The Family That Prays Together, Strays Together

July 28th, 2010

Throughout my life, prayer has played various roles depending on how holy I was feeling and how much I believed.  When I was in high-school, college and on up through my twenties, I prayed all the time.  I had this non-stop running conversation with God going on in my head.  I prayed for friends, relatives and co-workers.  I prayed for the people that I knew who were dabbling in Buddhism, vegetarianism, feminism and environmentalism that God would save them from the eternal lake of fire for their despicable heresy.  I prayed for my friends who were gay that they would accept Jesus and stop being such a heinous abomination before the Apostle Paul, God and me.  I prayed for strangers as they walked by and I would ask God to touch their hearts, their minds and draw them close to Him.  I prayed for people while I was having conversations with them, asking God to use me to show his love and share the gospel with them.

When I was in college I added fasting to my regular prayer regimen.  I made the startling discovery that fasting amplified my  prayers and I certainly wanted God to hear mine!  Evidently God hears you better when you have an empty stomach, except of course in the case of famine – where either people who are starving don’t pray or it doesn’t count as fasting unless you actually have food to give up.  (Boy that God… he sure is a picky bastard!)  But like most things that involve unnecessary hardship – fasting did not come naturally to me.  I am not built to suffer, I am built to indulge.  So I was constantly changing the rules about how long I was going to fast and what constituted a real fast and if fasting through my afternoon snack would be good enough for God.

“Dear God – Today I will fast until supper.  I will spend this day reflecting on your supreme glory and lifting my voice as a humble servant on behalf of all the people in this world who do not have a personal relationship with you.  BUT!!!   I am going to let myself have a soda at lunch time God… a regular soda…not a diet soda… and I can have as much juice as I want all day long and I am not going to start this fast until I finish off this bag of Twizzlers and the rest of the Corn Nuts.  And also,  I can have a cookie at the union if I start to feel really weak, but I will not get a latte to go with it Lord.  I will only get a regular coffee, with a tiny bit of cream and no sugar.  Okay… maybe only one packet of sugar, but only one packet God.  And then I will skip dessert at dinner to make up for the packet of sugar – unless dessert is really, really good.  Then I will skip dessert tomorrow instead.

As I got older, got married, and had babies, the habit of fasting disappeared and my prayer life dwindled.  I had too many diapers to change and nursing moms don’t ever skip a meal.  When I did pray, it was generally for my husband who was not exactly ‘on fire for the Lord’.  Somehow I had managed to marry and make lots of babies with a man whose knowledge of the bible was pathetic and whose basic understanding of evangelical Christianity was abysmal.  I married a Catholic who went to parochial school through the sixth grade and if he worshiped anything – he worshiped it wrong.  Everyone knows that Catholics don’t know the real God.  They are terribly confused.  They worship the pope and Mary, instead of Jesus.  I was sure that God had sent me into my husband’s life to save him and his entire family of devout Catholic Mary worshipers from an eternity in Hell.  So I was always begging God to ‘get a grip on my husband’s life’.  Turn him around Lord!  Bring him close to you Jesus – the real Jesus – not the fake baby Jesus that is really just a prop for their fake Mary god to hold!  Discipline him God and bring him to the truth of who you really are!

But then I would freak out about the whole ‘discipline’ thing.  I had been taught that God disciplines those that he loves and that means he basically beats the shit out of his favorite people by giving them cancer or giving their babies cancer or letting them be paralyzed in a fiery car accident or melting their faces off in a propane tank explosion.  So my prayers always had distinct parameters.  I would try to back-pedal my way out of being disciplined by saying things like…

Bring my husband to you Lord, but please don’t hurt my babies to make it happen.  Please God!  Please don’t hurt my baby!  I want my husband to know you and love you as much as I do, but I don’t want you to give my baby cancer to teach him about your infinite love.  So if you could get a hold of my husband’s life without giving my baby leukemia, I would really appreciate it.  Thanks God!  Love you!  You are so awesome!  And please don’t give my baby cancer God.  Please!!  Thanks God!

But the thing is – that Christians are supposed to trust God and believe that he is always taking care of them.  So if our baby gets leukemia, there is a reason for it.  It is part of God’s plan.  It will only bring us closer to God and make us stronger for Jesus.   But I didn’t want my baby to get leukemia for Jesus.  If God had to give my baby leukemia to bring my husband to Jesus, then I would prefer that my Mary worshiping Catholic husband just went to hell.  I’m sorry honey – but I did it to save our baby!

I do remember a brief revival in my ‘married with babies’ prayer life when my third son Drew became very ill.  He was a plump, rosy cheeked, eighteen month old, when he came down with pneumonia, spent 13 days in the ICU and eventually had emergency surgery to remove a ‘rind of pus’ that had walled itself off in his lung making it impossible for even the most potent antibiotic to kill off the infection.  Every time he coughed, the infection would break through the pus wall, flow into his blood stream and his fever would skyrocket back to 105 degrees.  After attempting to siphon the infection out of his lung with two different chest tubes, the pediatrician finally decided to send him in an ambulance to Wichita for surgery.  By the time they sent Drew to Wichita he had stopped eating and was being fed through his veins.  He had grown very weak and you could see all the bones in his back.  We were very scared.  I distinctly remember sitting beside Drew’s hospital crib in Wichita promising God that if he got my baby out of that hospital whole and healthy, I would re-dedicate my life to Jesus.  I would go to church eight days a week, I would teach Sunday school, I would host bible studies and volunteer to run VBS for the rest of my life.  I would give all my money to the poor and spend every free minute for the rest of my days walking the streets in Mexican villages converting all the Mary worshiping Catholics to the correct version of evangelical protestantism.  But I also knew that the odds were very strong that Drew would get better regardless of my prayers.  While at that hospital, I saw moms and dads with seriously ill children that were much sicker than my baby.  It was highly likely that Drew was going to survive this ordeal, but looking at those kids, I could see that their odds were not as good.  This left a grave imprint on my mind, knowing that God was going to spare my baby, but some of those kids were never going to see another Christmas or another birthday no matter how hard their parents prayed.

My baby did get better.  We brought him home.  His emaciated body had grown so weak in the hospital that he was unable to walk and he had stopped talking.  He was a year and a half old and he could no longer sit up by himself.  But Drew healed quickly.  He had youth on his side, a devoted mother and spastic brothers who kept up tornadic activity around him all day long.  Drew gained weight, and within a week he stood up on his skinny legs and tottered across the room.  He shoved fist-fulls of macaroni and cheese and fat sausages into his mouth and soon started talking again and he hasn’t shut up since.  In just a few weeks time, except for the scars on his stomach and back, you would never know that he had been so incredibly sick.

And who did I owe for the miracle of my son’s recovery?  Who did I have to thank for bringing my baby back from the brink of death?  Why God of course!  God healed my baby!  God brought him back.  The team of doctors, surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, radiologists, x-ray technicians,  pharmaceutical researchers, surgical tool inventors, paramedics, hospital administrators – what did they have to do with anything???

Except deep down I knew that if Drew had gotten this sick just a mere fifty years ago, his chance of survival would have been almost nil.  I knew that the ability to operate on an infant – the tiny tools, the properly sized respirators, the correct dosage of drugs, these were all new technologies.  God didn’t save my baby.  Humankind’s ingenuity saved him.  Dedicated doctors, curious researchers, caring nurses, organized administrators, hard working people – they saved my baby – not God.  But of course, even though on a certain level I understood and fully accepted this idea, I still thought that ultimately it was God who decided who lived and died and that advances in science had nothing to do with the delicate thread of human life. If science saved my son, it was because God ordained that science save my son.

So did I keep my hospital room promises to God?  Did I keep up my end of the bargain???

Well…. sort of...

My husband was a medical resident at the time of Drew’s illness and I had three young sons (18 months, three and five).  We went to church sporadically, but we were not exactly stalwart in anything religious at this point in our lives, but I never forgot the promise I had made and when my husband took his first job as an MD, I eventually got ridiculously involved in a church and I think you could say that I kept up my end of the deal I made with God in return for him saving my baby by using all the advances of modern medicine.

