remember that morning that we had a speaker in chapel who changed his topic from whatever it was he would’ve been speaking about to Habakkuk, a prophet who I still admire and respect today. Habakkuk was writing on the eve of the arrival of the armies of Babylon, and questioning the wisdom of God in allowing injustice. “How long will I cry, and you will not hear? I cry out to you ‘Violence!’ and will you not save?” It was a particularly pertinent passage for that horrific morning. I don’t remember much of what he said, but the response did ring hollow in my mind. How could a good God allow that? Because we were Calvinists and fundamentalists, we had to assume that this was all part of God’s ineffable plan—but why?

That night, as I watched the image of the falling towers for probably the twentieth time, I said out loud, “There is no God.” And part of me waited for a lightning bolt to strike or an earthquake, but it was just me and the television.

It was then that I began to question my faith—not so much in response to the horror that I’d witnessed, not to mention the nightmares at the end of the 20th Century, of the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia and even in the Darfur. Rather, it was the passivity of God, and the seeming resignedness of his followers—almost a shoulder-shrugging at the inhumanity going on around them. As a child there was a song we sang in my family: “Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King. (That’s sung three times.) No more crying there, we are going to see the King…”

I remember watching the film “Quo Vadis,” a 1951 biblical costume epic with Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr and Peter Ustinov. In one scene condemned Christians wait to be sent into the Coliseum to be torn apart by wild animals. As they waited, they sang a hymn. And my mom began to sing that old hymn: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” But I remember thinking that it seemed such a waste to be killed over a belief, and pondering whether I could hold out under similar duress.

One night years later in my church’s youth group, shortly after the Columbine shootings our youth pastor proposed a similar scenario: A gunman threatening to kill us unless we renounced Christ. What would we do? My initial reaction was to go with the handful of Jesus deniers (after all, you could always ask forgiveness later), but I’m ashamed to admit that I ultimately caved to the pressure and the guilt towards being a dutiful Christian—but that same thought was nagging away at me. “It’s not worth it!”

For me, church was largely a social activity. It was about being with my family and my friends. God was an important part to be sure, but if I had to be honest he was more window dressing than a personal force for me, and theology was the language we spoke—and going to a Christian college for four years, I got pretty good at speaking it too. But as I felt I was growing more certain in my faith, so did the doubts that had steadily been growing in my mind since September 2001—was God even there? He never seemed to intervene.

In high school the husband of our children’s pastor died of brain cancer, and my family went to the viewing. Several years earlier one of the older boys lost part of his leg in a motorcycle accident. And as we stood there with friends, with the casket not far away, I wondered how she could still believe in God, when God allowed all that to happen, for her husband to suffer unimaginably before finally dying. They all believed he was in Heaven, with Jesus. They even went on how he’d been such a witness to the nurses, and to everyone he’d encountered. “That was Jesus in him,” they’d say.

I remember another incident from much earlier in my childhood, when one of the sons of our pastor in Kansas died in a car accident. I don’t remember the details, but the family’s car had hit a patch of ice or something, and the car had rolled, and only he had been killed. The rest of the family sustained injuries, some severe, but they lived. I was puzzled by everyone’s resignedness to this—how it was all part of God’s plan.

Some people have said, “It sounds like you just don’t like how God chooses to work.” And maybe that’s true. I don’t. But every time I’d watch the news or open a paper, someone was being murdered or robbed, and Heaven just seemed silent. And I started to wonder if it wasn’t that God was choosing to be silent, but that God wasn’t there.

On August 24, 2008, I came out as a gay man after over thirteen years of struggling with same-sex attraction and failing to overcome it. Imagine the pained confusion of a twelve-year-old boy, having read all of the books about adolescence, and knowing that I was supposed to be having thoughts about girls and instead having thoughts about… other guys. My friends were starting to talk about girls, having growth spurts, getting more masculine and… well… sexy. It wasn’t until the age of sixteen one autumn afternoon while raking the leaves outside, under a clear blue sky, that the thought finally occurred to me:

I’m gay.

