Tag Archives: Atheism

Talking about this matters

Well, it’s the day after Thanksgiving. Now would be a great time to make a list of things and people that I am thankful for. The thing is, though, that I am so gracious for every person in my life that I could never be able to mention everybody by name… but I will make a few shout outs to people that I’m immensely thankful for.

Here is a small list of people that I’ve been thinking about-

  • The person who overheard me being sexually harassed and made a point to come over, tell me that it wasn’t okay, and offered to tell off the harasser for me. The person who told me that I was precious.
  • The person who let me in closer than he has ever let anybody in before, figuratively and literally, who was able to look me in the eye.
  • The person who wasn’t scared to share with me, who I was able to talk with for hours, who was going to change his own life and triumph. The person who believed in me before I ever did.
  • The person who shared his world with me, who smiled for me and who wanted to take care of me, the person who tried harder than anybody else ever tries despite every set backs, the person who made me feel like safety.
  • The person who clicked with me, who was like me, who opened up to me and trusted me. The person who was and still is the best badass ever.
  • The person who shared their life with me without even knowing me, who hugged me last, who kept in contact, who cried during my pain and celebrated my triumph, who called me a friend.
  • The person who let me in, who opened up. The person who made me laugh constantly, and who let me share my thoughts and feelings with, who noticed me and made sure to keep me floating. Who inspired everybody.
  • The person who I immediately loved, who I immediately clicked with. Who is precious to me, who looks so strong but can be delicate.
  • The person who told me that I was going to be okay. Thanks for the glorious laughs, too.
  • The person whose voice I’ll never forget. So resilient, so many layers, so much love. Who looked for the good things to be happy about, who shared my views, who wanted to sit with me.
  • The person who bought me bags of food and gave me a ride home just to make sure that I didn’t hurt.
  • The person who was honest, and loving, and caring. The person who was a mother to everybody but herself, but who finally stood up and made herself important, and who showed me what it’s like to do what you’ve always wanted to do (what I’ve always wanted to do).
  • The person who checks in on me just to let me know that they are here.
  • The person who is always herself, is always beautiful, is always kind, and who is beginning to inspire herself as well as everybody else.
  • The person who will always be there.

These people are a constant inspiration to me. I spoke about them a few times yesterday, at the in-laws’ house, to various relatives of my boyfriend. I told their jokes and stories, and dreaded the implied question.

Where did you meet them?

Everybody that I mentioned above I met during an inpatient stay at a mental hospital, during outpatient mental health care, or during group therapy.

And they were all fellow patients.

I could talk for pages about the wonderful professionals I have worked with. There have been countless persons who listened, who guided, and who gave me the tools I needed to succeed. I could talk about my every day friends and my family, and the years of assistance they have given me, their homes, their time, their care. These are the people who have literally saved me multiple times over, and whose help I could never repay them for completely. These are the helpers that deserve to be thanked, constantly.

But I also want to thank the other patients who were right there with me. These are the unlikely candidates for help; even some inpatient professionals urge patients to not rely on each other, “the blind leading the blind.” However, these are the people that are right there with me, who share in my experiences, who know what it’s like. And, during the hours when we aren’t in therapy or when we aren’t actively working on coping, these are the people who provide support, reprieve, and even more therapy (just without a degree, in most cases). There is so much care, and it is so easy and wonderful to bond with somebody in this way. After all, when we leave, we know that reality will hit us again, and that these are things that we just don’t or can’t talk about with the everyday person, that we have to retreat back into our silence.

But, because I’m sure it’s expected, I’ll give a brief example of somebody’s pain. These are the stories people expect of me when I talk about inpatient, the horror stories of a life gone awry, taken over by chemical imbalances and unseen demons. So for that sake, and for the sake of reality, I’ll share.

