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3 Romantic Bible Stories

Around Valentine’s Day, Facebook thought I might enjoy this HuffPost article, entitled “Romance in the Bible?”. (Question mark in original.) I once knew its author, back when I myself also worshipped the One True God. This is why Facebook thought I wanted to read it. As it turns out, I was interested, but not in the way that Facebook thought.

It reminded me of several Bible romance stories. And my own reaction to those stories shocked me. I grew up a Christian fundamentalist, and I know those stories inside and out, up and down, backwards and forward.  Click to continue »

Living as Genuine Me

Two years ago, on August 1, I wrote a page-long statement in my private journal, “Who Am I Today?” It contained paragraphs on religion, politics, personal values, sexuality, and personality. I was trying to sort through what I believed, how I identified, what I valued, what I felt and thought, to put this all into words.

Two years later, and I’m still trying to answer that question: Who am I today?

While I have a much better sense of the answer, with each new day, week, month, I’m discovering new things about myself. For the time being, I’m enjoying the journey, meeting new people, experiencing new things, stepping out of my comfort zone a little more, inventorying the pieces of life that stick to my personhood.  Click to continue »

The “Good” about Friday

I grew up in a shame-and-blame religion.

The so-called Good News, as taught to me, is that we humans are fundamentally evil, unholy, sinners, distant from God. And so to save us, God needed to execute the perfect blood sacrifice. And there was only one person perfect enough to serve as that sacrifice, God himself. So he came to Earth in the form of a man who was without sin, and allowed himself to be executed, the perfect scapegoat, in order to take upon himself the sins of us all. As a result, we can blame him for all the shame we feel about who we are.

When I’ve told this story, I have gotten shocked looks of disbelief. “That’s not what Christianity is about, is it? I thought it was a religion of love and peace and helping people.”  Click to continue »

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Last night began the Jewish holiday of Purim. This is a celebration of the book of Esther. The last time I celebrated it was when I was still a member of a Messianic Jewish congregation two years ago, before I came out as an atheist, long before I came out as polyamorous. It was even before all the private drama that separated me from my religious community. But not before my doubts: I had doubts about Purim even then.

But this year, I’m getting closer to the point where I want to be. I miss Purim.

I miss the costumes. I miss reading the Megillah. I miss making noise and eating hamantashen.

I don’t miss the glorification of revenge, the lack of empathy and compassion, the deification of power.

But I miss getting so drunk that I can’t tell the difference between “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordechai.”  Click to continue »

On the Anniversary of Losing My Religion

I was born into a Pentecostal family. My dad was the pastor.

All versions of my story start the same way, with that line.

For decades, I was stepping further and further away from the faith I was taught as a kid. But the emotional core of my faith was still fundamentalist, and I still thought of myself as an Evangelical. And I still believed in fundamentalism (kind of like Daniel Dennett’s “belief in belief”). By the end of 2013, there were two of me living inside my mind. There was the fundamentalist, who believed in some version of Evangelical theology. And then there was the rationalist, who would admit that it’s all just a story, a religious narrative, but—I believed at the time—a useful narrative. I thought of myself as an agnostic Christian, because I didn’t think you could prove whether God existed—all the “evidence” people cite are just stories—but I believed in him anyway, just because.

And at the same time, I didn’t feel I could talk openly about these thoughts. The few times I had cautiously put out feelers in front of religious friends, or even worse, religious leaders, I had been been soundly thrashed with them.  Click to continue »

Self Rules

I’m not sure exactly where I’m going with this blog site. I haven’t posted much over the last year, but that’s because I am a different person—in a sense—than I was in January 2014. I know I entitled this blog “Hope, Love, and Peace,” and I still believe in those qualities. But I also believe in authenticity, and I am more comfortable in my own skin than I have ever felt before. I want to blog more. You’re going to see a lot more of me—a lot more genuine me—probably a bit more edgy, and hopefully more inspiring. If you stick around, you might even witness me coming out some more. But you might not like it. I can’t help that last part.

