A Vivid Reminder

As you may remember, my parents visited recently.  My mom brought me a piece of my childhood that I wanted to share with you. Here it is:



My bible from childhood. I guess I doodled on it. This is from 30 years ago, when I was 12.


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Jesus Saves! Love is GOD!
(interesting that I said it that way. Don't people normally say "God is love?")


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Look at this! Jesus Saves (three times the charm!), Christ for Today! and the three different dates I was baptized (yes I spelled it wrong) in 1981. I was so terrified of burning in hell that I was baptized three times in one year!


The other day I was sitting in the church I frequent several times a month. Only this is the local UU Church (Unitarian Universalist), and I go there to bring together fellow atheists and humanists to broaden our horizons and build a community of like-minded freethinkers. When I was at church last Sunday, I was given a sticker and I thought it would be perfect on my old bible, to represent who I had become:



Don't Believe in God? Join the club.


Looks good, doesn't it? It feels good too. When I was a kid, writing "Jesus Saves" on everything, I was desperate for acceptance. I didn't get it at home so it was easy to look to an invisible friend to find someone to love me. But not long after I was baptized the third time in the Church of Christ, I saw the people of that church for the hypocrites they were and I walked away. And on reflection all the churches I had been to were the same. I was done with organized religion.


I was harshly punished by my parents for refusing to go back to church but I'm so glad I stuck to my guns. It took me about 16 to 19 more years to get away from Woo and on to Reality. And I still have plenty more to learn and understand.


 I'm so glad my mom saved my bible and gave it back to me. She knows I'm a happy atheist now so she almost didn't. But looking at it, I see how far I've come through the years, from scared and desperate indoctrinated child to happy, loving atheist/humanist/skeptic/freethinker woman. It's been an interesting journey.  I've learned so much, and look forward to even more.

16 comments:

  1. This is painfully familiar. I don't have the bible(s) that I used from that era, but I vividly remember scrawling similar phrases all over. Then again, I also spent time writing "Go (team)!" and "I <3 (crush of the moment)!" In retrospect, that graffiti was just as meaningful, if not more so.

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  2. Obviously, no one informed you that doodling on your bible will get God angry at you and He'll turn you inot an atheist.

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  3. Ha! So the Lord hardened my heart because I wrote Jesus Saves in my bible? Sounds about right.

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  4. I am so happy not to relate to this post.

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  5. And the nostal-- uh, I mean, the wooing of the Holy Spirit didn't draw you back into the fold?

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  6. Roxane B. SalonenJuly 15, 2011 at 12:30 PM

    Hey Neece! I saw this link on our blog and popped over to see what you're up to here. It's been a very long time since I've visited Heaving Dead Cats. Your Bible definitely was put through the ringer! And you know, I smile to think of that sweet little girl who just wanted to know she was loved, like all of us do. This line was really telling: "I didn’t get it at home so it was easy to look to an invisible friend to find someone to love me." As a believer, I really do believe that our first impression of God comes from our parents. They reflect God's love to us (or not). By and large, we come to know God and God's unconditional love through how we relate to them. So I can understand how, if you did not feel the love you needed at home, you looked for it elsewhere. But when things went sour after you began questioning things and you were punished...well, most kids would have felt similarly disillusioned at that point. I wonder what would have happened if your parents would have lovingly allowed your questions and given you answers that resonated with your child heart at the time; answers that would have encouraged a lifetime of questions and answers and wouldn't have pulled you off the track of seeking the true love that God has been wanting to offer you all these years? You had it right, Neece: Love is God (I think that's so cool that you wrote that, and in that order). Look, I know you disagree with me now and feel very happy in your newfound life of disbelief, and I wouldn't want to take true and abiding happiness away from you. I do consider you a friend and am sincere about that. From my perspective, though, God seems to have lost his chance with you through human error early on in your life. When you couldn't believe in the humans who should have shown you love to the fullest, you quit believing in God. But you know what? He's never quit believing in you. Okay, I'll shut up now. You know I respect you. I just wanted to add my thoughts, which will surely receive a hoard of tomatoes from your crew. Please know that it's all well-intended and I'm not looking to change your mind, only to share my perspective of the situation from where I sit. Peace...Roxane

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  7. I'm happy that you can't relate to it either, Freeman. :)

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  8. It is painful, isn't it, Allison?
    Ha, yeah, the graffiti was just as meaningful. Quite true!

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  9. Hi Roxane.
    Well, I really don't want to dwell on my childhood, but I'll just say my parents always let me ask as many questions as I wanted. They never stopped me or made me feel bad. But my mother usually didn't have an answer to all of my questions, so she just told me that honestly. I wish I had had Google back then! So, while she wasn't the mother with all the answers, she entertained my questions. I don't remember if she told me to go to the library or what, but she let me read whatever I liked, which was whatever I could get my hands on.
    So she did help me foster my insatiable curiosity. She never stifled that. I'll give her that credit for sure.

    Yes, God lost his chance with me, but that's ok, because I prefer facts over faith, and reality over fantasy. So not believing in mythical fairy tales as an adult is a good thing, in my opinion.
    Don't you think, in your perspective, that if God existed and if he really cared, he would have tried harder when I was trying so hard to love him? Instead I was abandoned and rejected?
    Except I wasn't rejected by God because he doesn't exist. It all makes perfect sense when you look at the whole picture.