This is a person whose first memory is of a suicide attempt at eight years old, of shoelaces across the neck and crippling feelings of guilt. This is a person whose strongest childhood memories in general are feelings of depression, of crying, of pain. It isn’t that this person didn’t experience happiness, it’s just that this person can’t remember much anymore thanks to years of medication, and this is all that sticks. This is a person who, being the only inhabitant of a bunk bed, built a cave by putting blankets all around the bottom bunk so that they could live only in this area. This person started to love small and confined areas, and, in Junior High, slept inside a nest they had made in their closet- a nest that included a jump rope tied to where the clothes were supposed to hang with a noose tied at the end, for a just-in-case scenario. This person dressed to disappear, and to be hated. This person, one night, punched themselves in the arm to bring about a bruise, to punish themselves, a habit that would stick for a decade. This person found respite through online relationships and through pretending to be other. This person had a few friends in their actual reality who loved and who prodded and who coaxed them into opening up, just a little bit. This person dreamed of healing and of being a good influence, and so this person joined a group to counsel others. This person started opening up, started listening, and started becoming positive, and started to dream. Still, this person cried nearly every day from pressures at home, from feeling inadequate. This person began spending hours every day looking at pictures of emaciated persons, started to limit themselves to eating solid food once a day at the most, once a week at the least, always keeping below 400 calories. These would last for a month or two, and then the feelings would ebb, but then come back, in waves, every time the sadness came back. This person threw themselves into other people, into their post-graduation life, ignoring the night spent in a ball, crying, thought that it was just part of their normal being. Until the depression became unbearable, and the feelings of suicide came back. Therapy helped until the feelings were too strong, and then the first hospital stay. A diagnosis: Bipolar II. The anxiety attacks started, like a darkness coming in over the whole body, the shaking, the fear, the inability to move. Home was a respite, but it brought on delusions, a belief in a dark demon in the corner that wanted to cause pain. More medication, more therapy. A return to university that was full of extra morning hours spent finding a reason to live and get out of bed, a reason to not chug down everything under the sink and deal with the pain until there wasn’t any, until there wasn’t anything. More medication. More people. Another hospital stay. Different medication, different doctors, more time. A light, through support and some love, but a darkness that came back from disappointment. Loss of function. No more showering, no cleaning, no cooking. Barely breathing. Back to home, back to fuck-ups, shuffling around, hurting everybody. Being forced into the hospital for the first time. Back home, more fear, more fuck-ups, more hurting, choosing the hospital again. Eight days. A new diagnosis, one that actually fits and feels like liberty from an identity that wasn’t theirs: Major Depression Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder. An explanation. A new life. More pain, but an escape to where they could breathe, to where they could believe in themselves, more than anything. To lots of therapy and lots of support, but also to a good job, to friends and to love, and to some kind of life. To a life that seemed worth trying for. To an actual sense of steadiness, and of security, and of stability, that this person helped to create and worked for. To an end to self-injury, to promises to themselves, to a lot of effort. To months without depression or anxiety, to months without depression-tears. To seven months of functioning.

It’s November now, and I’ve been functioning for seven months. At twenty-two years old, I’m beginning to live and to try and to enjoy, and it’s the most beautiful feeling in the world.

But still, I cannot open my mouth to my future relatives and say “I met these wonderful people in a mental facility. I have a mental disorder. I have depression without reason or warning, and it took a lot of work to get me out of it, but I’m okay, and they are okay, and this isn’t rare. It’s everywhere, and it needs to be talked about.”

The stigma, in the end, is what suffocates us. It’s our community that is what saves us.

What saved me, in the end, was giving myself enough time with other people like me, with people who were trying. Was being able to see the truth: most people who live with a mental illness are successful, are wonderful, and who happen to have inner darkness or issues that they deal with. That the people who need help and who get it are the strongest, and that we are all, in the end, people. People who need each other. The voices I heard inpatient and in therapy are the strongest and the wisest. We aren’t the blind leading the blind; we are warriors who fight for ourselves and for each other.

