Taslima, writer, atheist, secular human rights and women’s rights activist.
Taslima, writer, atheist, secular human rights and women’s rights activist.
Their voices set my teeth on edge. I have no valid complaint against hustlers, no rational bitch, but the act of selling is repulsive to me. I harbor a secret urge to whack a salesman in the face, crack his teeth and put red bumps around his eyes.
The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson
Do you ever feel like you’re getting “sold” on something? I felt this way a few years back, when I dated this guy named Ruben. Our first week of dating, before he asked me to be his girlfriend, he sat me down in his living room and showed me “The Plan.”
I should’ve known. Anything that has a code name like “The Plan” should raise a red flag. But I was infatuated and the sex was good.
“The Plan” was an overview of a pyramid scheme set up by Amway (at the time known as Quixtar). It was to be shown to new or prospective recruits to get them to buy in as a member for $150 a month, plus the cost of products.
Ruben’s whole goal was to make sure I would support him as he chose to attempt to “go Ruby” (a fancy way of saying you’ve reached a certain ‘level’ of money making in the pyramid). I told him I couldn’t possibly believe in that kind of thing and I wouldn’t want to be a member, but I’d support his interest in it. Sure, sell what you want. Sell car stereos for f*ck’s sake. I don’t care.
As it turned out, Ruben wasn’t happy with my casual attitude toward his pyramid scheme. At first he was, but then he saw me as an opportunity to help him reach his goals. He could use my name to be another “leg” of his group and he could buy products for himself under that name, thus helping him reach his goals.
And then there were the requests for me to get rid of my MAC makeup and replace it with his Amway makeup like all the loyal “Diamond” wives had done. What bullsh*t. First of all, they were married. Secondly, no.
Throughout my relationship with Ruben I felt like I was constantly getting sold something. He was pushy about many things, not limited to his Amway business and he didn’t fully accept me for who I was. I was too fat for him, even though I wasn’t fat at all. I wasn’t big breasted enough, even though I was perfectly proportionate. I didn’t dress like he wanted me to, even though I dressed well.
Sometimes my entire relationship with Ruben reminds me of my relationship with the Church and the Pastors I worked for. The old saying, “Come as you are” isn’t true when it comes to religion. What they really mean to say is Come as you are so we can fix you and make you look like all the rest of us…Stepford wives and husbands.
Every Sunday is an opportunity for them to “sell you” religion, and to sell you the nonsense that you’re unacceptable as you are; that you aren’t a good enough person to “get through the eye of a needle”. Well, honestly, that’s silly–no one can fit through the eye of a needle. Thread barely can.
If there was a god, do you think he’d create people “in his own image” and then try to change them? Doesn’t something about modern Christianity just seem out of whack?
Seth emails me the other day (hey seth!) and says, “You’ll come back full circle. You’ll be a Christian again.”
It wasn’t an asshole thing to say. Seth is a nice guy. Since then, we’ve talked and caught up and it’s great to hear how well he’s doing with life.
It’s something I thought about before, actually–this whole, “Will I always be atheist?” I mean, I swung all the way toward fundamentalist Christian extremes (living in a fringe group for years, on a compound with dozens of other “church members” and “disciples”) and now I’m on the non-believer extremity. Who’s to say I won’t swing back again?
Sometimes I questioned my ability to swing all the way over the “other side” so easily–except that it wasn’t easy and it took many years. And I think being atheist is closer to who I always was. I always questioned the bible and what I was taught in church (and everywhere else). It’s just that when you move to an isolated location and aren’t allowed outside media, friends, family, etc. it’s easier for you to get brainwashed into thinking that this fringe belief system is the right and correct path to an elite version of Christianity.
In all honesty, it’s destructive and fills you with guilt and all things unpleasant. As Christopher Hitchens would say, “Religion is evil.” He might even say a group like this is maniacal.
So my question to you is, Will you always be a Christian? Or will you finally start thinking for yourself and not let some multi-millionaire pastor tell you what the bible says and what you should do with your life? When are you going to live for yourself and not this modern conception of “giving it all to god”?
Yesterday I spent the afternoon with my lovely soul sister, Abby. We did the LA thing–Los Feliz, Weho and the Grove. We went to Palermo’s for pizzarosa and wine and wandered next door to Skylight Books. Of course we ended up in the Gender Studies/Erotica section, because I’m convinced all surviving cult members are interested in these subjects. Or, maybe just us.