It explained everything. But I couldn’t be gay—not and be a Christian! So I tried to be attracted to girls. I’d masturbate at night and try to force myself to think about being with a girl, and at first I’d try to trick myself into thinking about a guy and a girl, but the girl would always disappear and I’d get off with the image of being with a man sexually. And that led, of course, to more praying and begging for God to please take away those thoughts and feelings. But Heaven was ever silent, and I was left with the guilt.

So in 2008, when I finally came out, I made a sort of deal with God that I was going to figure this out. As Dan Savage said of the Catholic Church as a teenager, “That can’t be right. They must be wrong.” I started researching scripture in depth, stopping just short of studying biblical Greek and Hebrew myself—I was going to find out what the bible really said about homosexuality. And I found some really interesting information, but the more I looked and the deeper I dug, the less satisfied I was with the answers I was finding. And I started to become aware of this voice that had made itself heard that evening in front of the television that hadn’t gone away: “There is no God.”

Years previous to September 11th, I was sitting in the car listening to This American Life, and it happened to be the episode with Julia Sweeney where she tells an abbreviated version of Letting Go of God. In the dénouement of the show (which I’ve quoted on here more than once), she recounts the moment where she first begins to lose her weakening grip on the faith she’s desperately trying to hold on to:

One day I was Cometing out my bathtub, and I thought, “What if it’s true? What if humans are here because of pure, random chance? What if there is no guiding hand, no one watching?” I realized I had spent so much time thinking about what God meant that I hadn’t really spent any time thinking about what not-God meant.

A few days later, as I was walking across my backyard into my house, I realized that there was this teeny-weeny thought whispering inside my head. I’m not sure how long it had been there, but it suddenly got just one decibel louder. And it whispered, “There is no God.”

And I tried to ignore it. But it got a teeny bit louder. “There is no God. There is no God.”

And then I felt like I’d cheated on God somehow. And I went in the house, and I prayed. And I asked God to please help me have faith. But already it felt slightly silly and vacant, and I felt like I was just talking to myself.

And then, over the course of several weeks, God disappeared.

My teenage self heard this and felt both a mixture of self-satisfied pity, but also of fear. It seemed to me that Julia had just given up; that she hadn’t tried hard enough. Everyone has doubt, but you’re supposed to soldier on. After all, “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). But there was also a part of me that was afraid she was right; and, looking back, knew that I was hearing that same voice too.

On the night of my birthday this year, after I’d just been dumped by Seth, the guy I’d been in the quasi, one-sided relationship with, it finally came crashing down. I’d been so excited about the church he was starting with my friends, and the thought of being in that church with them, and having a whole new community of friends—but mostly of being madly in love with him. And as I vented my rage at him, it was as if the glasses were suddenly taken away and for the first time I could plainly see that I hadn’t really believed any of it; that I hadn’t believed in God, in the theology I was so good at talking about, in Heaven or Hell, or any sort of divine purpose for my life or for anyone else’s life. It was a bit jarring to do it all at once, but I was finally being honest.

For years I’d had clashes with my parents over my “ungodly” behavior: The swearing, the drinking, the overtly self-centered behavior I’ve admittedly exhibited over the years. One night as my dad and I were driving up to Forest Lake to look at a car after my SUV had died, I admitted to him that I really wasn’t a Christian. I could “talk the talk,” but I hadn’t “given my heart to Jesus.” Not really. He said he knew.

This past summer I lived with my parents for a bit before finding a new place to live, and in one of the many discussions I had with them, my mom accused me of never really giving God a chance. “A chance for what?” I shot back. “God has never been real to me. Everyone else seemed to have these experiences with God, these personal encounters, but I’ve never once had any of that. Give God a chance at what?”

I’ve had religious experiences, to be sure, which were more emotional than spiritual. They were always connected to highly charged moments in my life, in periods of deep depression or brokenness, or to music. And there were a few times when I could almost sense the presence of God near me, when I was attempting to pray, but it was always fleeting, like seeing something out of the corner of your eye.

In the weeks following the debacle with Seth, I considered my decision to reject God. Was I leaving God, or leaving the Church? Was I just mad at Seth and this was my way of lashing out at him—or was there something more to it? As I thought and read and listened and discussed, the more I, like Julia, had to admit that there wasn’t enough evidence to continue to believe in God. Neuroscience is able to duplicate many of the experiences of transcendence that I had; and if I looked back over my entire life so far, God was always part of the window trappings, part of the paraphernalia of the Christian community I’d grown up in. And that wasn’t reason enough to continue. I could try to fake it, to go to church anyway, sing the songs, sit through the sermons (even though I didn’t believe any of it), and enjoy the company. But that’s not me.