So this is a post about support, and about love. About talking about things outside of therapy. I know that we talk about, that we already have to be brave enough. I know that we have to protect ourselves. But this is me putting this out there- I’m in my mental health journey that will never end, but I want to talk about life with depression, about coping, about being able to live with it. About treatment, about support. About the amazing people that I am in company with. About it’s okay to talk about it because my hope is that the kids in my life will grow up and not be afraid of their private pain, and that they will know that there are ways of treatment and ways of life. About ways where things can be enjoyed, and where reactions to things can be appropriate.

And, important for me and for many others: the treatment of these things doesn’t have to include a deity. It doesn’t mean “giving it up to [god here].” If that helps, great. But there is a full life without a deity, there is hope for atheists with mental illness. I am an atheist, and I have depression, and it’s not because of my lack of a god, and a god isn’t helping me at all. I have reasons to live beyond any kind of hope that a creator could give me. There is the hope that we can have in reality, in humanity, and in ourselves. There is so much to empower ourselves with, and this is important to talk about. Can we please just talk about this?

I didn’t want to write in here anymore, because I have been scared about repercussions, about reactions. But JT Eberhard is brave, and so I want to be, too. Thank you, JT, for being yourself. It is really the best thing you could ever do.

Just so you know: your Christianity is far less “peaceful” than you think.

I consider myself to be a realistic person, overall. While I may speak in hyperbole in my everyday life (“This is the best thing of all time! Do you hear me?! Of all time!” “Okay, I already looked for that, like, twelve billion times.”) I try to think and speak “professionally” as accurately as possible. I am well aware that outliers do not define a trend. I obviously don’t think that all Christians are violent, immoral, etc.

However: I do think that, pointing out the outliers, when it comes to safety, can be important.

See: Christians Openly Advocate Killing Atheists on FOX News Facebook Page

And, my personal least favorite:

Obviously, the people who are going to “Like” FOX News on Facebook will be a fringe group, probably angrier/more extreme than your average person. And when you add “Christianity” into the description, I’m honestly not surprised about this reaction.

I’ve had many different adverse reactions personally to my proud atheism. I’ve been told that I am a Devil worshiper many times. I’ve lost potential friendships. I’ve been cut off from my immediate family, communication-wise. Yes, this is extreme. But no, it is not uncommon. And, while I’m sure that there could be some atheist parents who would do the same if their child chose to become religious, I would think that this would be an extreme divergence from the norm.

I started this blog to share different views with people who probably haven’t thought about it before. So here it is: religion in general, and Christianity specifically in the Western world, has been the cause of death and destruction where atheism has not. I would seriously like to know what possible, bodily threat atheism is. Has it brought about genocide? Absolutely not. The list of Christian serial killers is far larger than the list of atheist serial killers. The list of Christian pedophiles can top any other list by just including the priesthood. This doesn’t bring up any spiritual text at all, nor any other religious group, most of which can all be counted to be violent or harmful in multiple ways. By any “moral” measure, atheists stack up as much more moral as a group than any religious group does. As Jen McCreight sums it up: “I know this doesn’t represent all Christians, but it certainly debunks the notion that religion automatically makes you a good person.”

So please, somebody explain it to me: why kill atheists?

(tl;dr: Wow, I didn’t expect to be so angry about this.)

Edited to add: I want to add this to make the purpose of my post very clear: I am genuinely interested in hearing from people of all religions, and especially Christians (as I live in the United States, and this is the religion of the majority) what about atheism can cause people to treat atheists so negatively, beyond just disagreement.

Surviving the holidays, non-affiliated

the sexy santa assistants were there to take a...
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So now, on the other side of it all, I can officially say- I’ve survived the holiday season for the first time as an unaffiliated person.

And it really wasn’t that hard.

I think that a lot of people have a vision of atheists as being anti-Christmas, or anti-religious-holidays in general. I can’t speak for the majority of atheists, but as for myself I have no problem with the holidays. If they are something that can bring families together or bring joy then that is an amazing and beautiful thing. Personally, the holidays brought my family together, in a sense. My parents ended up deciding to put off Christmas, because they decided to buy gifts for an entire women’s shelter and were kind of gifted-out. Despite this, my mom reached out to me and has decided that it would be okay if I celebrated with them when they decide to do something for the holidays, which I’m extremely excited about.

