Fat Girl,

Observations about relationships in Christianity.

May 8, 2015

What kind of foundation forms a lasting friendship, then? I mean, friendships are a pretty personal thing. There’s lots of aspects that are difficult to pin down, usually including compatible personalities, shared experiences, outlooks on life, mutually enjoyable activities, etc. I think those things are a given, no matter whether you’re a conservative Christian or not. But in my experience, the ingredients that point to longevity seem to be a pretty equal mixture of mutual admiration, respect, and trust. The Christian friends I have now who have been friends of mine for years weren’t my friends just because of our once-​shared faith. We became friends through discovering and indulging in shared interests, sure, but we did it while demonstrating respect for each other’s individuality and personhood. Our personalities do click, but we also work hard to be empathetic, trustworthy, respectful people. We care about each other, what demonstrably makes each other’s lives more meaningful and fulfilling, no ulterior motives. 

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For the well-​meaning Christian: humility in listening.

March 18, 2015

You’ll approach me with why you think I really stopped being a Christian, as if it’s a huge secret that, if you can just crack the code, you could make sure no one would leave the team ever again. And usually, much like this person said, you assume I just didn’t pick the right flavor of Christianity. Or I just didn’t really know Jesus. Or as a recent reader suggested, I just left the bad Christians behind but not Jesus.

You’re taking ownership of my story, mangling it beyond recognition, then insisting I accept your version rather than my own. You’re saying you’re a better judge of my experiences and life than I am. And when you suppose these things about my life and my beliefs, you are being incredibly disrespectful and unloving. Like Cassidy said. it’s like you grew up in a home where smacking someone upside the head was considered loving, and you’re now indignant that you can’t smack me, too.

I get it. I do. I did the same thing. I believed rather strongly that anyone who left the faith was never a Christian to begin with but had been deceived into thinking they were. And I wasn’t shy about this belief, nor did I falter in said belief.

Until it happened to me. 

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For the well-​meaning Christian: credit to whom credit is due.

March 11, 2015

I think we really do a disservice to ourselves and the people around us when we attribute the good or bad things actually done by people to the supernatural, or even to some sort of intrinsic goodness like hard work. I don’t begrudge people the comfort they take in believing a divine creator has orchestrated their life to their benefit, or even wanting to believe that bad things have happened due to an invisible malevolent force. I just can’t help but notice how this tendency to credit the supernatural with what man or chance has wrought often serves to create a disconnect between us and our communities. 

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No more faith: the whys and why nots of my deconversion.

December 31, 2014

It’s really rather rare for people to ask me why I deconverted from Christianity. Like, really rare. It’s far more common for them to assume they already know, whether they’re talking to me while they’re expressing this assumption or not. However, in a single week, I’ve had two separate unaffiliated people ask me a variation of the same question about the role fundamentalism had in my deconversion. Of course, I’ve been trying to figure this out for myself on a less-​specific scale for the better part of two years, though much of it has been in my own head. Perhaps it’s time for me to work out of my thoughts here with you. 

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Introspection: the impact of religion on personality.

December 11, 2014

When I first took the Myers-​Briggs personality test, still thoroughly embedded in the fundamentalist Christian tradition of my youth, I scored as an INTJ, rather than an INFJ. In retrospect, it’s no wonder I skewed more heavily to Thinking rather than Feeling, since I was taught to fear and distrust feelings. Feelings were often considered sinful, bringing guilt and shame, whereas Logic (According to the Word of God) was holy and true, bringing stability (supposedly). I didn’t understand that divorcing feelings from thinking the way I had been taught to do was utterly damaging both to myself and others, not to mention ripping conversational rhetoric out of its context and reality.

The thing is, I could never totally eradicate my Feelings. 

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I belong to me: learning agency & consent outside Christianity.

November 15, 2014

<p>By and large, Christianity as a system in the Western world teaches people to run rip-​shod over the boundaries of those within and without their camps under the guise of love.<sup><a href=“http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessindixie/2014/10/15/your-love-is-toxic/” target=“_blank” rel=“noopener noreferrer”>25</a></sup> The consent of its members and non-​members alike isn&rsquo;t required, as clearly demonstrated by the past almost 28 years of my existence. And that&rsquo;s a <i>massive</i> problem, enabling (and at times <i>commanding</i>) the manipulation, mistreatment, and abuse of countless people.</p> <p><b>In fact, I&rsquo;d say one of the defining characteristics of Christianity today is that it has a consent problem.</b></p>

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Sad pandas, boundaries, and relationships.