I’ve had overall positive experiences in the church; and despite my family’s dysfunction (and the fact that all three of us kids are incredibly neurotic, can’t really trust anyone, never felt loved, and never feel like we’re good enough), a good home life too—but I never had a choice about what I believed or what I was taught, and we lived in an insular community where exposure to outside ideas was limited. It was God’s way, or Hell, and who wants eternal damnation (especially as an incredibly imaginative nine-year-old)? And I could’ve just as easily grown up in a home with bigoted non-Christian parents who didn’t want a gay son, but I grew up believing I was broken, disgusting and the worst sinner for being a homosexual or not trying hard enough to overcome it, and that God was going to send me to Hell if I didn’t literally straighten up.

Since coming out as an atheist, I’ve had much more peace of mind. I no longer fear Hell, or God. My thoughts are my own, and I’m free to think and believe whatever I want. And life without God isn’t as hopeless as we were always taught it was! It actually means more now than it did as a Christian. We live in an amazing universe, as a race of highly evolved primates who for whatever reason are able to think and reason and know and love and appreciate the beauty and wonder of our world. And the fact that this is the end result of billions of years of evolution makes it seem even more remarkable—and there’s still more evolving to come!

I don’t regret all of my life as a Christian. I made wonderful friends, and did some pretty cool things that were a part of that experience. And it’s made me who I am today. However, I’m left wondering who I’d be had I left religion sooner, or come out as gay sooner. But of course it doesn’t do any good wondering what might’ve been. That only leaves you crazy, bitter and stuck in the past. Things went the way they did, there’s no changing any of it, and here I am.

And all of those things have led me here, to realizing that who I am is who I always have been: the skeptical post-theist. I’ll always be the kid asking questions, aggravating the hell out of everybody else because I can’t just stop at the answer, and looking up from the puddle and at the clear blue sky and realizing that this is all there is and that there are no worlds on the other side—but also realizing that true wonder and magic are all around us.

And that that’s okay.

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19 thoughts on “100. singularity

    • David

      Not sure that I’m necessarily “at peace” quite yet. There are still the ghosts of my past to deal with, and figuring out how to be around my religious friends when I no longer believe. It’s also dealing with friends who now view you as a project and someone to “save.” This is not something you’re prepared for in the years that they’re training you to be a soldier for Jesus. But I have hope that it gets better. Hell, I live on hope…

  1. Amelia

    I like this, David. I like your honesty and candor. Of course you know that I still believe in God…. but I’m not a Calvinist – or even a fundamentalist. There are parts of that theology that shape my own, but I tend to believe that God is really much more generous with his grace and mercy than a lot of “those” people think.
    When it comes to you, it all comes down to this: I do not believe that your journey has ended. I truly believe that the “ghosts” from your past aren’t ghosts at all. But it’s your path and I respect you. I have been worried in the last year or so when you speak awful things about your family or about the church. I’m worried what that anger and bitterness is doing to you more than anything. And so I hope you are OK with the fact that I pray for your true happiness and peace. Of course, as I pray for those things, I believe that those “ghosts” stay active, because I believe they are real. But if they’re not, no matter. I’m still praying and hoping for peace for you. You are my dear friend and I wish all the very best for you… As far as I’m concerned, ask away. Question everything, but be kind to yourself and to others.

    • David

      Amelia,

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! As always, I appreciate them, your friendship and the love that you always show.

      As the great Thomas Jefferson said of religion, “it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” So go ahead and pray for me all you like if it does you good! Finding peace and happiness is each our individual responsibility, and belongs to no one else or to any god or gods.