    I will take your words in the kind spirit they were intended. Thank you for the sentiments.

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  10. Roxane B. SalonenJuly 15, 2011 at 7:48 PM

    Neece, I'm glad to hear that your mom was responsive to your questions. From earlier conversations, I got the impression you were not offered satisfactory explanations early on, but thanks for the clarification. I'm glad to hear you prefer reality over fantasy. I quite agree. Believing in mythical fairy tales is something that would be a turnoff to me as well. The God I believe in isn't fantasy nor mythical, thank God. :) As for your question about God's seeming non-response, it is hard to understand why you did not get the response you deserved as a child. The best I can offer is that God's primary way of interacting with us is through one another. If the world had been without sin, a loving response would have been a given. It is human beings that fail us, not God. There is an injustice in all of this that will be made right in the end. For now, we all suffer in one way or another as human beings, and God does not delight in this. He will make it right. Until that time comes, we are called to try to create a balanced, just world for one another to the best of our ability. I know you are trying to do that. Of course, not believing in God makes all of this so much easier in a way...well, to a point. It means, then, that you were not rejected by God (as you perceived it then) since there was nothing to reject. But it also means you are denying yourself the truest, purest love there is. Thanks for taking my words in the spirit they were intended. :)

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  11. I have a bible that was given to my father when he was young, however, he didn't decorate it so creatively. ;-) I keep it in my library with my wife's childhood bible and another bible I recently purchased... and 2 Qur'ans... and a number of other theologically-oriented books. My dad's bible is more of a family heirloom to me,though, and doesn't revive any negative memories... just a memory of my uber-cool dad.

    I'm glad you escaped from the world of that childhood bible. That kind of childhood indoctrination really, really bothers me. My daughter (now 10) and I have had numerous conversations about God and religion and I've made it very clear to her that she is allowed to make up her own mind. She knows what I believe and she knows what my mother believes (polar opposites, pretty much), and she's pretty good at thinking things through. I've offered to take her to church, though I won't let my mother take her. I also answer all her questions about religion (any religion) from the neutral "this is what some people believe" point of view (even regarding atheism).

    My goal is to avoid the indoctrination and brainwashing that comes along with religion and guide her more toward a "think for yourself" mentality; one based on real evidence and rationality.

    So far, so good. :-)

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  12. Ha, no I was not wooed by anything or anyone, and felt no nostalgia. :P

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  13. Hmm, well, it seems that God is completely ineffectual at helping lost children. I saw a little girl in the grocery store today that looked so miserable. She wasn't being abused, but you could tell she was deeply unhappy and probably suffering from some form of neglect. She had a brother that looked more angry than sad. It was awful (but not enough to call CPS). Again, God isn't helping those poor kids (or their dirty, slutty mother and filthy father). So either he can't help them or he doesn't exist. I propose the latter. If he can't help them, then why bother worshiping him? If he won't help them, again, why does he deserve your worship?
    Also, Joseph Campbell said, "Mythology is what we call someone else’s religion." Hopefully in 100 years, Christianity will just be another strange myth that people once believed.
    And I'm not denying myself anything except delusion and false beliefs. I know you really believe that I am, but I couldn't disagree more, of course!

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  14. That's a neat thing to have from your dad, Dan. And yes, I'm glad I escaped from that oppressive indoctrination too.
    I really respect how you are raising your daughter. She sounds just awesome. You are giving her the best gift a father ever could, the gift of Reason and Critical Thinking. That's fantastic! :)

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  15. Roxane B. SalonenJuly 20, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    I would agree, Neece. If God doesn't exist, worshiping Him would be a complete waste of time. And it is really sad when kids are neglected. Human beings fail one another all the time. Each of us has a responsibility. God wants to help us, but he also exists within us to encourage us to help each other. If you looked at that girl with kindness, it might seem far from enough, but you have shown her the face of Christ. It might have given her just a little bit of hope to believe that she will not always be in that miserable situation. That is the way God works - by encouraging us to be light to others. I know you have done other hands-on things. That, too, is God's love in action. You need not be offended by this. I know you will not see your actions as being connected to God. That's okay by me. They are still loving acts that will lead others to Light. As for your hope that Christianity will disappear, indeed, your hope will come true, but not until the end of time. Then, we will have no need for it. It's only the earthly journey that requires faith. Faith is hope in something we can't see. So once we are seeing it face to face, faith will no longer be necessary. The only thing I really take issue with in this comment is that in saying faith is a delusion, you are saying I'm deluded. And that's not true. I still respect your decision to not embrace faith, but not your wrong assumption that I'm insane. :)

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  16. Well, Roxane, that's not enough to get me to believe in a god. Not by a long shot. If that's the best your god can do, he is not worth worshiping in any fashion.
    As a humanist and a compassionate person, I can do more than your god to be a light to others, to be kind, just for the sake of kindness, just like all the other good people who aren't religious in the world, and all the religious people who do goodness in God's name, for that matter. They really are just decent people, if they are good for the sake of it, instead of out of fear (which many are).

    We'll have to agree to disagree that faith is a delusion, I suppose. From all of my research, reading and experience, I conjecture that it is indeed a delusional set of beliefs. That is what all the evidence points to in neuroscience and other branches of science. I highly recommend reading The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer for an excellent education on belief, where it comes from and how it works.

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