As we began to go back to church and got more and more involved, I introduced the idea of prayer before meals to my family.  It became a habit, a ritual, a customary pause before meals.  The boys all became good at saying prayers at dinner.  One son in particular was masterful at meal time prayers.  He was the one we paraded out when the grandparents were visiting, knowing that this boy had the proper amount of reverence, devotion, fervor, gratitude and also he was wonderfully concise.  My youngest son however was a horrible pray-er.  He was awful.  He just couldn’t do it. We would try and make it really simple for Jack.  Just say three things you are thankful for Jack – just three things.  Just say, “Dear God thank you for __________ and ___________ and __________ ” But Jack could not come up with three things.  He would pause and stammer and wait and lapse into silence while our spaghetti got colder and colder and colder.  I think Jack thought that his three things had to be three amazing things, or three thing that no one else would think of or maybe Jack just wasn’t particularly thankful for anything.  After all, he is the baby of the family and usually gets everything he wants within seconds.  Perhaps gratitude was a foreign concept to him?  Do you understand gratefulness if you have never actually wanted for anything?  Or maybe Jack just thought the right people to thank were the people that actually took care of him – his brothers, him mom, his dad.  Maybe Jack – still being young and very left-brained, considered thanking an invisible deity to be strange and nonsensical.  Or maybe he just enjoyed the extra attention he got when he couldn’t think of anything to say during his prayer.

Giving up family meal prayers was probably the most awkward part of becoming an atheist for me.  (Aside from writing about it on the INTERNET!)  We would sit around the table staring at each other waiting for some kind of signal to start our meal.  How do we know when to eat?  What is the new signal?  We need a new ceremony – a song, a poem, a very short story, some kind of ritual that lets us pause and see each other prior to digging in.

And then I became an atheist making every prayer I have ever said – moot.

Still – losing one’s faith is not just a new way of thinking, it is also about establishing new habits and getting rid of old ones.  Up until six months ago, it was still very much my habit to pray and prayer is not an easy habit to break.  I went through a transition phase where I prayed to God by saying – God… I really don’t believe in you anymore, but on the off chance that you actually exist, could you help me find my lost earring? And then if I found my earring, I thanked God by saying - God, I am not sure you are even there, but if you had anything at all to do with helping me to find this lost earring – Thank You. Of course I knew that these prayers were absurd.  I knew there were people starving and dying from easily curable diseases and women were being raped by husband’s with AIDS and children were being turned into brutal soldiers and babies were suffering from abuse and neglect.  So I would add a little tag at the end of my prayers that went something like this… And God if you could please stop all the immense suffering in the world that would really be great.  You are so powerful Lord -so wise and strong and loving… so if you really do exist -  just please make it all stop.  Right now.  Thank you.

As my prayer life and my faith diminished, I found that the only time I prayed was when I couldn’t sleep.  Usually this was because I was worried about something and that worry was usually centered on one of my children, but I had some serious problems with praying for my kids at night when I couldn’t sleep.  First off – I had to apologize to God for hardly ever praying anymore and for not really believing in him anymore and then I had to spend some time promising to believe more and to pray more before I could even get to what I was really worried about.  Finally – I had to deal with the fact that I was laying on my back staring straight up at the ceiling while apologizing for never praying anymore which was not exactly a very reverent position.  Would it be better if I turned over on my stomach?  What if I laid on my side?  Do I really have to get up and kneel beside the bed?  What if my Mary worshiping Cahtolic husband wakes up while I am kneeling beside the bed?  That would be kind of embarrassing plus I would be committing the sin of demonstrating my holiness in front of someone and then I wouldn’t get the extra credit for holiness – because my husband had seen it.  And I knew that Christians are only supposed to be extra holy in secret when only God can see it.  This results in an awesome prize in heaven instead of the crappy earthly prize of only being seen by other people.  What I really needed to do was get up and go into the bathroom, lock the door and then kneel down and pray.  But was it really okay to pray beside a toilet?  Isn’t that kind of sacrilegious to pray beside the shitter?  I guess I could tiptoe out to the living room and kneel down by the couch to pray.  That would probably be the most pious thing to do, but what if someone wakes up and finds me kneeling down by the couch praying?  Not only do I lose my awesome prize in heaven, but my kids might freak out and my husband might think I had lost my mind.  It’s probably best to stay here in bed, losing the pious points, but also not disappointing God for being caught being holy or praying by a toilet.  Praying in the middle of the night was an exhausting ordeal – which was good.  I usually drifted off to sleep in no time.

Besides my middle of the night prayers were usually just more desperate pleas to ward off ‘God’s discipline’.

God – I know we are not exactly the most Christian family on the face of the earth and if we really loved you as much as we should, we would sell everything we had, give it to the poor and go open a missionary hospital in Africa.  I know we are not really obeying your word by living a very comfortable life in America and by occasionally purchasing things on clearance from the Pottery Barn catalog – but could you please not give anyone in my family leukemia to make us better Christians Lord?  I promise to start having early morning bible studies with my kids and to read a James Dobson book with my husband if you please don’t give us cancer to bring us closer to you God.  I will also start to give a full ten percent BEFORE TAXES GOD… no… I will give eleven percent!  ELEVEN PERCENT GOD!!!  BEFORE TAXES GOD!!! And I will never buy anything from the Pottery Barn catalog again!  Just please don’t give my babies cancer!  And please don’t kill my husband in a fiery car crash!  Eleven percent before taxes GOD and no cancer!  Okay God!  Okay?  Thanks God!  You are the best God EVER!!!  And sorry for laying here on my back while saying this prayer.  Just remember -  no cancer God!  You are awesome!

A few days ago, I was visiting a friend’s house and a meal was served.  The food was laid out on the kitchen counters buffet style and we went around the kitchen filling our plates with hamburgers, hot dogs, and garden fresh tomatoes.  The food looked delicious, but just as my kids and I were about to dig into the condiments, someone behind us intoned, “Let’s pray.”  My children were their usual tumultous pile of boyhood and didn’t hear the request to pray until the prayer was halfway finished.  It was one of those Mary worshiping Catholic prayers… “Bless us O Lord and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from your bounty…..“  I whispered to my kids, “Boys… boys… they’re praying.”  My boys quieted down and caught maybe the last dozen words of the prayer.  I still have an automatic impulse to direct my kids to quiet down during a prayer, but I did say, ‘they’re praying’ instead of ‘we’re praying’, so a shift has been made.  Perhaps someday I won’t feel the need to stop placing pickles atop my hamburger when others start demonstrating public piety to an imaginary deity.  I don’t need to thank God for my food.  Even if there was a God, I wouldn’t thank him for my food unless he started giving food in equal amounts to everyone.  Every good parent knows better than to give some kids plenty and other kids nothing, and yet if you examine the world situation, and believe in a ‘father type god’ you would have to admit that he is a pretty crappy parent with a penchant for severe favoritism.  When I want to show gratitude for my food, I prefer to thank my husband for bringing home the bacon so that I can buy groceries and myself for growing a fabulous garden and Kay for raising some fine grass finished beef and Darla for her free range eggs and a nearby dairy for it’s delicious milk from healthy cows and my sister for a generous amount of pork from her home raised pigs.  I am not sure where the line is in terms of respect for the prayers of the household that is serving you homegrown tomatoes on a hamburger buffet, but I do know that I am perfectly willing to prostitute myself and at least be quiet for a few moments of prayer so that I can enjoy the food and the company.   But I don’t think I will shush my kids again.  I am sure that someone else will do it for me anyway.  At this point in my life – prayer is a supremely silly act and though I am frequently silly around my kids, I don’t need them to see me pausing in respect so that other people can speak to an imaginary deity that only gives food in abundance to those with the money to pay for it.

Comments

  • Cacklin Rose:

    I shush my kids when others are praying out of respect for differences. I don’t stop piling on the condiments, but I do halt my conversation if only to make a silly face at my kid while all others’ have closed eyes.

    At home our signal to start meals is “let’s eat” or “dig in,” which I think is a lot better than a half-hearted “God’s neat; let’s eat.”

    • km:

      Ours is a “do you all have everything you need cos we’re not getting up again? Right so !”

      • Owl700:

        That’s one every mom needs. Kids think we should jump up like we have springs in our underwear!

  • Well said! And most of that stuff I have done myself as well. Even the praying and then saying but don’t hurt my family part.

  • Jimmy-boy:

    Well – that must have been cathartic to write Rechelle! It rang lots of bells for this ex-Roaming Catlick. All that praying before meals… My Dad would pray in restaurants (causing us to cringe – and want to never go to restaurants in fact). I still do not ever go out with my parents, and I very rarely invite them over because their piety gets to be so offensive.

    It was having a baby with a ‘probably fatal’ leukaemia that brought me finally out of my religion. First up was trying to make sense of all the different claims that the different flavours of theist were making. Dad sent me part of Cardinal Newman’s cloak to put in his STERILE room. You what? Do some voodoo with cloth from a dead priest and jeopardise the medical cleanliness insisted on by the experts? (which the RCC would then claim as a proof of a miracle to get Newman saint status incidentally)

    I had a handkerchief sent that had been prayed over by a US tele-evangelist, that likewise I was supposed to put in his bed.