      My journey hasn’t ended in terms of seeking to learn more about our world and my fellow creatures in it, and figure out how we can all live together peacefully and advance the human species. But my journey has pretty much ended as far as God is concerned. At some point you have to make up your mind about the matter, and for me there just isn’t enough evidence to believe in a supernatural creator, or to order my life around belief in such a being. Frankly, I couldn’t go back now if I wanted to. I couldn’t go back to singing any of those songs in church, or go to church, or pray, or any of that. I take a grim sort of comfort in accepting that this life is all there is, and that no afterlife awaits us. Of course, I don’t know for certain, and there very well could be; but I’d like to think that if there is a God and an afterlife that that God would more value the fact that I cared enough about evidence and staying true to my own intellectual integrity rather than “hedging my bets,” even burying my doubts or pretending to believe.

      As for the Church, I’m not done haranguing it, though I am certainly adopting a less aggressive and shrill approach! However, whenever I see instances of bigotry, ignorance and intolerance, I will go after it. In particular, I am sickened and horrified by the abuses of children by Christians who care more for their ideology rather than for humanity and intellectual freedom. As for my family, I realize that they did the best that they could, but I can never forgive them for choosing their religion over having a gay son. It’s true that I’ve chosen to be estranged from them, but if they won’t accept all of me then they don’t deserve any of me. It’s rough, but it’s their choice and I can’t subject myself to their bigotry.

  2. You said, “We live in an amazing universe, as a race of highly evolved primates who for whatever reason are able to think and reason and know and love and appreciate the beauty and wonder of our world.”

    The mathematical probability of this (or any other part of nature) being an accident is so minuscule it could be scientifically proven to be impossible. This is a question you’re willing to leave unanswered.

    Like Amelia, I appreciate your honesty here. I appreciate your disappointments with the way God has handled the world. I’ve asked many questions too. God’s not afraid of our questions.

    I wouldn’t call myself a Calvanist, but I can live with the unanswered question, “Why does God allow suffering?” I can accept the fact that I don’t understand things the way He does; that makes sense, I’m just part of His creation. I can accept the fact that even God may not get His way all the time. In fact, He doesn’t for the Bible clearly states that God is not willing that any should perish.

    As for our family, please know we’ll always accept you and love you. I’ve always appreciated your sharp mind and many Gifts, since we met and you taught Josiah. By the way, Josiah is headed to Duluth to study Muscial Theatre this fall. He’s been working the last year to save money. I know you had some influence in that. Thank you.

    My prayer is that God will sweep you off your feet with His miraculous love. Until that happens you can only follow the path that is right for you.

    • David

      It’s not so much that I’m “disappointed with the way God has handled the world.” It’s more that I now see that the world behaves exactly as it would if there were no God. Just as in the rest of the universe, creation and destruction happen, one often stemming from the other, with no regard for any potentially sentient life forms caught in the middle.

      But the thing about evolution is that it didn’t just happen, as in overnight. It’s been happening for 3.5 billion years! We can’t even begin to comprehend that kind of time scale. Most of us are barely able to grasp ten to twenty years at a time. Evolution is not just an “accident.” It was improbable, yes, that a random molecule would one day become self-replicating RNA, but it did, and that’s our particular story in this corner of the universe. Do I know why it happened? No. And neither does anyone else. But “why?” isn’t the question. And to claim that “God did it” begs the even more convoluted question of where God came from.

      If you delve any further into my blog you’ll discover what I think of the various doctrines of the Christian faith, especially atonement, which I consider to be one of the most horrendous atrocities dreamed up by a human being. If there is a God, it cares nothing for we human beings, and is therefore not worthy of our unconditional admiration, praise, or attention. The only miraculous love I’ve ever experienced on earth has come from my very dear friends, occasionally from my family, and now from my wonderful boyfriend. Why bother with God at all?

  3. David, I am responding here in mid-2013 to this post you put up quite some time ago after reading a number of your most recent post. I’ve been searching through them for the key as to what to say to you.

    It seems apparent to me that you are not through with God, and I know for certain that God is not through with you. You have found it convenient to reject God at this point in your life because it accommodates the gay lifestyle you want to embrace. The fact that you have continued to write about the subject for quite a long time after you were supposedly through with the subject reveals that you are still very much engaged with it. It continues to occupy your thoughts because you are aware that you have not really made a correct choice here

    First, with respect to sexuality. Each of us is created in the image of God, and we are far more than just our sexuality. People who embrace homosexuality tend to focus on that to the exclusion of all of their other attributes; the deny the rest of themselves. They make this one thing their entire self-definition. God never intended for us to be one-dimensional people. If you truly are a homosexual, God will give you the strength to live a chaste life in spite of those corrupt desires (we all have corrupt desires of one sort or another, so this is not a special condemnation of you).

