Tag Archives: Life

My privilege is showing.

What I am about to write is important to me, and I think it’s very important to my blog for me to take note of my biases, my privileges, my experiences. I live with scientists, and have been posing the question to them recently: does your personal experience, your bias, your privileges, your experience, do these things factor into how you interpret or accept new data?” This is important to the field of science. And, turning it inwards, I note: this is important to life.

My background is not very interesting, nor is it very significant. I am a white female, born into an almost-middle-class, Southern Baptist family. The first year that my class was administered governmental standardized end-of-year tests (first grade, I believe?) I was the only student to score in the 99-percentile range (all of my scores were in the 99-percentile range). From this point on, I was treated as an intelligent child, which cushioned me from many of the hardships that children face from struggling with academics and being chastised for it. I was never treated as less capable (especially in math) because of my sex-chromosomes, though I did witness this happening often to other cis-females in the class. In fact, I was often asked to give private, after class tutoring to other girls who were struggling in math (never the boys, however). While I lived in very close proximity to a low-income city until I left for college, I actually lived in a city which is considered to be much safer, more quiet, more calm than its adjacent, surrounding neighbors. The most opposition I ever faced was some light bullying from older girls in Elementary School (stopped when my sister bravely stood up to them for me) and then again when I was teased for dressing like a boy in Junior High (from the same girl from before, again stopped when I mentioned that my same sister was currently serving time in a juvenile corrections facility. Apparently this implied threat of her eventual presence was more than enough). My own mind is what gave me more opposition in my life than any other person.

While I have faced incidences of relative injustice in my life (all very light, all very small) I have to admit that I have been very, well, privileged. I was born without fear of racism or racial discrimination, I was born without and have never experienced physical handicap, I was insulated from much gender discrimination by virtue of being considered “smart” (something with implications that is infuriating, of course), I was born outside of and have never lived in poverty, and my relative heterosexuality (I’m very queer and much more than incidentally attracted to women, though most people don’t know this because I have never acted on it) has insulated me from personally experiencing homophobia. Honestly, the only aspect of myself that puts me into a minority of any kind is the fact that I am an atheist, and it’s not like puts me at any threat of bodily harm, generally. Also, while I have faced some instances of being discriminated against due to mental-health-related issues, this has had very little effect on me.

I don’t even need to say that my life has been easy, relatively- it has been easy, and that’s that. Obviously I have faced difficulties in my life, but any sort of discrimination is not something that I come face-to-face with on a daily basis.

The fights and battles that I am interested in fighting are, largely, not my own. I fight for reproductive rights, because I believe that, without adequate reproductive rights, the people who are hurt the most are people who are of color, live in poverty, and have fully-functioning vaginae and uteri. I fight for queer rights, because there is no reason to discriminate against somebody based on their sexual/gender identity, their sexuality, or anything else that makes them supposedly “other.” I fight for people of color, not because they need a white person on their side, but because the inequalities have not been erased, because we still live in a society and a judiciary system that still perpetuates the problems and the stereotypes that give people of color more to fight against. I fight for disability rights and against ableism, because everybody should have equality of opportunity, and because the need is still there. I fight against poverty, nationally and globally, because it is a travesty on the part of the human race, and because it is connected to everything. I fight for education, because I think that it is the key to change and to progress.

I fight because I care. I fight because I am a humanist. I fight because it’s moral and ethical and true to my values.

But I have to understand- though I am willing to fight, I first have to listen.

So I invite people to share their stories. Their own experiences, the prejudice they have faced, their own privileges. I meant it when I said that education is the key to change and to progress, and it starts here.

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The Power of Listening: A Maybetheist Interview

What in the world could I possibly say about my friend Lauren besides the fact that she is pretty much one of the most amazing persons in the entire world (and I’m not just saying that because she reads my blog, but just in case she’s reading this right now [she will] – Hello, there!) Lauren has been a believer, a not-too-much-of-a-believer, a missionary, and a youth minister, and she’s only twenty-two years old. She has also stayed my friend through Christianity and atheism, including giving a great interview for me to post on here.

Perhaps my favorite part of the interview was when it was over and we were just discussing the differences between reality and assumptions. “Your first call as a missionary or a minister is to listen,” she explained, “People just think we’re talking about Jesus all the time. I spend most of my time giving students my attention 100%.”

And for that, I think we should all give her the attention she deserves.

Elizabeth: So despite the fact that I know, we have to set some things up for the readers. So, what denomination of Christianity to you belong to?

Lauren: I’m Roman Catholic.

E: And were you brought up in the Roman Catholic church?

L: Yes.

E: I promise that my next question isn’t to create controversy-

L: You had better put that in your blog.

E: I promise. Anyway, most people who grow up in the church have at least a moment where they have doubts, or perhaps a rebellious period in their life. Did you ever have a doubtful or rebellious moment?

