Atheism and spirituality


Some of you may know that I’m a 12-stepper. Which particular program is irrelevant; the main is that for some years now, I’ve been following a spiritual program to help me deal with life (on life’s terms), and one that shies away from defining the divine for you, instead encouraging each person to come to a concept of “God” as ze understands it to be.

What I have come to believe recently is that the idea of “God” just doesn’t make sense to me. Basically, that I don’t need to believe that there is an external force for my own good, because I have an internal force to that purpose.

At a meeting last night a woman shared some things about her concept of God, and I realized while I was listening that I could reconcile my burgeoning atheism with the spiritual program that had effectively saved my life*.

As she talked about wanting to be more Higher-Power centered, she mentioned that her HP had her best interests in mind. I thought, “there’s a part of me that has my own best interests in mind; the part that gets guilty-feeling when I act against my own best interests.” Maybe you’d call that a conscience. She was calling it God.

Before I started trying to define God for myself, I took the biblical Christian God, because that was the one I’d been presented as a child. As I got older, and as I started to question the nature of that religion’s beliefs, I found I could get the idea of a Holy Spirit — an invisible force that connected all life with each other**. God the Father, which I understood to be the God of the Old Testament, felt flawed to me, more like the Greek pantheon than any ‘one true God’ that people talked about in church. Jesus of Nazareth was an interesting figure, to be sure, and was really quite radical in his beliefs and treatment of people***. The literalist view of the virgin birth I thought quite unnecessary to hir good message, which essentially boiled down to “peace on earth, and goodwill to all”.

This is where I was when I started to define divinity as I saw it. The Christian God had failed to save me from crappy things in my life (the drive-you-to-thoughts-of-suicide kind) and I couldn’t trust that The Man Upstairs was really all ze was cracked up to be.

The concept of Higher Power I can get behind. I see this as functioning to keep me 1) humble and 2) from trying to pull myself up by my own bootstraps, i.e., not asking for help when I need it. There are many things I put in this place, sometimes the collective wisdom of the group, sometimes nature, since I obviously can’t make it snow, or stop it from snowing, or make grass grow, etc. Sometimes I returned to a more traditional spiritual being and called it God.

I still occasionally talk about not being able to screw up The Plan, meaning that a decision on my part is not going to make a radical difference continuously for the rest of my life and for everyone else around me — basically that I’m not that powerful. I’m only the center of my universe, not everyone else’s.

What that woman at the meeting said helped me realize that I have the guidance I need, because of working this 12-step program to heal from my sick ways of thinking, and that I don’t need to believe that some great cosmic force is Out There to help me. I can help myself. I can listen to what might still be called that “still small voice”, the one Mohandas Gandhi called “the friend inside”, and make the best decision I can for me today. I don’t have to feel like there’s a great Plan for me and everyone else. We’re all just bungling along, trying to live. And what I want to do is live as fully and with as much unconditional joy as I can.

* Definitely the quality of life, if not also the quantity.
** Yeah, it’s kind of a Star Wars spirituality. The idea worked for me.
*** i.e., that they were people, no matter where they came from, what they looked like, or whether or not they were adult or male.


God is dead.

But only in a manner of speaking. Nietzche was only right insofar as a certain concept of God can be compared to the quintessential abuser, certain religious tenets redacting to “I love you, don’t make me hurt you”.

Kind of like Ike Turner, who died December 12, still denying he had ever beaten Tina, and, according to his biographer, still womanizing at least into his late 60s [story at the bottom of this page].

Analogy credit: Da Spouse

Feminist Reader: Pseudoscience and Heteronormativity

It’s not usual that a quote from a (conservative/religious-biased) clinical psychologist [San Diego-based licensed clinical psychologist Trayce Hansen] makes me belly-laugh. Pam originally posted Hansen’s press release on The Blend which included the gut-busting line:

[S]ame-sex marriage will increase sexual confusion and sexual experimentation by implying all choices are equally acceptable and desirable.

After reading the three previous more depressing points, I needed the laugh, and I got one. What this person considers to be a danger, I perceive to be one of the larger goals of, if not feminism as a whole, at least this feminist.

Let’s work backwards, shall we?

implying all choices are equally acceptable and desirable.

Because telling people “you’re okay only if you’re heterosexual” is a good thing?

Oh, wait, I forgot: we have to support the natural order of things; women are nurturers, and men are leaders. The first point Hansen raises, on the ‘inherent’ ‘differences’ between “mother-love and father-love”, supports this separate-but-equal attitude. There has to be balance, Hansen notes, between the ‘unconditional-leaning’ love of a woman, and the ‘conditional-leaning’ love of a man.*

According to Hansen, it appears that there must be heterosexuality heterosexuality must be the enforced standard because there must be a woman and a man in each set of parents. Since there is something of a biological precendent for this, I can understand the confusion. Obviously, Hansen equates biological sex with the social construct, gender. Women are always ‘mothers’, men always ‘fathers’. “There must be balance between mother-love and father-love” hints at a typical sexist stereotype: women aren’t complete without men.

same-sex marriage will increase… sexual experimentation

This is possibly true; however, I don’t consider it to be the End Of The World ™ for people to experiment with their sexuality. That is in essence what happens anyway: people find out whether they enjoy PIV intercourse or other forms; what positions work for them and which ones don’t; whether they enjoy dominant or submissive or both or neither; whether they enjoy sex better with themselves, with a partner, with multiple partners, or not at all.