    And various other objects that were supposed to heal him too.

    The list of people praying for him around the world got longer each day.

    But like you Rechelle, I was stunned that none of them could ever explain in any sensible terms why god might save my boy – but the 2 year old next door died in pain after much suffering.

    Did his family not pray hard enough? Was god out? Perhaps he was a terribly evil child? Perhaps they were protestants (god forbid!)? Or atheists?

    There was no explanation – and stil isn’t. So they resort to: it’s a mystery. We just have to accept that god’s ways are mysterious.

    What a cop out! We credit god if it goes well. But if it doesn’t he had some other divine purpose that we can’t know about?

    Now that is having your cake and eating it!

    The injustice of illness is one piece of strong evidence against the existence of a benevolent god.

    So delighted that your son is well now Rechelle and that you credit the doctors with his treatment and recovery. And I love the point about not stopping to thank this god who gives food to some of us while Africa (for eg) starves..

  • V:

    You really nailed some of my feelings exactly. It annoys me to know end when someone I know talks about (or posts on Facebook in excess about) how thankful they are to god and Jesus for taking away their baby’s infection or getting their father through surgery, and they never, ever mention the pediatrician who knew exactly what medicine to prescribe or the surgeon with the incredibly steady hands.

    And your last line? Priceless and perfect.

    Next annoyance you should tackle: How major league baseball thinks the seventh inning stretch at Sunday ballgames needs to have God Bless America as part of the deal!! It’s so annoying. If I wanted to be at church on Sunday afternoon, that’s where I’d be, not drinking a beer at the ballpark!

    • Rechelle:

      V – sorry your comment got trapped waiting for approval. I have no idea why.

  • Anna:

    I will stop what I’m doing and appear to bow my head, heathen that I am. I can usually catch the eye of another “almost” believer and we smile. My out of control fundie in-laws pray extensively before meals and “god” is a word in every other sentence. But me, nope, I didn’t even pray when I was almost dying of a ruptured nasty gallbladder. Oddly it comforted me that I stood by my convictions that there was no big guy above.

    • km:

      On the rare occassions that I ever saw people pray before a meal we were told by my mom that they were only looking for attention. I’m not kidding. That was her exact wording. She also had no time for people who blessed themselves with communion, or held their hands out praying. They were categorized as nutters. People who climbed holy mountains had “better things to do”.
      She did drag us to Mass every Sunday though.
      Religion is so odd.

  • km:

    Rechelle, your brave honesty humbles me.
    Reading through this it seems like your thoughts were held hostage by a god that you didn’t know how to please. It all seems very harrowing.
    We grew up more like your Mary-worshipping husband:) although it was the Sacred Heart (do you see all my uppercases, old habits die hard) who was the flavor in our house. When he didn’t deliver my mom would either turn his picture into the wall or stick him out on the windowsill. Other than that though we were very random- didn’t do the fish on friday or ashes or other nonsense though she did send me up twice for the blessing of the throats (St Blaise). I was prone to strep:) Our religion was a mix of harmless superstition and slight disbelief. We never went near the Old Testament because they were all bats. We were taught to question, question, question.

    Why don’t the evangs. like Mary?Are they even more women-unfriendly than the RCs.? Is it the “let’s keep 50% servile” approach. Christians are very antiwomen aren’t they?

    I always thought the Catholics were nutty enough, I never knew that there was a run of fundamentalists until I got to this country. Even here in the NorthEast you don’t trip over them too often.

    It seems to be a common thread but I had a sick kid too. He is in great shape now but he was literally at death’s door without the genius of cardiac surgeons. My friend’s child died though of leukemia. Both our kids were diagnosed around the same time. My friend was a staunch Catholic, he was simultaneously amused and appalled by my irreverence. We were great friends. He, who did what his religion taught him, was the one who lost his fine son. It didnt’ seem right. He and his wife are very, very good people.
    Illogical.

  • I know how you feel about feeling weird about praying. Many of my friends are very devout, and while I think that’s great for them, I have a hard time with all the constant “let’s pray” activities.
    In the end I just decided to go really new-agey. Instead of praying to someone I’m not sure really exists, I think really hard good thoughts “in someone’s direction.” If my friends having a bad day, i think about something really funny or really stupid or really both. Then I send them an email or call them and tell them about how I was trying to think of good things for them, but all I could come up with was batman riding Pegasus without a shirt in rainbow-land where they never run out of cheesecake.
    Invariably it makes them feel better. Which is just as good as praying as far as I’m concerned. Well, not everyone I tell about what good thoughts I was thinking for them, but well, I think they’ll get the psychic goodness anyways. One has to believe in something.

    • “Then I send them an email or call them and tell them about how I was trying to think of good things for them, but all I could come up with was batman riding Pegasus without a shirt in rainbow-land where they never run out of cheesecake.”

      That was fantastic.

      • Joel Wheeler:

        Agreed. >likes<

  • susan:

    WOW….WOW.
    That must have drained you. I love that you have such insight. The older I have gotten the more I realize that so many people do not have this attribute. Without this growth and change is impossible.

    Is is also the fact that it is imperative to view the world through logic? Which leads to common sense. Again. Necessary tools to get through this thing we call life.

    Your words so resonate with familiarity as you charted your path to today.

    Thanks for that Rechelle

  • LucyJoy:

    AMEN, sista! :o)

    Like Jimmy-boy, I’ve always thought the theory/statement “We don’t know what ‘God’s’ intentions are.” is a cop out, too.

  • Cheyenne:

    Wow, I was very much like that as a believer, too. Except I married into a Mormon family, who everyone knows are much more misguided even than Catholics. I was always inconsistent with prayers because I finally realized that a lot of times praying made me more anxious because I was worrying about whatever problems, plus the whole ‘God’s discipline’ thing. Sad thing is, my very devout sister lost her nine-day-old baby from a fatal disorder a few months ago, yet I have two perfectly healthy children. To me, it’s obvious that there’s no sense to it, and fortunately I don’t have to be angry at God about it, but it does make me angry, or sad maybe, that everyone was spouting the God platitudes when it happened. How many anguished, unheard prayers were being said during those nine days? And they’re trusting God that their next child will be ok. *sigh*

    • Kay in KCMO:

      You married into the Mormons? Do you get grief from the in-laws about not having a temple marriage? Do you know about this place: http://www.exmormon.org/

      It’s not just for exmormons; there are also people there like you who married into a Mormon family and need support.

      Praying to find lost keys apparently is big with the Mormons. For some reason I find that very amusing.

      • Cheyenne:

        Kay,

        I haven’t gotten too much grief about not joining the Mormon church and having a temple marriage, probably b/c my in-laws really like me regardless. Although his dad and my parents (on and off holy-roller evangelicals) both counciled against becoming “unequally yoked”. What would we teach our children, etc?

        Yes, I really found a lot of great info on the http://www.exmormon.org site (not to be confused with the .net site *shudder*). Funny enough, that site was one of the things that started me on my way out of theism. Not that I was ever Mormon, but I realized that there were many things on there where you could perfectly substitute the word Christianity for Mormonism, and it would be just as damning.

        I haven’t heard about the keys thing, but I do know a lot of other funny or otherwise things about Mormonism. One thing I remember finding annoying was that when a child was sick, the father could pray a “blessing” over the child, because he held the priesthood, but the mother couldn’t (she could pray a regular prayer, but it wasn’t “special” b/c she’s a woman).

        I’ve been around it for the last 15 years, so I think I’m pretty knowledgeable for an outsider. I do find it interesting.

        • Kay in KCMO:

          Glad you know about that site. I’ve been off and on there since about ’99. Some of the best people I’ve never met are on the BB.

          I’ve never been Mormon, but find the religion and the mental processes necessary to leave it to be fascinating. So many former Mormons did what you did and studied their way out of theism altogether once they extricated themselves from the cult. It’s an interesting process to watch.

  • Ohh, the praying. I don’t run into it too often (my friends are generally also heathens, or aren’t pre-meal prayers in mixed company).
    I did enjoy last Christmas, though. My boyfriend’s mom insists that we read the story of Jesus’ birth from the Bible before anyone gets to open presents – which I’m fine with. It’s her holiday, so, whatever.
    His mom had his sister read Luke 2:1-20 (you know, the cute bits with the baby and the shepherds and whatnot), but the sister didn’t know when she should stop reading, and continued on past Luke 2:20 to this part, much to my delight:

    “And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

    22And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;

    23(As it is written in the law of the LORD, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)

    24And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. ”

    I encouraged her to keep going, but by then she’d realized her mistake and stopped. Too bad! Christmas would be way more fun with some purification rites and animal sacrifices, am I right?