    There most certainly is a God; the evidence is all around us every day. The very existence of the world, the universe, etc. is far beyond the realm of chance. You have learned and indicate that you know well all of what the Bible has to say about God and His Son, Jesus Christ. I suggest to you that you have learned a part of it, but you have not really learned the correct interpretation of these things. You said in this post that you and your family were Calvinist. Let me suggest to you that you look into some other, non-Calvinist, parts of the Christian Church for a different understanding of God. In particular, I would suggest that you consider the Roman Catholic Church, some part of Eastern Orthodoxy, or some one of the Continuing Anglican Churches. You might be very surprised at what you would learn about God, about Jesus Christ, salvation, forgiveness of sins, etc.

    God most certainly does exist. He has sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to teach and to die and rise again for the salvation of mankind. Before He returned to Heaven in His glorious Ascension, Jesus promised to send the Holy Ghost who did in fact come upon the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost. Chist has come once as our Redeemer, and Christ will come again as our Judge at the Last Day. All of these things are true, and I think you know that they are in your heart. Return to the Church, to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, for the salvation of your soul.

    Father D+
    Anglican Priest

    • David

      Father D,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and to formulate a response to what I wrote over a year ago. I’m not going to argue with you on the existence of God because that’s a moot and insoluble discussion, and you’re clearly not interested in being persuaded to a different viewpoint.

      I can assure you, however, that I am indeed through with God. I have no need of an imaginary friend to pour out my cares and woes to. That’s what other people are for. What I’m not through with is the followers of God who insist on shoving hateful, toxic, murderous ideology down the throats of innocent men, women and children, to twist their minds and enslave their bodies. That I have no tolerance for, and I will oppose and denounce such inhumanity with all my power.

      All I will say on the subject of deities is I have not found adequate scientific evidence to support the existence of a supernatural reality outside of our own, nor of any supernatural beings. I compared what I’d been taught with data that is verifiable, a nearly decade-long process that ultimately led me to become an atheist. You and other religious thinkers have taken the opposite approach. Because you can’t fathom how the universe might have come into existence without the aid of a magical supernatural being, you begin with the proposition that God created it (circular reasoning), which is a small-minded, illogical and immature approach to both knowledge and a fundamental understanding of reality.

      As for sexuality, with all due respect, Father, you’re full of shit. I will agree that we are more than just sexuality, which is always secondary to one’s identity. Any psychologist will tell you that. I don’t believe in an immortal soul, but do believe that we’re complex psychological and emotional beings, and that balance is essential for harmonious, healthy living. Sexuality is a key aspect to one’s healthy psychological well-being, but I do not define myself by sexual desire. Yes, I am attracted to men, but I most desire a deep, committed, romantic relationship with another man that moves beyond just sex. Yet because you refuse to understand that doesn’t invalidate it.

      I can tell you that the years I attempted to live a chaste and nonsexual lifestyle were some of the darkest and most hopeless I’ve ever known. I came near to committing suicide if living without the intimate love of another man (the same love that so many of my heterosexual friends had found with their partners) was going to characterize the rest of my life. Thankfully, reason prevailed. I came to the conclusion that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being gay. The evidence supports the idea that it’s a normal variant of human sexuality, just as there are people who are right- and left-handed.

      The fact that you call my orientation a “lifestyle” tells me that you refuse to see me as fully human, which runs counter to everything that your Jesus taught about human beings: “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Are you without sin, Father? Does your love for us wretched, heathen sinners really look like love? Or are you merely using your religious beliefs as a convenient mask for bashing those you fear and loathe?

      So let’s dispense with semantics: you’re grossed out by the thought of me holding hands with or *gasp* kissing another man. I suspect that the extent of your experience with homosexuals has been to condemn and/or abuse us, and that you’ve never attempted to get to know a gay, lesbian or bisexual person without preaching at them. By keeping us at a safe distance, you are able to comfortably dehumanize us and insist that we are perverted and diseased, an approach successfully employed by the German Third Reich, better known as die Endlösung der Judenfrage.