We found a really helpful salesperson who actually recommended two books to us. One is Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio. The second book was The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti. I bought both of them and put a few more of her recommendations on my list of books to buy. She said we both needed to read The Ethical Slut, and I was really intrigued by the book. It seemed like a guide to being honest, respectful and healthy while still being able to get the pleasure you want out of life.
Do you see a correlation between all these titles? Sex and the young woman.
Sexual women are often labeled whore, tramp, slut by men and other women. But as Abby and I had dinner later, we talked about how our culture really pushes people into marriage, deeming it important, but marriage is just an exchange of property. Women have always been considered the property. Sexual women who don’t need to be married to have healthy, fulfilling relationships aren’t really accepted in our culture. And if we do carry out these relationships as satisfied people, we still find ourselves getting caught up in societies pressure to get married or to be the norm.
Lately, I’ve been going through this “I want to get married” stage. I feel like it’s the one last Christian trait that’s holding on for dear life. Marriage is definitely pushed by the Christian church. Alternative lifestyles or stories are discouraged and banished from the church. You can’t be say bi-sexual or transgendered without being banished from the church. Or in an open relationship. Or an ethical slut.
I’ve left the church and Christianity, though, and I’m just waiting for my mind to catch up. I’m ready to embrace some alternate paths for happiness besides marriage and babies. I’m embracing that now, in a way, but my mind hasn’t quite made the leap. There’s still the big “What will people think?” question that always stops me temporarily. It’s a struggle for me to dismiss that, but I eventually do because I’ve found it’s more important to be myself and be happy than it is to impress people I don’t give a shit about.
The other day an old friend of mine posted a scripture on his Facebook wall about not being lukewarm or God will spit you out. It got me thinking quite a bit.
For starters, I was always a very “passionate” Christian. I’d hear a verse like that and do whatever I could in my power to be “hot” for Jesus (sounds kinky, right?). I didn’t like the idea of being cold for anything. That’s one of the reasons I decided to attend a year of Master’s Commission (which turned into 7). I thought it would make me a better Christian.
But, now that I’m not a Christian, what am I? Am I “hot” (read: passionate) about something else? Am I “cold”? Will God spit me out of his mouth?
How I always looked at that verse was a way to claim my superiority over another Christian. I was judgmental. Very. I was pious and perfect and looked down on anyone who failed to get it right. When I decided to follow the rules of Christianity, I excelled in following them and attending Master’s Commission only made me more cocky.
Some people call that legalistic. Some people call it fundamentalism. What’s interesting though, is that was preached to me, so I wasn’t just becoming legalistic on my own terms. I was being taught to have moral superiority over those who weren’t as passionate about God as I was.
That moral superiority carries over into other religions. Osama Bin Laden wrote a letter to the Jihadists saying that the Western world (and those who were not passionate enough as Muslims) were infidels. An infidel means one without faith. Bin Laden encouraged attacks on people who were without faith, or who didn’t have strong enough faith.
Christianity and Islam are very similar. Their holy texts call for extremism in cases like this. Yes, you can interpret the Bible or the Koran more liberally, but it’s no surprise why people interpret verses in either to claim a moral superiority over those who aren’t religious enough.
As for me, I’m not hot or cold, or lukewarm. I just no longer believe in Christianity as a powerful, righteous force.
I had an interesting date with an Agnostic last night. I self identify as somewhere between Agnosticism and Atheism. I’m not a huge fan of Richard Dawkins and am okay with people celebrating different traditions and myths, as long as they don’t proselytize me.
My date asked me if I was agnostic, though, and I explained the above. Then, he asked if I thought God could be proven or disproven. “God doesn’t exist,” I said.
“Then you’re atheist.” He told me.
“I think the question of whether god exists or doesn’t is irrelevant. To me, god is a myth–something people believe in because they need to verify their sense of self, make meaning and develop a sense of community.” I explained.
“You’re definitely an atheist.”
So, maybe I’m an atheist. I’m okay with that.
We then went on to talk about how I took a turn from being a reverend to being “so extreme” on the opposite spectrum, as he put it. I told him I ask myself that all the time. I ask myself, Do I just have a capacity for extreme beliefs? Am I a zealot, no matter what my beliefs are? often.
I’m not above questioning myself and my lack of beliefs, or where they stem from. As a child, I was a member of PETA, because I love animals and they started sending me literature about the cosmetic industry testing on rabbits. The pictures were disturbing and I would tear up seeing the torture the bunnies went through just so we could wear eye shadow, or use a certain face cream. I was a member of the World Wildlife Fund first, and had a desire to be a Dian Fossey, Jr. saving mountain gorillas.