    • Nanc in Ashland:

      Does roasting a turkey count as animal sacrifice?

      Thoughtful and interesting post, Rechelle. Random thoughts (besides the above in response to Nadine’s last line!):
      My great grandparents were Scottish Methodists and my great-grandmother always set the table with the plates face down. Great-G-Rent always said the following grace: Bless the bread, damn the meat, turn the plates over and let’s eat.

      My best friends little girls never went to church except when the paternal G-Rents visited at Christmas and always sang Away in A Manger referring to the Little Lord Cheezits . . . We still laugh about that.

      I’m an atheist and for years I drove my elderly next door neighbor 4 blocks to her church because she could no longer drive or walk the distance. Our apartment building and church are on the main drag in our small town which means the entire congregation pretty much had to drive past but she could never seem to catch a ride . . . Still bugs me to this day and I still see her a couple of times a month over at the big retirement home at the County seat that she had to move to.

  • Excellent (and cathartic) post Rechelle! Could have written it myself (well except the babies stuff – I lost faith before mine were born).

    I always maintain silence during others prayers, but still go on about my business. It’s that respect for others feelings. I might find it silly, but they take it seriously. Not being quiet would be like someone talking on their cell phone during a movie. An offense of the highest order. : )

  • Samantha:

    Great post Rechelle, you make me think and I think it all comes down to this….people believe what they want to and do what they want to and what makes them feel better, sometimes those beliefs change over their lives, sometimes they don’t, it’s all about what gets you through your day, your life etc. I don’t see any difference in believing in the “daddy in the sky” story or the greek gods in mythology story or the virgin reward, people NEED to believe in something or to HAVE some meaning to their existance…even if it is only a natural belief of we live and then we die, it is something to believe in……..People that force their beliefs on others though are just plain looking for CONTROL and POWER.

    Samantha

  • Samantha:

    oh and I heard a minister say that religion was only a form of control for the masses otherwise there would be chaos!

    Samantha

  • I lost a brother to leukemia in 1963. Our Lutheran minister had the balls to tell my heartbroken mother that ‘NO’ she could not have a particular hymn played at the funeral because it was a Methodist song. Religion is nuts… just plain nuts.

  • Martha in Kansas:

    Wow, your religious beliefs had so many rules! It must have been exhausting and I see why it began to just not make sense.

    I am quiet during other people’s prayers just out of respect for their beliefs. It’s no skin off my nose, as my dad used to say. I work with people of many different beliefs and if they want to stand on their heads, twiddle thumbs, or whatever, I feel they have the right to do so — whatever has meaning to them, gets them through the day, so long as it does no harm to others. Which might make me just a non-confrontational wuss.

    BTW, someone mentioned hymns. Years ago a friend mentioned a song with the first line “By the light of burning martyrs” and it’s now my hymn of choice, just because of the ick factor. My middle name is mischief!

    • Jimmy-boy:

      Hey Martha,

      One of the things that I have found to be quite challenging – but also in the end, sensible – is that beliefs just don;t warrant respect. In fact, respect for beliefs, irrespective of whether they are good or bad, is what has got us into half the mess we are in today.

      Respect for people is definitely good: so I don’t go round deliberately offending people. But I am happy to point out that generally speaking, respect is earned. We should all earn some by virtue of being human.

      But the mad ramblings we want to believe? They deserve none until they are shown to have some validity. I don’t ask for respect for my views. And I don’t give much to anyone elses!

      Trying to think of some examples of what this might mean in practice…

      • Martha in Kansas:

        Jimmy, you’re right and I think that was actually what I meant (but didn’t say). Respect for people. Their beliefs might be crazy as all get-out to my view, but I still think they have the right to them. As I have the right to my own. Thanks for the correction!

        • Jimmy-boy:

          Martha – you make me feel bad! It wasn’t in any way supposed to be a correction! One of the things I rejoice in, is my lack of certainty now. i I modify and refine my views all the time. It also helped me lose my faith – that realisation that in fact I just didn’t know and couldn’t be certain – and now it’s a tennet of my world view, if you like. Along with death and taxes, the only other certainty for me is that I will change my mind, and regularly!

          I love this blog: Rechelle writes well – and about interesting stuff (gardens and religion) – and thre people who come here are mostly pretty interesting, and provide a great new perspective for me.

  • Carol:

    If you are in someone else’s home, then you abide by their rules. If you don’t want to abide by their rules, then don’t eat there. I stand respectfully and quiet when people pray (or say the Pledge of Allegiance) and my sons do too – even the 8 yr old who says god is selfish because he wants everyone to only play his games and not do what they want.
    Friends put up with other friends’ ideas. Evangelizing, whether christian or muslim or atheist is obnoxious. Your kids ignoring others silent time is much like evangelizing – at least throwing in their face “WE THINK YOU ARE WRONG.” What harm does it to shut up and stand still for a minute?

    • Rechelle:

      Carol – It does no harm, which is why I was happy to shush my kids and stand silently through the rest of the prayer. But I think the blanket statement of ‘respecting the rules of other’s peoples homes is kind of terrifying. You never know the rules until you are there. What if their rules involve beating their kids or ritual sacrifice? Do you stand mutely by while that goes on too? What is wrong with respectfully disrespecting stupid rules? Why does everyone value ‘getting along’ over debate and progress? I don’t understand this mentallity at all. I think respect is often just another term for fear and laziness.

      • “Why does everyone value ‘getting along’ over debate and progress?”
        Yesss!

  • Jennifer:

    Long post! Good one, too. I liked a lot of what you were saying, although I do think that while visiting someone’s house I would respect their way of doing things. It doesn’t have to mean you believe in what they are doing–just their right to do it.

    Apparently, God also owns trucks! I saw a nice, white truck cab that said “Owner: God” on the door. (He doesn’t operate them–that’s done by two other people, apparently). Wish I had my camera!

    Thanks for sharing the story about Drew–that must have been terrifying for you and your husband.

  • carole:

    We dont pray before we eat. Although on occasion, we do say “thank you dear dear sweet little baby Jesus, tiny little baby, cute Jesus” and then grab a fork and commence, with smiles. I think one of the kids got it from the movie taladaga nights.

    • Joel Wheeler:
      • km:

        That’s the funniest thing I’ve seen in ages.

        • sara:

          OMG Classic! My 2 oldest teens work at KFC/Taco Bell, we actually say that prayer quite often!!!

  • Kay in KCMO:

    Wow. What a great post! Rechelle, reading this makes me very glad that if I had to be raised in a religion I’m glad it was a liberal congregation of the United Methodist Church. I hate to think what I would’ve turned out like if I’d been raised evangelical. One of my sister’s went that direction many years ago and she’s insufferable and has alienated the entire family except for our mom. This sister is extremely, desperately unhappy and angry but will never admit it.

    Prayer proves that the Judeo-Christian god is a capricious bastard. When Christians don’t get what they want (a well child, parent, spouse, etc.) they can just chalk it up to their god’s will. Their god always gets a free pass and never, ever has to be accountable.

  • Sara:

    There is one thing to discuss the scenerio of having a baby with Leukemia then to actually live it as I have.
    There is no plan in a baby suffering so terribly- no mercy no sense, no reason – it’s cruelty and horror unimaginable… As often it brings people closer to God as it does tear them apart that a God even exists that would let a baby suffer and die.
    I personally had a very hard time speaking to God, in fact I let everyone else do it for me – Buddhists, Catholics, Athesits even gave it as shot ‘just in case’… my baby has ‘blessedly’ lived past treatment but another who had the MOST faithful parents I had ever met…did not make it.. and I know that has nothing to do with a plan or how many prayers were being said ~ and it had everything to do with the resilience of the cancer .
    thoughtful post, mirrors my own thoughts in many places…

  • Spinny:

    My boys (husband and 10-year old son) have a game they play during prayer time at extended family get-togethers.

    They each pick something horrific to silently pray for while the official prayer is being said. Perhaps that the turkey will come back to life and do a dance on the table, or that a meteor will fall through the roof, or my son’s favorite — that the fleas of a thousand camels will infest the armpits of the person saying the official prayer.

    Funny, none of those things ever happen. . .