September 10, 2014

I’m a really big believer in boundaries and respecting the choices, experiences, and desires of individuals. I think people get to decide how others are allowed to interact with them, and that the onus is on others to really hear what that person is saying (yes, even when that person is silent. Silence is an answer, after all, and that answer is “I don’t want to talk to you.” Respect it!). I’m just afraid that my post didn’t reflect these beliefs as clearly as I’d like it to have.

No one is obligated to remain friends with me. Having been in similar circumstances, but on the other side of the situation, I really understand how uncomfortable and even painful it can be to remain in contact with someone who has abandoned a core component of your relationship. I have no wish to cause others pain, and I honestly have no real animosity towards those who have decided that I’m a toxic influence in their life and they’ll be happier and healthier without my presence. I think they they’re the best expert on what will make their lives happy and healthy (even if I disagreed), and I try to save my animosity for those who are openly disrespectful and/​or bigoted. But, I mean, I 100% support the decision of people who don’t want me in their lives. Truly.

In fact, it’d be pretty shitty of me to insist that they must remain my friend, to continually insert myself into their lives, to constantly try to manipulate them into a relationship they want no part of. That’s not an okay thing for me to do, and I do my best to be respectful of their wishes.

But it still hurts.

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Perceptions, boundaries, and relationships.

August 26, 2014

Am I worthless to you now that I’m not a Christian? Am I somehow less-​than-​human, without feeling, without morality, without any good thing? Does my lack of belief mean that I am the darkness with whom you can have no fellowship? Am I completely lacking light just because we disagree? 

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Lessons Learned at the Fortress of Faith: Part 3

August 25, 2014

As I’ve stated before, Bob Jones University habitually created spiritual mountains out of circumstantial molehills. We were to strive for perfection in every aspect of life, and anything less than that was an offense to God and the administration.

There’s a saying from the founder of the school…well, I mean, there’s honestly a bajillion sayings from the founder of the school. They’re so revered that they are literally engraved in plaques in every classroom across campus, and you can even buy a book filled with his quips of wisdom. But one saying in particular was quoted quite a bit when I was there: “It is never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right.” On the surface, and especially when I very first arrived on campus, I agreed with this 100%.

Again, I’m faced with the difficulty of explaining a subculture when some of my audience has never experienced it, and some of it may think there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s difficult to know where to begin or how to explain things that I intuitively learned through various circumstances, other than to talk about the various circumstances that taught me that sometimes, it’s good and right to do “wrong.”

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To make it abundantly clear: why this atheist is invested in Christianity.

August 20, 2014

Part of me says, “You’re not a Christian anymore, so just ignore it. It’s not like it affects you anymore anyway.” But that’s not really true. There are lots of things about Christianity that deeply affected me for over 20 years, and when Christianity also tends to play a role in U.S. politics, it sure as hell affects me.

And the thing is, when I stopped believing in God, I didn’t stop caring about people.

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Never.

January 15, 2018

Two years ago this month, I left my husband, shortly before telling him he had 2 weeks to get out of the house for good. It’s been a very long two years, full of pain and struggle and freedom and confusion and finding myself. And finding words.

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The Process of Being.

April 16, 2017

This Saturday, April 22, I will turn 30 years old. (Want to help me celebrate?)

Frankly, this terrifies me.

All my life, I never envisioned myself living past the age of 28. I figured that either the rapture would have occurred, or I would have killed myself. So you’d think 29 would have been my all-​out panic year, but I spent 29 dealing with a lot of other things.

Now, with 30 at my doorstep, I’m caught in its headlights, awaiting its impact with an ever-​increasing sense of dread. 

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Haikus with Dani: In Which There Is No Room.

January 26, 2017

It’s been a full year since I broke up with my spouse. A very hard year, if you recall. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to process things as best as I can, and that often looks like distilling emotions into haikus. Something about the structure and limitation seems to lend itself well to expressing myself in succinct and powerful ways (much like how Twitter’s character limit can help focus one’s thoughts).

I don’t really want to offer commentary on this. There is so much I am still processing. But it feels important to share it, and to share it now. And one of my goals is to listen to my intuition far more than I’ve been able to in the past.