Of course, this brings up a few questions- will I pray with them? Will I go to church with them? I might not have to worry about the church anymore, as the Christmas Eve service that they attend regularly has already passed, but I don’t think that I would have gone with them anyway. As for prayer, I would probably bow my head with them and listen, but not “pray” per se.

This is similar to what I did the entire holiday season. While I did not attend midnight mass with some of my boyfriend’s family, I did bow my head when a prayer was said in respect for the people who do pray (this was also fun as I got to lock eyes and smile with the other non-religious persons at the meal). A big step that I also took was not denying my lack of faith. I admitted it to my boyfriend’s cousin, who ended up giving me a high-five. Later, my boyfriend’s parents asked me if I went to church, and I told them that I don’t anymore. While they didn’t look particularly happy (they’re somewhat practicing Catholics) they didn’t reprimand me or punish me in any way, which made me feel much more comfortable with being real and honest with them about who I am.

And, more than anything, it was nice to spend a holiday season focusing more on family and friends than on God. I’m happy to say that I came out on the other side still happy, still fulfilled.

Want to share your story about getting through the holidays? I would love to hear it:






Why friends are good, and also difficult

In the thick of the street festival, some demo...
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I’ve had a lot of mixed reactions from friends since starting this blog and ~spiritual journey~. Some Christian friends have been extremely supportive of me, and even said that by questioning God I’m showing more reverence for him than the people who blindly believe.

And then again.

Not that many of my friends have been abrasive to me. Only my parents have shown their discontent at my new life change, at least up until a few days ago.

Now, I completely subscribe to the idea of “Don’t Be A Dick,” but mostly when it comes to everyday interactions with friends. I am definitely not going to tell a Christian or religious person that they are wrong- I will only say it online, and not about them specifically. I generally refrain from using the word “atheist” to define myself, because I know the repercussions that could ensue. But still, it is true; I am an atheist, and I love being so.

Three nights ago, one of my friends decided to tell me that atheist was the least reasonable thing a person could be, and that moral relativism made no sense. I spent two hours defending my position to this friend, and in the end neither of us were happy.

“He’s just concerned about your immortal soul,” my other friend told me later on. This makes sense to me. I used to be concerned for my non-Christian friends when I was a Christian, but never enough to tell them that they were wrong.

How abrasive is it okay to be? Is it okay to defend your position, even if it will make the other person upset? How “out” is it okay to be around Christian friends?

Thank You, Grilled Cheesus!

A promotional balloon for Glee in New York City.
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Now that I live with my sister and my brother-in-law, there are certain things that are expected of me. One such thing is that I wait until my sister gets home on Tuesday nights to watch Glee with the family.

This is a rule that I clearly broke when I found out that the episode was going to be about religion.

In the first minute and a half, one of the characters (Finn, for those of you who watch the episode) makes a grilled cheese sandwich that happens to have a burned section that looks like the classic “Jesus” visage. He begins to pray to the “Grilled Cheesus” and, every time he asks for something, his prayers are answered. (I would say that 100% is actually a pretty awesome track record. I’d pray to that.) After these few minutes I immediately ran outside to tell my brother-in-law that this was the best episode EVER.

I was pretty pleased with the way that atheists were portrayed on this episode. They had one atheist whose lack of belief came from a lack of an answered prayer (Sue Sylvester) and one who just seemed to not believe, but also had some negative views of religion’s actions against homosexuals, women and science (Kurt). The things that he said kind of came across as very classic atheist, as though somebody Wikipedia‘d atheist arguments and decided to have him mention them (the Teacup argument, the FSM). Still, it seemed to come across well.

My only problem with the episode was how it seemed like, by the end of the episode, the lesson was: it’s wrong to not believe in anything, you have to believe in something, otherwise you life is empty and foul. My hope is that a young freethinker will watch this episode and find a positive role model, and also that young believers can find positive role models as well.

After all, Mercedes sang Bridge Over Troubled Water in a gospel style. I could never hate on that.