  • CilleyGirl:

    What an exhausting way to have lived. No wonder atheists have so much energy! Although I wonder if Satan requires the same kind of time commitment as God apparently does… ;)

    • Deanna:

      Atheists don’t believe in Satan either.

  • Christine from Canada:

    Excellent post!

    Ya know, I’ve been watching a series on a&e tv called “Obsessed”.

    I’ve always thought praying, bargaining with God, the bead thing with rosaries, kneeling, crossing oneself, etc., is very OCD to my mind.

    Is it just me?

  • Samantha:

    Thinking more about this why would you expect your guests to pray with you, I mean isn’t that being a disrespectful host? Your guests should not be expected to follow rituals that they don’t believe in. This courtesy and good manners and respect is a two way street- or it should be. How about if you didn’t pray before meals but they did, shouldn’t they be comfortable to do so???

    • Bill:

      I agree with you Samantha.. Why would anyone respect an atheist that will not respect other people when all they do is complain that no one will respect them. Which according to Rechelle she has no respect for anyone not her family, husband,children, or friends. I bet we all will be reading that husband is fed up with her temper and lost life. She is so addicted to trying not to believe in anything that she has lost all intelligence and only writes from her angry and will not listen to anyone who tells her she is way off. I bet her kids do not care for there mom’s belief and her potty mouth.

      • km:

        Ah yes, here it is. The “crazy lady, her husband must be sick of her” line because there can’t be any good marriages out there where the wife doesn’t agree with the husband. Yes, a good wife must think exactly the way her husband does or there will be chaos. Why he’ll be emasculated and castrated !!! Planting random, gangly trees around the house while speaking in a eunuch falsetto.

        Rechelle, do you “write from your angry”? . Is it hard?
        Bill, you don’t seem to be coming from a very mellow place yourself. Why don’t you go back to the fifties, they’re waiting there for you with a meal cooked and ready to take off your shoes. Off with you now, bye !!!

      • Rechelle:

        Dear Bill – actually, no one is telling me that I am way off, except for a few random folks on the internet and why would I care about what they say? But thanks for this comment Bill. I always love it when people like you aim right for the balls – targeting my family, my marriage and my friends all of whom I am sure you are intimately acquainted. So very loving your neighbor like yourself there ‘Bill’.

      • Jimmy-boy:

        Hey Bill,

        Do you know many atheists? Or have you just come here with your prejudices?

        And clearly you don;t know much about respect either. Bigoted and offensive. Presumably you are a Christian?

        Cheers,

        Jimmy

      • Samantha:

        Bill, you missed my point ,in my opinion Rechelle was being respectful…….in an uncomfortable situation. If you have guests in your home the guests should rule, period.

      • Keith:

        Ah, here comes Bill to shovel on the christian point of view. The demand for respect even though you show none for others who don’t agree with your particular delusions; the ad-hominem attack when rational thought fails you; the complete inability to see the irony in the statement: “Why would anyone respect an atheist that will not respect other people?”; the lack of grammatical accuracy (weren’t home-schooled there, were you Bill?)

    • Joel Wheeler:

      Praying in front of guests is a form of proselytizing, which is mandated in evangelical circles.

  • Joel Wheeler:

    OH Rechelle! You are in fine form today. That one brought forth tears and laughter, both born of familiarity.

    I, too, still converse intermittently with the Still Small Voice.

    Me: hey.
    SSV: hey!
    Me: I’m just checking again to see if you might really be God.
    SSV: I know. We’ve been over and over this.
    Me: I know; sorry. I just …
    SSV: Chill: it’s OK, really! I’ll always be here, just like I always was. But God – the one you were taught about as a kid – He’s not real. You know that now.
    Me: I know. But … YOU still love me, right?
    SSV: Always have, always will. And I’ll continue give you the what-for if you behave like a dick. You can’t get rid of ME. Or my love for you. But I’m not God.
    Me: OK. Talk later?
    SSV: Anytime you need me.

    And your anecdote about grace reminds me of the impromptu grace I strung together over a Thanksgiving meal with a friend years ago, VERY early in my ‘questioning’ phase:

    “Dear Lord, we just want to thank You for this wonderful meal that I prepared from the ingredients I bought with the money I earned at the job that I got based on the qualifications I earned from the education I worked hard at, and that I’m able to keep based on my good performance … Amen.”

    Thank you for getting it.

  • Rechelle your writing strikes a cord with every parent out there, and no, there is no rhyme or reason to life.

    Keep on writing, and we should all hope for a book in the future.

    • km:

      You are right Bridgette ! Rechelle, think about it please.

  • Jo:

    Man, I love this blog.

    Great post.

  • wow, you are channeling my thoughts right now. Yes, yes, yes, to everything.
    I just “called” to teach the fine church ladies every third Sunday. I am a teacher so I figure I can teach whatever I am called upon to teach, regardless of my waning faith..Vegan cooking to vegans and Catholicism to Catholics but I wonder if this will be the straw that breaks the back of the camel hiding out in the closet.

  • Gigs:

    Rechelle, I love this post – everything about it. I am a former Catholic who started questioning things about 15 years ago and kept quashing the thoughts while maintaining the rituals of my lifelong religion. I finally had to admit to myself it was all bunk. There was no way around it. There’s not a shred of doubt in my mind anymore. But here’s the thing – I fell so bereft. When thing go badly I still want to pray. I do it automatically, then mid-prayer I’ll remember, “Oh wait. I don’t believe in that shit anymore.” And then I realize – I have nothing to replace my mis-guided former beliefs. It makes me so sad, especially when I realize that this life is IT. When it’s over, it’s over. No cavortig around with St. Peter, the archangels and the dead rellies on a cloud for all eternity. As a newborn atheist I’m asking you and your commenters: what do you replace the religion with, exactly? Right now I have a big gaping hole and I have no idea how to fill it up.

    • Rechelle:

      GIgs – I have yet to find a replacement for the hole left by religion. For me – that hole is somewhat filled with relief, but it is also filled with plain old emptiness. I don’t miss my beliefs, but I miss some of the ‘extras’ that went along with my beliefs. Fellowship, family, community, I guess it is mostly about the people for me. And yes – it is troubling that this life appears to be ‘all that there is’. At times that seems pretty crappy. But then there were times when thinking of heaven, I would be troubled by all the people that wouldn’t make it in – so either way it was problematic for me.

      • Samantha:

        I like to believe that when I die the energy that made my body alive leaves and goes out into the universe. I’m still here but in a different form so in a way there is something more.

    • Jimmy-boy:

      Gigs,

      I nearly became a priest (I requested to go to the English College in Rome when I was 18 and was told to wait until I’d finished at college). It took me to my early 30s to throw it away.

      Up to this point I knew exactly what you were talking about.

      For me though, it has been total and utter liberation! I am so much happier now. None of that constant angst I used to carry trying desparately to make sense of it all. No worries about whether I am going to heaven or not. Just a very real appreciation that I live just once -so I’d better make the most of it.

      Yes – I quite like some of the ritual – but not enough to go searching for it now (going into a church makes the hair stand on my neck now I understand what is going on in there week after week).

      So now I replace religion with life. The time previously devoted to religion just disappears into life. And the energy put into religion is a welcome addition to the energy needed to do other things.

      The really big surprise (at the time: I understand it a bit better now) was that I didn’t lose any of my principles. I was typically Catholic in my sensitivities to the underpriviliged. Still am.

      The only challenge is how to bring up my two young kids. I don’t want to inflict my views on them any more than I want any one else to do so. But I would be naive to suggest I have no influence on them. I tell them to make their own minds up as adults based on the evidence.

      But…what do I say to my daughter about sex for eg? I don’t want to encourage her to promiscuity – but I don’t want her to have any hang ups about her body or sex either. Fortunately her Mum is on hand to help here and she is very good at this stuff (obviously my daughter doesn’t really want to talk to me about it!).

      But I am definitely much happier – and I feel liberated from a big oppression having got rid of all that baggage. And death no longer scares me like it used to.

    • Joel Wheeler:

      Gigs, I feel you.

      Here’s my suggestion. Fill that hole with discovery. Try to realize that what’s missing is the idea of some higher/greater/bigger/more powerful force that cared for you, but also that whenever you felt that good stuff, it was really just your own mind creating it. you can still create those feelings, you just can’t fool yourself into thinking they’re externally generated.