      I will close this by asking you to keep your bigoted, prejudiced and inhuman opinions to yourself. Your religious beliefs do not give you carte blanche to bully or abuse. You’re free to believe whatever you like. That’s your business. But who the fuck gave you permission to tell me how to live my life, or that I suffer from “corrupt desires”? I don’t believe in the Jesus of the Bible, but if he were around today he’d be turning that whip he used to drive the moneylenders out of the temple on the likes of hypocrites such as yourself.

      Love and kisses,
      David

    • Father D+,

      I find it fascinating that you – who claim yourself a holy man – would seek to do such harm to one who is on a road to personal salvation, one in which not divine intervention is required. I speak as Æsculæpius, the First Physician, son of Apollo, and he who could raise the dead. I predate Christianity, and I was worshipped by the Greeks for my powers of healing. That has about as much truth to is as your claimed connection to a deity. And before you start to try divining more about me, let me add that I’m not an “angry former Christian” nor “a Christian hater.” I am a believer in truths, and those truths are ones that, apparently, you’ll never see. However, I believe in humanity, so I must try to show you the error of your ways or I am more of a hypocrite than you.

      If you know “for certain” that God is not through with someone, that implies direct, first-hand knowledge of something. Even today, there are extremely few certainties in the universe. “Universal constants” in science are not truly constants; they are representative of the best guess at present of a scientific law, and remain as such until proven otherwise.

      Now, let’s get to the true insults. Just because some members of the clergy are idiotic enough to deny themselves sexual gratification, what on earth (or in any heaven) gives you the right to suggest to someone that he deny himself sexual fulfillment – one of the most joyous experiences a human can have (by biological design) because you think some deity gives a damn about who one person decides to have sexual intercourse with someone of the same gender. You seriously believe this? I understand that the Pope gets a whole city for espousing such nonsense, and the Swiss Guard is really cool, but the rest of society is well past the sixteenth century.

      God, in biblical terms, created us in his own image: therefore, god wanted some of us to be gay. God gave those people desires and gave them free will. Then a cult who worshipped St. Levi came along and wrote an absurd series of “laws” to try and “legislate” morality, and it was falsely ascribed to god. If you are “certain” about things, then ask god when the next version of the bible is due, because we’re not goat herders living in Jerusalem anymore, fearing invasion from Egypt. Love is beauty, and to love another is to see the face of god. In that, there is nothing corrupt. The only perversion is religious fanatics/nuts who try to tell people that any feeling that is outside of reproductive sexual intercourse makes them bad, evil, “corrupt” people. I suppose you claim to represent morality in your ministries.

      With respect to “all of creation,” on what fact do you claim that this implies there *must* be a god? If you understood anything at all about statistics, you would know that something with a percentage of probability equal to .0000000000000000000000000000000001% is still statistically possible. You can add as many zeroes as you wish, but it is still possible. I posit that while you believe you have learned a story of creation, you haven’t truly learned how the universe was formed. You apparently reject the teachings of your science instructors (assuming you finished or attended school) and went with the “theory” that has no supporting facts.

      As much as you’re certain that there is a god, I’m certain that there is not a god. That makes this argument a statistical tie, unless you claim that your existence is superior to my own, something I do not claim against you. If you disbelieve me on the origins of the universe, might I suggest that you read modern biology books (pay attention to the part on evolution), physics books (pay attention to the time it takes for stars to form), chemistry books (pay attention to everything), or the more orthodox physiology books (pay attention to the part where women don’t come from ribs, and men don’t come from dust). You might be very surprised at what you learn about the laws of Nature.

      Nature most certainly does exist, and it is not at all dependent upon god, and never was. It happened because of natural forces, chemical reactions, and massive forces that, although difficult for humans to comprehend, can be quantified and reproduced to some extent in laboratories. Nature creates, and nature creates anew. Nature doesn’t destroy, but it wastes nothing given enough time. Nature even tolerates bigots, haters, disbelievers, and defilers without prejudice in granting them air, water, and food to survive.