Kate Schell recently published a long list of modesty “rules” that girls have to deal with, especially in religious fundamentalist families. These messages teach girls to be ashamed of their bodies, ashamed of being women, ashamed of themselves.  Click to continue »

I (Used to, Want to) Really Like Christmas

Earlier this year, I shared this funny nativity scene photo on my own Facebook wall (one of 150,000 or so who did), and was soundly thrashed (by someone who is no longer my Facebook friend). And what was supposed to be a cute, fun photo turned into a theological discussion.

I’m noticing that I could say some things with perfect impunity as a “Christian” (even if in name only), which as an atheist almost surely get a Bible verse thrown at me. Almost makes me sorry I came out.

My Evangelical brother (who thought it was quite funny) also shared this same photo on his timeline, with a suggestion that his church’s youth group put one together. Apparently the suggestion didn’t go over too well, but at least no one said they were praying for God’s forgiveness for him, on account of his spiritual ignorance.

They should be thankful I didn’t post one of the other funny nativity scenes out there, especially the naked dudes one, which I thought was brilliant and hilarious. I almost uploaded that one to Facebook just to give an “up yours” to whatever sex-negative friends I might have left.  Click to continue »

Atheist Problems

Ever since coming out atheist, I’ve noticed that people interact with me differently than they did before. And I interact with them differently.

As a result, I’ve found these extremely funny.

There’s one kind of atheist problem, like that posed by the most Reverend E.F. Briggs. (Because when E.F. Briggs talks, people tune out.) E.F. Briggs of the slogan: “Anti-God is Anti-American / Anti-American is Treason / Traitors lead to Civil War.” Apparently not believing is God is now a federal crime. Or at least sufficient cause for public lynching. On the other hand, who could ever feel truly threatened by a “lunatic atheist”? (A religious nut, that’s who.)

That’s not the kind of atheist problem I have in mind, though. I mean the kind that we normal atheists deal with everyday from our slightly-less-nutty religious culture.  Click to continue »

An Atheist in an Airplane

No one raised in a religious environment wants to come out atheist. Few people who grew up in the US would want to use that word. And when I finally told one of my close friends that I was an atheist, she said, “Oh no! You lost your faith?!” But after I explained exactly what I believed and why, her tone softened. “Oh, that’s pretty much what I think, too.”

Or as Julia Sweeney described it in her solo show Letting Go of God:

I think that my parents had been mildly disappointed when I’d said I didn’t believe in God any more, but being an atheist was another thing altogether.

I grew up in a Pentecostal church. My dad was the pastor. I was raised an Evangelical fundamentalist. But my parents also taught me to think for myself, and I continued to learn and to explore the rationale for my beliefs. If you examine my writings over the past 25 years or so, you may be able to detect a subtle, gradual shift in the underlying vibe, a progression away from religious conservatism, toward liberalism and sex-positivity, but always with a nod to the dogma, as if a bungee cord attached me to my fundamentalist roots.  Click to continue »

A Born Again Unbeliever

The last time I wrote to you, I was a Christian fundamentalist. Now, I’m not.

That’s not quite true. The last time I wrote to you, I still gave a nod to Christian fundamentalism. Now, I do not.

In April, that house of cards collapsed. And while the fundamentalist dogma runs deep, I think you’ll find I’m largely the same guy you knew, but hopefully new and improved.

This is my coming-out post.

I remember wanting to be an atheist a couple years ago. I was listening to an episode of Penn’s Sunday School. I don’t remember which one; I think it was an early episode.

As I recall, Penn told a story of a fan who came up to him after one of the Penn & Teller shows. The fan told him, he didn’t believe in God, but he couldn’t tell that to his family or friends, because his entire sense of community, his entire support structure, depended on them thinking that he was still a believer. And I thought, Yeah. That’s me. I wish I could just not believe in God. It would simplify so many things. But my life, my family, my synagogue, my friends, they all depend on me worshipping—or appearing to worship—Abraham’s God. On top of that, I was heavily involved in synagogue life. I sometimes led music for the Shabbat Shacharit service. And I was a home-group leader.  Click to continue »

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