      These days I feel more and more that, given how spectacular and wonderful and mysterious THIS life and world are, it’s a wee bit selfish to think we deserve second, even better ones. What’s filled the hole for me is relentless discovery. Of course, I was raised evangelical, so just learning about evolution was hugely satisfying: what a beautiful and elegant truth! Catholics aren’t generally as science-challenged as Protestants, so you may be well ahead of me already on that score. But there’s so much to learn and understand. Our provisional understanding of the universe is growing daily, and I find that I can’t get enough.

      There are a million books to read, but as a jumping-off point, you might enjoy Carl Sagan’s swan song, The Demon Haunted World; Science as a Candle in the Dark.

    • Kay in KCMO:

      Gigs, +1 to what Joel Wheeler said. I also highly recommend discovery. Just watching science shows on the Science Channel or PBS is a great start. Our planet and the universe are full of amazing things and processes and they are worthy of your attention if you’re willing to put in some time.

      Joel’s mention of Demon Haunted World made my heart skip a little: Science *is* a candle in the dark; while religion seeks to shut down inquiry (the Dark Age was dark for a reason), science seeks to widen our understanding – from bosons and quarks to six-gilled sharks to plate tectonics to meteorology to planet accretion to quasars and pulsars to…

      Now, if the wonders of the earth and universe aren’t your thing then how about serving your fellow humans? Do you see a problem that isn’t being addressed in your community? Do you have a skill or ability that would be useful to others? As for me, I love science shows and I’m semi-obsessed with drawing floor plans of houses and apartments of my own design and thinking about sustainable architecture and responsible living. These things fill me, but I confess to never having had a gaping hole when I dropped the whole supreme being thing. I was 10 years old when I had my atheist revelation and life just continued on for me.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is to just be open to wonder. We live in a pretty fragile place surrounded by things that are so weird they scoff at Einstein and have never heard of Newton. Give wonder a try; it’s almost impossible to be disappointed.

      • Rechelle:

        Kay – Love drawing a good floor plan! Nothing entertains me more.

    • I’ve wondered the same thing! I’ve at times struggled with what to feel the gaping hole with. I suspect over time it will get smaller, but I don’t ever think it will totally go away. Being born into something and having it ingrained for years does not make it easy to forget.

      As far as what happens after we die. I’m ok with there being nothing. I used to worry all the time that my loved ones wouldn’t make it to heaven or that even I wouldn’t make it in. It is somewhat of a relief to me that when you die you die. No more worrying about who goes where.

      • yikes not feel, but fill! And it’s so true about the discovery thing. I have a thirst for knowledge that I have never had before.

      • I filled my hole with graduate school and a whole new theoretical look on life. The dreaded “truth is made, not found” school.

        It has been very helpful and informs much of my thought now, where religion used to.

        As for prayer, Rechelle: I always hated it. Even when I was a “good Christian” I could not pray. I always felt like a ridiculous fraud when I would try, and people at church camp (I tried Baptist, Methodist, AND Lutheran camps) would say I had not learned yet to properly pray, and they’d try to teach me their brand, which turned out to be just the same as the others’ brands, and still was a most ridiculous and stupefying experience. I mean, I believed in God, but all this ridculous begging for things? Why would He care? And if we weren’t begging we were supposed to be “praising” and did God really need all this cheerleadering and support from little old me? He must really have some self esteem problems.

        So yeah, that wasn’t hard to completely discard. I think in my long evolution to atheism, the prayer was the first to go.

        Thanks for this post, by the way.

  • Gigs:

    FEEL. FEEL so bereft. CAVORTING. Cripes, I hate a typo.

    • Gigs:

      Thanks everyone. I do, indeed, feel a weightlessness from throwing off all the baggage, and guilt, and unanswered theological questions. I’m definitely appreciating that part of my transformation. But there’s an underlying sadness as well, almost somewhat akin to finding out for sure that there’s no Santa Claus. It will take some time for the emptiness to go away, I’m sure, especially because ingrained Catholicism runs quite deep, and old habits die hard!

      • jalf:

        One thing I sometimes find comforting is the *lack* of knowledge. I don’t know what happens when I die. Who’s to say this life is all we get?

        I’m pretty sure there’s no “organized” afterlife with God and angels and all that. But we don’t even know what our consciousness *is*, why we’re self-aware. So how can we know that it just gets switched off forever when we die?

        To me, atheism is mostly about not pretending to have any answers. Scientists have figured out a fair amount about the universe, sure, but there’s still so much they’re unsure about, so much that’s based on guesswork, and so much they have absolutely no clue how to approach.

        There is plenty of room for surprises. We literally don’t know what’s waiting around the corner. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring (will the sun rise? I don’t know. Statistically, the odds are pretty good, but we don’t *know*. There could be some scheduled maintenance work going on that we missed the notice about, and which requires switching off the sun for a day or two. My fridge could be full of cookies (admittedly i didn’t put any in there, but you never know!) and when I die, I could wake up in another form, another place and another time. Who can say?

        All we can do is guess, based on what’s happened so far. So far, we’ve seen the sun come up every morning (or if we’ve been sleeping at the time, we’re willing to take people’s word for it), so we guess that there’s probably a pattern here and it’ll come up tomorrow too.

        But how many of us have experienced death? We don’t have anything to base our guesses on. So why assume the worst? We don’t have any answers, so why believe in the most depressing one you can find?

        And when things go wrong, I’m not sure what’s more encouraging: that it’s part of a plan (that God *wants* you to suffer and has arranged for it to happen), or that it’s sheer coincidence.
        If God is behind it, I suppose you can find some comfort in trying to bargain with him. Pray until you’re blue in the face, hoping that he, in his infinite wisdom, will change his mind and go “Ah, I guess you’ve had enough now”. if God had nothing to do with it, if it was jut an accident, you don’t have anyone to blame, and there’s no one you can appeal to to make things better. But you also don’t have to worry that this is happening because an all-powerful supernatural being has a grudge against you… Which I at least find quite a comforting thought.

  • Deanna:

    I’m a staunch atheist. Have been for 20 years, but was raised Catholic and went to Catholic private school for 10 years.

    Every now and again I’ll still do the “Dear God” thing in my head on accident. I find it incredibly amusing how ingrained it is and generally end the thought with a “who the hell am I talking to?” So, it will eventually die down, but never really stop.

    As for meals, there’s nothing wrong with thanking the farmers for the food they’ve provided and being thankful for the good fortune to have it to eat. No God necessary in that equation.

  • Jennine:

    Is being a “staunch” atheist like being a devout atheist?

  • Rechelle,

    I’m a preacher’s daughter, a pastor’s wife, and a credentialed minister.

    I’m also a cancer mom– a mom to a (then) 7-year old girl who suffered horribly during a bone marrow transplant. All up and down the halls of that transplant unit, babies and children suffered. And 80% of those who were hospitalized with Sarah at that time have since died.

    A lot of stuff in life and faith is incredibly complicated. No doubt about it.

    I usually don’t agree with what you write. But I always appreciate your honesty and your ability to communicate difficult ideas in a way that borders on the profound.

    Although you probably don’t have a lot of pastor’s wives reading your blog, you won’t be getting rid of me anytime soon! I enjoy reading your thoughts and love the way you write.

    Becky

  • As a former practicing Catholic I am always amazed at how other churches teach and know the Bible. You’re right Rechelle, Catholics don’t approach things the same way. I have never known scripture by heart, or been taught it in that way. But damn, was I taught how to pray. Many prayers. And with that prayer comes guilt like nobody’s business. Because if things aren’t done right or in the right order, you’re goin to hell, so you better say your hail Mary’s and Glory Be’s. Every now and then I catch myself sayin something in my head about how I’ll do better and I’m sorry and all that crap. But, it’s dwindling. I don’t know exactly what I believe or don’t believe anymore. But I do know my upbringing as a Catholic has forced me to deal with guilt issues that I put on myself. How is that healthy? What kid or adult should deal with that? Fortunately, I have a sensible husband who helps me realize I have nothing to feel guilty about and , get this, I am actually a good person.

  • susan:

    Started my work day watching that HILARIOUS baby jesus prayer. What a way to start a work day which is why I always see what your latest posts are Rechelle. Very unexpected.

    BILL: Why so much hatin’? jeez..go somewhere else.

  • Jane G:

    It’s interesting that the ads on this page are religious in nature and are for praying and how to pray and meditate and all that.

  • Oh, Rechelle. Such a well-thought and well-spoken piece.

    “Every good parent knows better than to give some kids plenty and other kids nothing, and yet if you examine the world situation, and believe in a ‘father type god’ you would have to admit that he is a pretty crappy parent with a penchant for severe favoritism.”