      David should do as his heart, his soul, and his mind direct him – run away far, fast, and utterly from the lies and misdirection of those who claim to be speaking for anyone other than themselves. In medicine, there is a term that is both impolite and imprecise to describe returning to an abusive situation: battered wives’ syndrome. To suggest that David return to the very place that caused him pain for so long is perhaps the most inhuman and inhumane thing that you suggest. If you truly believe in god, you had best get down on your knees and begin begging for forgiveness for the transgression and sin of hubris, false witness, idolatry, and sacrilege.

      If you’re just one of those people who needs to try to save a certain number of souls to get a merit badge, well, everyone loves gamification these days.

      Go ahead and attempt to prove me wrong. Tell me that I need to find god, or that I’m somehow misinformed. The real truth is that I believe in my convictions, and I do not require any backing from purported divinity to know that I love my fellow humans, I accept them for their faults, and I do not judge any of them because I have no cause. Neither, for that matter, does any deity. Your true motivations are probably rooted in uncertainty of your own convictions, and you seek to convince others to follow you in order to reassure yourself that a god you cannot see and who does not respond to you or answer your prayers really does exist. I do not attempt to dissuade you from this, because it leaves more living for the rest of us. I pity you, however. I pity you more than you or your omnipotent deity can possibly fathom. The sad thing is that you’ll never comprehend why with such a closed mind. For that, I am truly sorry.

  4. Well, David, you and your friend aesculaepius make quite a pair!! Let me address David first, then I will get around to aesculaepius.

    David, look at your response to me above, and note the progressively rising level of hostility and vulgarity. I took the time to write to you as a Christian duty, but you respond in anger and abuse. This is all too typical of those who have set themselves against God and against his agents. I have done my duty now (see Ezekiel 3:18-19); you have been warned, and the way back has been shown to you. The coldness of your heart reveals the emptiness of your soul, the fact that you know you are totally and utterly alone when you separate yourself from God.

    And now you, aesculaepius. You, with your superior knowledge of science, who presume to tell me that I should go read books in various areas of science. How much do your really know? Do you read “major science sources” such as Popular Mechanics? Perhaps Scientific American? Do you have degrees in science? Have you published much research? Do not waste too much time worrying about my lack of knowledge of the Laws of Nature. I am also a retired Professor Mechanical Engineering, having held that title at three different colleges and universities. My PhD is a little dusty now, being some 45 years old, but the more I learn, the more convinced I have become about God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the operation of the Holy Ghost in the world today. I have continued to do research and publish papers and books, all in the areas of engineering, science, and mathematics. I can keep up with you any day, I am pretty sure.

    The pity you say you have for me is first of all entirely insincere; to be otherwise would be completely inconsistent with your mockery. So save it for yourself; you will need it. There will be few others to pity you in the end.

    I say to you, as I said to David, you have been warned. Go off in your headstrong, unbelieving way if you want to, but do not be surprised when it leads you to utter destruction, desolation, and isolation.

    Father D+

    • David

      Father D,

      All things considered, my response to your note was relatively polite and measured considering the things you said. I can understand why you might be surprised at my reaction. After all, you probably don’t think it’s offensive to call my sexual orientation a “lifestyle,” or to suggest that I live a “chaste life” because a mere handful of intentionally mistranslated verses from your holy book call the “way that I live” (i.e., acting on sexual attraction to men to whom I am also romantically attracted (in the same way that heterosexuals do)) an abomination. You don’t think I should find it offensive because (1) you believe that I’m a “broken” heterosexual who would be “cured” if I just got “right with God,” and thus am blind to the fact that I’m mired in sin; and (2) you don’t view me as a human being with the same desires and feelings as you.

      This is what is referred to as “dehumanization,” which makes it easy for you to convince yourself that if I just had Jesus that I wouldn’t need to be sexually attracted to guys (or to anyone else) anymore; because in your mind, for you to believe what you do, I have to be daily, willfully choosing to be gay. Otherwise your entire argument and worldview would collapse like a house of badly stacked cards, and you wouldn’t be able to say the horrendous things that you do about people like me and still sleep at night. So I’d think carefully about who you’re calling coldhearted, because for you and your ilk to dehumanize me and others as you’ve done is virtually sociopathic.

      The very fact that you call this a “Christian duty” and more than likely view it as an act of mercy and charity betrays how you’ve managed to justify your bigotry and hatred of homosexuals to yourself. You probably call this action “love.” Why be surprised then when I respond with anger and indignation?