Essentially, I was an activist as a child. I was always fighting for the underdog, the abused. It’s probably normal that I went into ministry, because from the outside it seemed to line itself up with humanitarian work quite nicely and I felt I could help those who were disadvantaged and misfortunate by working with a charity group, like a church. Now that I’m not a Christian, this blog is sort of my service to those who were abused (by the Church).
In my opinion, atheism wasn’t a random choice. It’s sort of a natural progression of who I was a child, a learning from my own experiences. Trusting myself to make the best decision for myself.
Earlier today I found myself reading and commenting on The Christian Post, on the article I started on was called Young Pastor Challenges Ministry Leaders to ‘Just Believe’. Despite myself, I found myself blogging about that article here and then ended up finding myself reading another article that caught my eye about Paula White, her divorce and why the IRS was investigating her ministry.
I used to like women like Paula White when I was a fundamentalist Christian reverend. I aspired to be what I naively considered at the time “being used by God.” I thought women like Paula White, Juanita Bynam and Cindy Jacobs were the good kind of powerful, and not being sucked into the whole “women are only supposed to be silent in church and raise children at home” kind of vibe I’d been taught for years.
Needless to say, I haven’t caught up on any of those women’s lives in years because I just don’t follow that crowd anymore. If we’re being honest, I just don’t like them either. I think they’re crooks and I think they take something that can be very sacred and exploit it.
So, it’s no surprise to me that Paula White was investigated by the IRS FOR NINE YEARS, got a divorce and almost quit the ministry. She did not quit the ministry though, and is back to preaching on pulpits in front of thousands blaming it all on the devil and the enemy. Oh, and telling the devil that she’s getting back her anointing and prophecy (Can you lose something like that, which isn’t really real?).
It’s all so sick to me. It’s disheartening that thousands and thousands (millions?) buy into this type of high pressure sales (in the same way I was suckered into it for years). Why else is Paula White so wealthy? We give her money!
According to the article, Sen. Charles Grassley launched a Senate probe in 2007 into six influential ministries, including White’s, following complaints of opulent spending and possible abuse of nonprofit status…Grassley had referred to Jesus’ humble entrance into Jerusalem to make the point that ministers today don’t really need Bentleys and Rolls-Royces to spread the Gospel. I COMPLETELY agree with Grassley. It turns out Paula doesn’t, “The church better recognize, it should be thanking six ministries for fighting for the body of Christ for saying ‘we are not going to let you dictate to us how we interpret Scripture’ and you can’t tell us ‘because Jesus rode in on a donkey’ because if you start telling us how to interpret Scripture in one way, you’ll tell us how to interpret it in every way,” White said in frustration.
Anyone else find it odd that when Paula is being told she’s frivolously spending and doesn’t need a Bentley or Rolls-Royce to preach the gospel that she gets frustrated and twists his words into something favorable for someone like her?
Today I found myself reading and commenting on The Christian Post, although I’m not a Christian and I’m not particularly fond of reading quotes from fundamentalist pastors. The article I started on was called Young Pastor Challenges Ministry Leaders to ‘Just Believe’ which I honestly think is a bunch of bull and also ethically irresponsible preaching (if any preaching can be considered ethically responsible).
Some of his sermon oversimplifies complex decisions by insisting that a) Jesus speaks to this youth pastor directly and audibly b) you shouldn’t try to figure things out critically c) ignore all doubt d) if you do have doubts, it’s the “enemy”.
Here’s a part of it:
“Some of you are trying to figure out something that God wants you to just believe,” Furtick stressed.
That may sound overly simplified especially for situations that seem complicated, but the Elevation pastor clarified that it’s not a simple statement as much as it is “a focused demand.”
“Just believe” doesn’t mean to just cheer up and believe you can make it. Rather, “this is something you’re going to have to give your entire effort to, that this is so singularly important that you trust me (Jesus) in faith that you’re going to have to focus all of your energy in believing.”
“I (Jesus) want you to trust me enough to devote everything you have … to believing what I said is true and living like what I said is true until you see the manifestation around you of what I’ve already spoken inside of you,” Furtick challenged. “Just believe.”
There are moments when “the enemy” or a voice of opposition will say it’s impossible and plant doubts.
My response is here:
I think there’s a lot more to faith than just believing. Saying that causes a lot of people to forfeit their own conscience and refuse to think for themselves.
To expand on that, having sat under pastors of this caliber and ideology before, I will never have anything to do with living by or guiding my life by their principles. I do a much better job creating my own philosophy in life by cultivating an open minded, thoughtful and complex way of viewing the world that works for me.