    SO TRUE! Thanking a deity for all we have seems so strange to me when I consider how much less abundance – and how much more pain – I see doled out to others.

    I am grateful for all that I have and hopeful for all that I need. I’m also thankful that I don’t feel the need to thank a deity or throw myself on the mercy of this god or that one. Isn’t being grateful enough without thanking anyone in particular? Isn’t being hopeful enough without begging? Once again, I am so glad that I was raised without religion. Praying to a picky bastard would not sit well with me.

  • km:

    Anne Rice may drop by here Rechelle. She’s on step one.

    http://gawker.com/5599677/anne-rice-quits-christianity-in-the-name-of-christ

  • kelly:

    why does prayer have to be about God? How about being grateful for the food… for the abundance that the earth has provided for us?

    Peace we invite you to greet us
    Faith dance with vision around
    Love circle through us and open our eyes
    we bless with our hearts the gifts of this land

  • Mindy:

    I’m really glad that I skipped the whole brainwashed-churchy part that a lot of atheists seem to go through before they realize the truth. I’ve never been a believer, so there is no hole to fill up. There’s just life and experiencing it.

  • Brian V.:

    Holy Smoke, I love your open heart. Long live unplugged Rechelle.

  • Thought provoking as always. Your journey comes at an interesting time for me as I am in the midst of a crisis of faith. It takes a big set of balls to be anything but the norm these days! I love your conviction! Thanks for sharing.

  • Tom Coward:

    Rechelle: As an atheist since my teens (I’m now 56) I enjoyed reading this wonderful post. It reminded me of what religion is like ‘from the inside.’ Although I am now a refugee from the Bible Belt (not much prayin’ by anybody up here in New England) this essay brought back memories of famliy dinners gone by! (My immediate family were all pretty luke-warm Christians at best, but I had plenty of devout cousins, uncles and aunts to make up for it.)

    Keep up the good work. You are an inspiration far more than you may imagine.

  • Robbyn:

    Hey again Rechelle,

    A thought-provoking post for sure. Jew, here, by choice and from a christian past and years in christian ministry. I believe in miracles, prayer, and God, as you know. But the main difference I’ve found personally between the Jewish form I choose and the christian sort of my past is that as a human being, Jesus was on the same level as everyone else…he was human, not a god to be prayed to, and never claimed to be (shocker, there). I believe we’re all here on earth to affect change for the better, as much as is in our power to do so, and that those changes should be good ones…and that is my idea of “saving” the world…NOT christian evangelism and the bully pulpit of “believe, or ELSE.” Whatever I don’t have control over, I simply don’t. My asking why or why not doesn’t change that fact…’cause I am not a god, either. But it has no bearing on the God I know to exist. I was abused as a child and had a lot of questions about why. But my anger is directed at my parents, the people who overlooked what was happening and did nothing, and a justice system that needs to be changed to better protect the innocent and vulnerable. My husband ended up being physically abusive, but I left. Why? I attribute my survival to God, and I have helped MANY since those days. It doesn’t answer to the fact there are innumerable people still being victimized…by other people. I don’t expect my earthly father to step in and solve all us kids’ fights and injustices…I don’t expect God to, either. That’s the kicker about free will or being preprogrammed robots. I know no one goes unpunished for eternity, but the ones who give others hell here on earth need to be insured justice here during our lifetimes…that’s the kind of “saving” we former victims need to be in the business of. That’s my brand of “salvation”…one life at a time doing what we can do now. That can happen whether or not anyone believes in miracles. I’ll still choose to believe, because there have been some magnificent ones in my own life, despite all the suckage. God has made a magnificent world, and I’m not going to blame him for what the rotten stinking lowlifes of the world have made of their corners of it. I’m just going to keep trying to keep opposing them and protecting those who’re in my sphere and continuing to get others to do the same.

  • Anoria:

    I’ve been trying recently to start doing what I suppose is a pre-meal “prayer” – thanking the animals (and plants, because I’m weird like that) which have given their lives to nourish me and those eating with me. Yes I’m a bit of a flower child, why do you ask? This gives me something to do while people around me might be thanking God for things, and makes me feel a little better about the fact that the meat I’m eating came from a factory farm somewhere.

    During childhood, I was always taught to bow my head with everyone else because of the whole respect thing (very religious grandparents + not-religious-at-all parents and kids = awkward meals otherwise). It gave me lots of opportunities to think about other people’s faith and how it related to me, which is a handy thing.

  • Sherry:

    I couldn’t post at work (grrr!) but here’s a look at other side while someone’s praying…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaZDcS-rMf4

    Explains a LOT!

  • Clare:

    Very thoughtful post, Rechelle, and the comment section is great, too.

    I’ve gone through the whole ditching the catholic thing, too. Irish priests that didn’t have a clue about life in America and telling me what to do-or not do- with my body was the end of that for me.

    Then there was a big long void of time when I did not know what I did not know. Firends introduced the works of Emerson and many others were brought to my attention, along with many authors who write about the power of the mind and universal energy.

    I am very much a student of this philosophy, still discovering, as was previously suggested. I am constantly amazed that we are here on this earth, that gravity exists. Have you ever had an out of body type of experience where you wonder why the hell we don’t all float away into the ethers? Something is holding us all together, and whatever that is– is what I want to learn to work with.

    Some call it Science of the Mind. It involves all of the good qualities of humanity. Would that we could all work together to created equality for all.

    Volunteering and service projects are good ways to connect, but also just a solitary walk in nature can be a balm of serenity. Maybe a family nature ritual would work for you and yours.

    In~~ Light in Love

  • efrique:

    I don’t see any problem with sitting quiet for a minute if someone else wants to pray, as long as they don’t expect me to hold hands or join in – as long as it’s in their home.

    (If you’re in my house, though, you should do the corresponding courtesy and pray silently. It’s not like god can’t hear you if you don’t make everyone listen to you.)

  • AnnB:

    Your description of your faith, and subsequent loss, seems so…..childish (God as punishing Daddy; God as Puppetmaster etc etc) both in it’s practice and in its subsequent tossing aside. Was there never a third option, looking for faith as an adult? There are so many men and women of faith that have filled volumes with deep spiritual writings. The limited view from the evangelical right would set me off too, but they do not alone represent the total experience of men seeking God.

    • Jimmy-boy:

      You think Rechelle’s deconversion sounds “childish”? Are you serious? It sounded fairly wrenching to me. Someone with a deep faith realises its a load BS and goes through the trauma of ditching it?

      “Childish” might be continuing to believe in Santa when you are an adult. (or other equally fanciful supernatural beings).

  • Perhaps God cries for those starving people and wishes their leaders would plant more food. Maybe God looks down on dying babies and guides the hands of doctors or inspires people to discover medicines. God might even turn away from things here that cause too much pain. The God I know is also bound by eternal laws of the universe. Does he have power? Yes. Will he let nature take its course? Yes, he must. But I do know that every good characteristic I see in his children originates from him. My faith is simple and probably subject to criticism from most of your readers (who are commenting anyway), but I also know that positive energy has way more power to bring about good changes. That’s all.
    No, I’m not an evangelical Christian nor a Catholic. I am member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I have not found all answers in my faith, but I have found peace and a “map through this minefield.”

    • Kay in KCMO:

      madhadder, I suggest you make an appointment with your bishop and confess that you’re reading a blog that is not “faith promoting.” You also need to confess that you’re willingly consorting with anti-Mormons and apostates. These things are forbidden and if your bishop does what he is supposed to do he’ll yank your temple recommend.

      • Barb:

        Kay – Looks like you have a few issues you need to work out…..

        Madhadder has it right and she had the courage to say it and she said it so well. She is not “consorting”. She is not even preaching. She is just honestly stating life as she believes and lives.

        I read this blog on occasion. I starting reading her before all these issues arose. It saddens to see all the anger that it exhibits and produces. Yes, they are probably stating life as they see it. But there is just a lot of anger and sadness here. Not a place to come to smell the roses.

      • Kay, I am free to read whatever I choose. That is my consitutional right. The problem would arise if I chose to spout off non dogma in a church setting. Compare it to what might happen to a soldier professing un-American ideas in a military setting. I hope that clears up any misconceptions.

        • Barb:

          You go, madhadder girl……

  • amy:

    @AnnB and madhadder:

    Curious that the world we live in looks a lot like a world that has no divine being in charge. Suffering, starvation, rape, torture, murder, greed, natural disasters killing millions, etc, etc… Sure doesn’t look like a world that a “loving god” would have any control over. Any god who would let so many suffer would be a monster, not a loving god.