      Finally, that you’ve written both myself and Aesculaepius off as “damned” (save, of course, that we turn from our wicked ways and live hermetical lives of solitary celibacy) further convinced me that you know you have no rationale behind your position other than sheer, naked prejudice against the LGBT community. This is what Christians do when they’ve run out of arguments—they accuse their subjects as stubborn, willful, “headstrong” and “unbelieving,” and that we’re headed for “utter destruction, desolation, and isolation.”

      As for me, I have reams of evidence behind both my ethical position here, and behind my conviction that there is nothing diseased or perverted about being a homosexual. I may not be able to persuade you to consider that evidence, but I can tell you to mind your own damn business and leave the LGBT community alone.

      Love and kisses,
      David

    • I have indeed, been warned, sir. I find it ironic that a PhD would elect to use “D+” in a signature, but perhaps that is akin to your intellect. Did you suffer some type of severe head trauma and seek solace in the spiritual as your body and intellect atrophied? Yes, I have been warned: my mother (a devout Catholic) warned me about people who think that they are so heavenly bound that they are no earthy good. Check.

      My pity is far from insincere, but you’ll have to just take that on *faith.* Your PhD may indeed be dusty, and while I care not a whit if you are published or not, I suspect you stand alone from your peers of equal degree (no pun intended) regarding spirituality. You take commentary as mockery, but just as it is with offense, I can give none – you can only take it.

      Your age is generally irrelevant to me; unless you’re claiming senility as the basis and foundation for your hostility and rejection of two perfectly *normal,* happy, and otherwise-pleasant human beings. In that case, I accept the diagnosis as valid without protest.

      Regarding my credentials, I have five degrees, four in science, one in English. My sources are textbooks based on peer-review, and continued subscriptions to relevant journals. “Popular Mechanics” is not wherein I find my facts. However, if we’re discussing the forces of centrifugal force, I’ll take “Popular Mechanics” over the Bible.

      The fact that any purported “Christian” believes in “utter destruction, desolation, and isolation” clearly shows you missed the whole message of “The Good News.” Hence, I pity you. It’s one thing to be stupid and ignorant, but you profess to be smart and ignorant. Such is a tragedy and, perhaps, a travesty. The only advice I have for you is this: whatever you think you love, make sure it loves you back.

      Checkmate.

      Æsculæpius

  5. Thanks for the thoughtfulness that went into writing this, friend. I appreciate that so much. It helps me to understand where you’re coming from with your decisions. I’m terrifically grateful that you and I are able to be friends in spite of our differing beliefs (or non-beliefs!). I deeply value you.

  6. Ain't No Shrinking Violet

    I had never seen this post by you David, so I’m glad you linked to it

    You talked about how your pastor asked people (children!) if they’d be willing to die for their witness of jesus…that is SO abusive. It’s crazy we must be willing to DIE at the hands of some mad gunmen to prove our loyalty to god. I also struggled with this concept when I was a catholic and never quite knew what my answer would be…it was traumatizing as hell to think about it, when you knew your soul would be damned to eternal torture if you answered wrong. If I ever see a religious person asking any questions like that now, I’m going to be hard-pressed not to go up and slap them.

    I don’t talk about this on my blog because I’m married (to a man) and it’s a moot point now, but I identify as a bisexual. I had serious problems with it as it conflicted with my catholicism so greatly, but was able to hide it because I was also legitimately attracted to men. You had no such options, and I have no idea how anyone could cope with being gay in a fundy religion. You have a formidable spirit which I greatly admire.

      • Ain't No Shrinking Violet

        Yes, I feel the same about myself, that I am *damaged*. Religion is HARMFUL and so few people seem to understand what I mean when I say that, but I know you do. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry you had to go through so much pain.

  7. PaulDouglas

    The arrogance of christianists is breathtaking! Excellent ripostes to “Father” D+ and his patriarchal, condescending büllshít. The orthodox whether romanists, anglicanists or eastern european can be the most insufferable antagonists. Unlike your average protestant fundagelical, the former weave all kinds of extraneous nonsense into their apologetics.
    From one gay ex-christian to another, I wish you well!

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