One thing I will say is this: it’s a terrifying time in our country right now. To be a woman, not white, not straight, not healthy in body and mind. Most of my friend group — myself included — are fighting the creeping despair as we watch this new administration work so hard to make our lives at best uncomfortable and at worst nonexistent. It’s easy to not take care of yourself in an effort to remain informed, to know what fresh hell awaits every morning.

But the little things matter. Little things like remembering to eat. Checking in with friends. Asking people to check in on you. Kissing your loved ones. Snuggling your pets. Or even daring to simply take up space.

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As dumpster fires go.

December 31, 2016

I’ve been sitting here for a good 10 minutes, just staring at the screen. Occasionally typing a sentence or two, then deleting. The words I want to say aren’t words I feel I can say yet, and so I choose to be silent. Much like I have most of this year, if you’ve noticed. On January 18, I left my husband. There’s much that…

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Haikus With Dani: JerkBrain Edition.

June 21, 2016

There’s a lot going on in my life. I’ve deactivated my Twitter for a little bit. Vulnerability is terrifying, but it’s easier to be vulnerable to an amorphous mass of people than talk to anyone in particular about what’s been happening, even the things that are only happening inside my own head. Therefore, you’re getting more of my depressing fragments of dialogue, this time brought to you by my very own JerkBrain.

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The Stories We Tell: Purity Culture and Shame.

April 1, 2016

I had a very eye-​opening conversation with my mom recently.

We were talking about my marriage to my ex, and she asked me if her hunch was correct that I’d have married him anyway if my parents hadn’t given us permission. (You see, in our iteration of purity culture, even as a 22-​year-​old adult, I needed my parents’ permission to marry.)

I thought a moment and answered honestly: yes, I would have still married him. Then I clarified, “I honestly thought I had to.”

You didn’t get that from us!” Mom responded in astonished confusion. “You don’t have to marry someone just because you slept with them.

Let me state up front: that’s an entirely true statement. I agree with it 100%.

And yet it was my turn to be shocked.

Because that statement flew in the face the entire narrative of my first 20+ years of life..

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Haikus With Dani: Breakup Edition

March 3, 2016

In so many ways, the dissolving of my marriage has been unspeakably hard. I literally don’t have truly appropriate words for this experience, only deep chasms within my being that alternately flow with rage and sorrow, then ebb with hollow misery. So I decided to put the fragmented shards of grief into haikus. 

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The Stories We Tell: Purity Culture Edition

February 18, 2016

Purity culture prepared me for a world that doesn’t exist. The world that does exist is both so much better and so much worse than I was led to believe. 

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When I must be “The Bad Guy.”

February 1, 2016

I could explain my thought processes for every step of these various journeys. I’m very prone to explaining and dissecting and hoping beyond hope that I can just <i>make you see why and how,</i> make you see cause and effect, connect dots for you, connect dots for me. I want to feel justified, validated. I don’t want to be The Bad Guy. I don’t want to accept that to so many, I am petulant and over-​sharing and running away from problems that could be fixed if I would just try harder. But I can’t change, even if I tried. Even if I wanted to.* And so…here I sit. The Bad Guy. It’s not comfortable. I don’t like it. But if this is who I have to be in order to be <i>me</i>, then so be it.

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Great expectations: basic human decency.

October 5, 2015

In short: the lowest common denominator in all relationships ought to be basic human decency.

When Christians tell me that it’s not fair for me to expect them not to trample on my boundaries or treat me with disrespect for my autonomy as a human being, all I can hear is, “You can’t expect basic human decency from me or my people.” More than that, I hear, “You don’t even qualify as human enough for us to consider treating you differently.”

Christians? This is a problem.

How will the world know you as loving if you refuse to act lovingly? How can you say you possess the love of Jesus Christ when this is how you treat unbelievers? You claim that you’re no better than us, yet treat us like you’re the Designated Adult and we’re the naughty children you must put back in our places. You insist that for me and other unbelievers (or even liberal believers!) to write and live and share our authentic selves is a direct attack on you, and so you try to control us through silencing tactics and what you must think are counter-​attacks. You can’t see the difference between someone being honest about who they are and someone exerting control over a person? How can you not see the disrespect of that? How can you not see the condescension? How can you pretend to be sharing Christ’s love when you refuse to see the image of God in anyone but those who look and think and act like you?

Despite being an atheist, I do think the Bible has a few nuggets of wisdom here and there. And one of those nuggets is this: “Let us not love in word…but in deed and in truth.” In other words, don’t tell me that you love me while showing me that you don’t.

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