L: (laughs) I wouldn’t call it a moment; I’m pretty sure it was years and years. Well, when you’re brought up Roman Catholic, from a young age there are different rules, rituals, classes, and as a kid you don’t understand it. You go to sunday school and mass and communion, but you can’t comprehend the depths of the sacraments at that age- at least I couldn’t.

My parents were paradoxical- I was expected to go to mass and all that, but I could do whatever I wanted otherwise. I explored other “religions,” which I thought were more fascinating than Catholicism. For a long time I identified with anything New Age, and I thought that there were “many paths to God” because that’s what my mom said.

When I didn’t believe in Jesus as my savior and I wasn’t bound to the teachings of Catholicism, I did what any teenager does and I did what I felt in the moment, which caused me a lot of pain. I tried to numb the pain, but that turned into a vicious cycle. I don’t look back at that time with fond memories.

When I was sixteen, I was supposed to go to my confirmation retreat. I remember telling my mom that I didn’t want to make my confirmation or be Catholic, and so it was pointless for me to go. My mom told me to just go to the confirmation retreat and I wouldn’t have to make confirmation, so I went. During adoration (a time of deep prayer, where Christ is physically present in the eucharist) I was sitting there crying, and I remember feeling so lost, like I would never be good enough. I remember telling Jesus that I wanted to come back to him. I’ve been devout from that point on.

E: So about NET

L: NET stands for the “National Evangelism Team.” It is a wonderful program that takes 100 Catholic young adults aged 18-28 every year and teaches them how to minister to teens on a 1-on-1 basis and retreat style ministry. You travel in a van with ten other people for a year and stay in host homes.

E: How do you feel about your experience?

L: (pause) That is a very difficult question to answer. I can’t explain what it’s like to be taken away from everything you know and be put in the middle of a cornfield, literally, not be allowed to speak to anyone you know, and be sent out to travel the country and not have any home.

For me, I idolized my parents’ past- they were hippies in a van with strong beliefs, just not in God but a lifestyle- so I saw myself like my parents but with God. It was rewarding for me. My teenage years were better after I accepted Christ, and I wanted other teens to know the same. It was just the dynamics of living as a missionary that were difficult.

E: Do you feel that you are called to be a missionary, or do you have a different spiritual gift?

L: I try to be a missionary every day- whether or not that is my formal title or what is written on my paycheck is left up to circumstances.

E: Would you do NET again in the future?

L: I wouldn’t do NET again. It represented my decision to be a devout Catholic as an adult, and I don’t need to renew that. I miss the fellowship and traveling- it’s an exotic, rewarding lifestyle, but I think there’s a time and a place for it.

E: You’ve worked with teens a lot in the past, and you work with teens now. Do you think that this is your ministry, or would you join another ministry in the future?

L: I enjoy working with teens now and in the past because I feel connected to teens- I still feel very young. I’m good at it because teens open up to me a lot. As long as I continue to be purely ministering and not trying to fill a void in my own life, I’ll continue.

E: We’ve spoken in the past- you know, like, yesterday- about different liberal movements in the Catholic church that are going on currently. Can you explain some of that to me?

L: The Catholic church is the largest organized denomination of Christianity, so you have a whole lot of people who call themselves Catholic in the world. There are a lot wh don’t follow Catholic teaching, some out of ignorance, some out of a deliberate action to undermine the Vatican and mold Catholicism to fit their views on how they should be able to fit in modern society. Some, in an attempt to separate themselves from the previous group, call themselves “Orthodox,” which I find erroneous. You’re either Catholic or you’re not, and if you are then you’re sticking to teachings of the church, and if you’re not then you’re not.

There’s a lot of controversy on whether or not to water down teachings to fit the masses, or if we should be content with a smaller group of the faith.

E: I think I already know which side you’re on, but could you say it anyway?

L: That’s so funny that you say that. Anyone who knows me at church, such as my colleagues that I work with at church, they all see me as very liberal- purely because I was raised liberally- I mean, I know what’s going on in the world, I can talk about politics and not limit it to abortion. I’m politically aware, I’m passionate about social justice, but that’s not the same as my religion. Politics, who I choose to associate with, that’s all liberal, but my faith and how I stick to doctrine- well, you could call it “conservative,” but I call it being faithful.

Jesus was friends with sinful people, I know he was friends with prostitutes and tax collections, I know he was, so I don’t choose to seclude my company to only include those who are perfectly holy. At the same time, Jesus never changed what he said or the heart of his message to better appease those he was with.

E: This has been amazing. Is there anything else you would like to say?

L: (pause) What’s mainly on my heart is Jesus said that there will always be poor. This life is not one for doing what pleases you at the moment or what makes you happy, this world will never offer everyone happiness. When I say this, this surprises people because I’m naturally cheerful and optimistic, but I know that this is because of my fortune in this life. I’ve been blessed in my station and I have a great support group, and I pray if these ever turn on me and if I experience one ounce of the pain and sorrow in the world that I’ll still believe and love God.