    Feel free to pick and choose scriptures or warm fuzzy feelings you have about your idea of god to make you feel better. Just don’t call it “truth.” There is no objective evidence for god. None.

  • Barb:

    madhadder -

    Your words are so perfect. I have read all the comments. Non of them rang true. Many of them seemed angry and looking for someone to blame. But when I came to your comments, I knew that you were speaking the truth. There was power in your words.

    Thank you.

  • jalf:

    @madhatter: So are you saying that when I do something good for others, it is not because I want to help others, but because God wills it?

    That… is bullshit. If God wants credit for the good things that happen, he’d better do something to make them happen.

    What I do is my responsibility, for good or ill. If I do something bad, I can’t rub it off on God. If I were to kill someone, I couldn’t say “God wanted that person dead”.

    And if I help people in need, it is not because God wants to help these people. It’s because I do.

    If God cries for those starving people, why doesn’t he do something about it?

    If he *can* do something about it but doesn’t, then he is not the kind of god I want to worship. or praise as “good”.
    If he *cannot* do anything about it other than wishing that *someone else* deal with the problem, then he is powerless, and not worth worshipping as a god. If he cannot bring change, why should I spend the least energy on his desires, instead of trying to bring change *myself*?

    Why should I worship a crybaby who doesn’t lift a finger to help others, but simply says “Oh, I sure wish those other guys over there would do something to feed you”?

    That is what most Christians do, and you can call it “positive energy” as much as you like, but it does not bring change. Wishing for God to intervene and fix things does not make anything better. Spending your sundays talking to the big beard in the sky does not feed the starving. But spending the same time putting carrot seeds in the ground might.

    The problem with your argument (other than that it isn’t logical) is that it renders God either impotent or cruel. I don’t wish to worship either, and I don’t think either is going to make the world the least bit better.

    • Jo:

      yep, what Jalf said..

    • Emily:

      I remember the first time I read the Epicurus quote that kinda sums that up:

      Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God? (~300 BCE)

  • Betsy:

    Check this out

    /http://karenzach.com/2010/a-letter-to-anne-rice/

    sounds like you and anne rice need to rethink life.

  • I talk to my television. I apologize freely when I run into closed doors. I once fell off a bar-stool and sat on the floor weeping for the broken relationship my ass had with the wooden seat.

    I might as well say, I anthropomorphize freely.

  • Tanya Rollins:

    The question of prayer is one that I truly don’t know what to do with. I am so happy to be an atheist so happy to no longer have the “monkey on my back” that is being a Christian. No longer asking myself why?

    It felt like a ton of bricks slid from my shoulders to let the whole Jesus superstition go.

    AHMEN!!!

    The adjustment is difficult when all your friends are Christians.

    Should I just bow my head and be quiet during prayer?

    I even use to pray with my best friends daughters at night before bed if I was visiting at bedtime. Pray and give them a kiss and hug goodnight.

    Do I keep up the charade out of respect?
    Do I try to word how I pray with them in a different manner?
    Is it okay to tell them Aunt Tanya no longer believes in God when they question things directly to me?

    R want to write .How to Deal with Christians if you Must with me?

    It is the road less traveled where I live and it is not easy.

    I know it is right.

  • I want to say that I love your blog. You are super funny!

    I started reading when you became an atheist. I don’t believe in religion myself.

    Anyway, don’t know if you noticed or not but on your ads ( the top right hand side) you have this ad now running. Here’s the link:

    http://www.cfan.org/campaigns/nn_prayer/index.cfm?variable=ca-google

    Just wanted to bring that to your attention.

    Love ya!

  • Samantha:

    No matter how much man tries to create a “god” it always seem to fall short.

  • sista #2:

    Am I at the right site??? Go away for a few weeks and come back to this!!!!!!!!!!!

    hellllloooooooooooo is this the doctor’s wife or what?????

  • Action Squirrel:

    Prayer may be weird but meditation is pretty awesome; I think today’s idea of “prayer” is like the cancer that grew on the bladder of human and spiritual consciousness. If people spent time being alone with their own thoughts and calming their minds rather than injecting ego all over the place the world would actually be better for it, and we would be naturally much closer to solving major problems.

  • Jessica:

    Okay, wow. I read an article about your big “apology” and you sound like a hypocrite to me. Saying that you are sorry for believing all of these TRUE things and then you all of the sudden change the next day and you’re telling everyone NOT to do the things that you were doing. I’m sorry but that is not the way that Christians should act. And even if you say that you are not a Christian, you say in more or less words, that you want to be a good human and do the “right” things. Well, telling people that they are doomed if they believe in Jesus Christ and telling people that they are going to just rot in the ground when they die is not helping at all. You’re going to make someone go into severe depression one day and you won’t know what to do. And if you sit here and say you don’t care if someone does die of depression or go into depression then you have no compassion in you. I have compassion, even being a Christian and a Child of God. I may say that if you have not accepted Jesus into your heart, then you will die and go to hell and burn forever in eternity. But I have enough compassion to say that I love you and I want you to get saved and accept Jesus as your personal Savior, so that I don’t have to wonder if that will happen to you. Maybe you should work on your compassionate side a bit before you start accusing my brothers and sisters of the wrong thing and becoming a hypocrite and making us look bad. Because you’re only telling people how to go to hell. Thanks.

  • Lois:

    Prayer is a mystery that I choose to embrace. Loved your thoughts on it. At some time I have inhabited most of them.

  • Jaime:

    Rechelle,

    My dad, the former Baptist minister, says this mealtime prayer:

    “Come Lord Jesus,
    down with a twist,
    give us a biscuit,
    as big as your fist.”

    I laugh every time.

  • Nana B:

    I do pray several times a day. I love our Lord and I hope that one day you will too. I would not be disrespectful during a prayer even if I did not believe in God. It is just the polite and nice thing to do.

  • Sharon:

    Where are you??? I’ve been missing your posts.

  • Cheyenne:

    Ditto Sharon. You’ve been too quiet these last 2 weeks, Rechelle. Hope it’s b/c you’ve been busy eeking out the last days of summer, and not b/c you’ve been kidnapped by some religious whackos who took offense to this last post, or something. We’ve been missing our regular Rechelle fix. Hope you’re back soon!

  • Spinny:

    I keep hoping my google reader is broken and when I come here there will be a new witty post.

    I MISS YOUR FUNNY.

    I hope you and the boys of the farmhouse are out having a good time.

  • Kathy:

    I’m missing my Rechelle fix too. Like the other posters, I hope you’re just too busy having a good time.

  • Rechelle, I think that this post is Three Fourths false. I believe in God with all my heart and I know that I will never walk away from him. This Post that you have written has hurt me terribly. The fact that you still “believe” in Jesus Christ and still pray to him but reject him? For example the earring prayer, be it true or false, is just plain ridiculous. If you do not believe in him do not pray for a lost earring.
    If my child was to get Luekemia my world would crumble because I love him very much. But I would also trust God to do what he needs to do. We, as humans, are just plain stupid. Whatever God does has a reason, we just do not know it. And when I go to heaven i will see what those reasons are.
    I will pray for you.

    • joy:

      “If my child was to get Luekemia [sic] my world would crumble because I love him very much. But I would also trust God to do what he needs to do. We, as humans, are just plain stupid.”

      I have tried to stay out of this discussion for the sake of my blood pressure but this statement is a very good example of why I hate religion.

      So, what you’re saying is that your God would have a reason to give a child leukemia and then, for example, spare someone who committed rape or murder or something equally as heinous? And we should all just blindly accept that there is an explanation that would actually make sense? How does that work, exactly? We’ll all be standing at the pearly gates with our notebooks full of questions and suddenly slap our foreheads and say “Of course that’s why you took my child! I never thought of that!”

      Sure, humans can be stupid, but sheep are more stupid. Gah.

    • Charles:

      Andrew, how has the post hurt you?

      • Rechelle:

        Too much thinking can give one a powerful headache.

        • Charles:

          Rechelle, I’m inclined to rule that out, since there’s no evidence that Andrew did much thinking before he posted his comment. Still, there is something in what you say: I’m working up a whopper of a headache right now trying to imagine how anyone who’s as secure in his faith as Andrew says he is can be hurt by the presentation of an opposing viewpoint. But I guess we’ll never know, since he seems to have departed for good. Andrew, Andrew, why have you forsaken us?

  • [...] favorite posts by Rechelle are those that address religion, particularly those that deal with her conversion from Christianity to atheism. However, I was puzzled to read in a couple of these posts that before her conversion, Rechelle had [...]