Of course, if someone were coming from an attitude of PIV-missionary-for-procreation-only*, all of these options could be terrifying. Choices tend to worry strict rule-followers.

same-sex marriage will increase sexual confusion

This is the kicker for me. As if being allowed to be who they are without shaming/denial from their parents will somehow add to a person’s confusion regarding their sexuality and sexual preferences. Being told “you have to like boys because you are a girl/have girl parts” or “you have to like girls because you are a boy/have boy parts” is a lot more likely to bewilder the unfortunate soul whose tastes lean contrary to those diametrical opposites, or, worse yet, if they’re concept of themself doesn’t match the artificial gender construct forced on them for no other reason than what their dangly bits look like.

Parents displaying an attitude of acceptance of any and all options regarding an individual’s sexuality, and, (OMGWTFBBQ!) considering them equal to each other would more likely foster a healthy attitude about sex and sexuality, and relatively little shame** in the child.

If I’d had such a supportive environment (including the one at large) I think I’d still be interested in boys***. That being said, I’m all for removing stigma from the lives and sexuality of all persons, no matter who they prefer or disprefer.

[Pam on Pandagon presents this gem of pseudoscience not alone, but with a rebuttal from another clinical psychologist — this time, not ‘science-free’.]

* Hansen uses the terms “mother” and “father” here, but it is clear this is a biological distinction, one that determines social role.

* I make no assumptions about the author at all. His/her position is, however, remarkably similar to more conservative religious types with whom I have been personally acquainted, whose idea of sex was generally “man-on-top-of-woman, man-having-all-the-fun, woman-gets-pregnant-and-is-happy-homemaker”.

** Getting to know a changing body is inherently embarrassing, at least in my experience, without someone else telling you you’re doing it wrong.

The World According to Abstinence-Only Education.

sex and driving
If I ever have a child, and they come home with an Abstinence-Only textbook, I’m taking them out of school. Period. No questions asked.

Of course, since I don’t have a child, I can still laugh at this garbage:

25 Ways to Say No

Originally posted here. Be sure to look at the rest of Anna’s art too — she’s brilliant, and brilliantly funny!

Continue reading

Fillyjonk, bang on, FTW.

Yes, absolutely. I’ve never seen the fear-dominated conservative fundamentalist Christian culture nutshelled quite so succinctly. I can’t possibly add anything to fillyjonk’s lovely analysis, except perhaps some gleeful cheering.

Note to fundies: I’m not near as fearful and repressed as you, and am not interested in torturing myself, thanks, so quit coming to my house to ask me if I’ve found Jesus.

Seventeen children later…

Yep, my feminist education is serving me well.

I recently read that Joe Bob and Michelle ( have had their seventeenth child, and, although a painful thought, I’m not really surprised. I tried to find the blog entry I’d read again (was it on Feministing? Pandagon? Broadsheet?) so I could send it to Da Spouse: one of the guests at a cookout we held last weekend mentioned it, and I wanted to share.

So I searched “Vagina Clown Car” on Google.

Of course, the famous line gracing the photograph of this family (which is old, I think: I only counted fourteen children) became the title to several posts around teh internets. When investigated they yielded some seriously misogynistic lines, all in the name of criticizing Republicans, conservative Christians, or whatever.

This Arkansas couple has seventeen children and still wants more. They’re all home-schooled. All the kids’ names start with the letter J. Is it just me, or does someone need a swift kick to the ovaries?

How many minutes out of the past thirty years has she spent on her feet?

Sure. Blame her. Call her an idiot. No, better yet, call her a slut. Say not one damn word about him. Or the religious background telling her about her Rightful Place.

This is the main point to this feminist:

Among the “fun facts” listed on Discovery Health’s Web page devoted to the Duggars: A baby has been born in every month except June; the Duggars have gone through an estimated 90,000 diapers, and Michelle, 40, has been pregnant for 126 months — or 10.5 years — of her life.

That is. So. Fucking. Scary.

EDIT: Women are now being educated into their Rightful Place… at Seminary. Specifically Southwestern, a Southern Baptist seminary in Nashville.

I knew it came from somewhere.

In relation to my next-to-most-recent post that happened to mention the madonna-whore dichotomy, a poster, puckrockhockeymom, made mention of it while she waxed eloquent on a Feministe post that was itself inspired by a PostSecret postcard which read “My greatest fear is that I’m good enough to f*ck but not good enough to love”. Continue reading

Porntastic spam analysis, due to biblical reference. No really.

Since I’ve started blogging about more serious topics including rape and pornography, I’ve gotten more spam comments with that triple-x combination in the websites they link to. I’m not every really surprised by this. Akismet does such a good job that I occasionally check Ye Comments in case some un-spam was mistakenly classified as actual spam. Continue reading

Creepy Proselytizer (Part One, probably)

So I’m sitting at home with da spouse, minding my own business when a middle aged man shows up at our door. The screen door was the only one closed, so we saw him before he had a chance to knock.

Da Spouse gets up to see what he wants. “Have you accepted the Lord Jesus Christ?” the man says. “We’re not interested,” Da Spouse says, and the man went away.

This being a fairly common experience in the not-terribly-urban Midwest, I didn’t think much about it.

Then I spoke with my neighbor, a slightly younger woman than me who lives in the studio apartment (convered garage) that my now-spouse lived in when I met him. Apparently, the wannabe preacher went to see her after trying to talk to us.

This is where the creepy comes in. Continue reading