E: Most of my readership are either nonbelievers or headed in that direction-

L: Hence the name.

E: Exactly. Is there anything you would like to say to atheists about understanding Catholicism?

L: Catholicism teaches that God loves you based on who you are and not what you do, so it’s Catholic belief that God loved Hitler as much as Mother Teresa. I think that this fact has the ability to set you free.

My past life experience from my life’s past

Charles Darwin proposed the theory of evolutio...
Image via Wikipedia

I need to stop with these excruciatingly terrible titles.

Almost a year ago, when I still identified as a Christian, I underwent a past life regression experiment with my sister and my brother-in-law. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I believed in the idea of past lives, but I decided to give the experience a try and see what happened.

What did happen was, as I was just explaining to my friend, “trippy.” I remember the feelings of wanting to fly but being unable to, and, most curious of all, I remember feeling as though I had a deep connection to Charles Darwin. (I had recently watched the movie Creation, which is about the life of Charles Darwin and which is extremely amazing.)

Of course, at this point in my life I’m assuming that most of the things that I experienced were either worries that I was having at the time or based on recent experiences of mine. I have undergone hypnosis once before, in a psychology class, and I remember having visions then, as well, but I also don’t remember much of the experience (I felt that I was sleeping for much of the time, which was apparently a half an hour). I know that this is generally how these experiences work, but it was still something interesting to go through.

And it was right- I do have an important connection to Charles Darwin. The connection of admiration.

For more information, you can visit the Skeptic’s Dictionary‘s page on past life regressions here.

As the year ends

Patrick Henry College Residential Village
Image via Wikipedia

2010 was a lot of things for me. I moved three times. I was hospitalized once. I started two new jobs. Throughout the year, I did have my boyfriend to help me out and keep me centered, which I am extremely grateful for.

2010 is also the year that I can remember for the year in which I lost my faith.

Which is why it’s funny that, at the end of the year, I find myself finishing up a book about Patrick Henry College and the life that I have, ultimately, left behind. God’s Harvard, a book by journalist Hanna Rosin, is an excellent account of the lives and trials that PHC went through during 2005-2007. In the book we hear about the perfect students and couple as well as the “outcasts,” including my favorite “character” in this book, Farahn Morgan. This young woman, though conservative by most standards, stood out on campus as being more liberal, more laidback, and also more sharp-witted. My second favorite passage from the book comes from the epilogue and stars her:

She handled a lot of calls from Louisiana constituents asking about federal aid, and she wanted to tell them, “Go get a job. Since when do Republicans just throw money at things?” (p. 275)

Of course, my favorite passage is the very end of the book (don’t read further if you don’t want to be ~spoiled~) and painted a very familiar scene to me, a scene that I never want to be privy to again (also, I can’t help but wonder what the exact moment was where my eyes changed; one day, I would have looked at this and cried over how wonderful it was that this girl was “saved.” Now all I see is child abuse) :

Christy told them to close their eyes and bow their heads. “If you’ve never asked Jesus to take away the sin in your heart, I want you to tell me that …” …

Five kids raised their hands … she sent four away and kept one …

Christy led her to a private room and asked her to repeat a prayer.

Dear God
I have sinned
and my heart is dark.
Thank you for sending Jesus
to take away the darkness.
Thank you for saving me from the punishment of sin.
Amen.

The girl looked up at Christy, the spell broken.

“Now you’re God’s child!… Welcome to the family!”

The girl went back to the main room and blinked. … Her expression stayed blank, and she seemed a little off balance. At one point she looked down at her pink T-shirt, which read GIRLS RULE! in bubbly script.

She quickly zipped up her white sweatshirt and left the room, looking down at her sneakers.

The point is: I’m ready for 2011.

Xmas: “Christ” Was Never Being “Taken Out”

Chi Rho U+2627
Image via Wikipedia

You learn something new every day!

I stumbled across this post on a friend’s Facebook page the other day:

‎”Someone has written that people use Xmas and it means Xhaustion, Xcuses, Xchanges, Xcesses, Xtravagances, Xasperations, Xhibitions and worldly Xcitement. How much better to make the Lord the very center of our Christmas observance. Keep Christ in Christmas!”

Very cute.

In a comment, somebody left a link to a page explaining that the “X” in “Xmas” actually is representative of the symbol for the abbreviation for “Christ.” I looked to Wikipedia (naturally) to back this information up.

In Greek, the letter Χ (chi), is the first letter of Christ, and it, or the similar Roman letter X, has been used as an abbreviation for Christ since the mid-16th century.[16] Hence, Xmas is sometimes used as an abbreviation for Christmas. -Wikipedia article “Christmas

I know I’m a bad person, but considering all of the crap that I hear every year about “don’t take the ‘Christ’ out of ‘Christmas’,” I lol’d.

As my boyfriend said, “Merry Jesus Christ Savior Day of Joy and Good Will of Amazing Joy, Joy, Good.”