Believe or Else

My friend recently updated her Facebook page with the following:

I woke up this morning and realized God doesn’t exist.

Holy shit!

The backlash that followed caught her by surprise. She did expect to receive some comments, questions, concern and possible intense debate. What was unexpected was the personal attacks that ensued. Here’s what she wrote to me after her “friends” comments regarding her epiphany.

Some of this may have been triggered by the backlash that I am getting for outing myself to my friends, siblings, and acquaintances. But, I wanted to announce in some way that I am not the same. Those that love me will accept me as I continue to evolve, those that don’t or can’t will move on. I know this in my rational mind. My emotional self however longs for acceptance.

The attacks, and I have no other word for them, have become personal. Attacks on my character, my intentions, my intelligence, my morality. The energy of anger, condescension, pity, disgust is bombarding me to a point where I feel myself shutting down despite my weak attempts to remain immune.

I should have known, god is not something people can shrug their shoulders about and allow others to accept or not as we see fit. My evolution became a personal attack on them, and they lashed out at me. In my typical catholic girl stress reaction, I subconsciously accepted that in some way I was deserving of their anger and hurtful comments.

To not believe in God in our society is very alienating. It’s one thing to question, doubt and wonder about God, but to declare you don’t believe emits responses that can often be unexpected. Those most offended and aggressive are those from the evangelical world, who regularly update their Facebook pages with quotes about God’s goodness, scripture passages and prayer requests. It would be easy for me to simply chalk this up to Christians being stupid, but I think they are coming from a place of fear.

28 Replies to “Believe or Else”

  1. I’m always amazed how Bill Maher gets away with being so open about it. Maybe because he’s a man and rich and funny, or protected by the media, or just plain comfortable with himself and his beliefs. Or all of the above.

  2. I feel sorry for her – but I would commend her to stand her ground and give reasons why she is where she is at…even turn those criticism against the criticizers – like you did in your funny comment which Dorsey thought was from his comment (which it wasn’t).

    You see, I am in the same boat as this lady – except I am not an atheist but I sure as hell ain’t no Christian per se (as per their orhtodox viewpoints). But I defend my points when asked and feel no shame in holding them (as long as I feel I rationally arrived at them). If people don’t like it – there is more friends out there to be met anyways…who has time for close minded hateful people…Fred Phelps ears are ringing right now.

    My sympathy goes out to this lady because it sucks being rejected by people you thought were very well meaning all this time. This isolation really burns the individual and it’s companion – hurt. It’s not that she did anything ‘wrong’ (she didn’t) – it’s that you feel like that when you are rejected and begin to wonder – what did I do? It gets to all of us in some way or another.

    But of this is what she truly thinks – she needs to stick to her guns and just let they will soon dissipate (from exhaustion of saying the same stupid things over and over making no good points).

    All I would ask is something simple ‘what ‘wrong’ has this girl done to deserve this bitter pill’? And eventually have to admit something they hate to – they were in the wrong not this woman (see Jesus and the adulterer in John 8 for more on this line of reasoning – lol).

  3. I react to stupidity – even my own. I’m as disgusted at myself as anyone for the thoughts and beliefs I’ve espoused over the years in many areas (specifically the ones mentioned above).

    I could be wrong but I don’t think I reacted aggressively to a the missionary for his belief, I reacted to what I perceived to be an ignorant and culturally insensitive approach to sharing said belief. I would feel the same way if an atheist had gone to a 3rd world country trying to convert them to non-belief.

    And I KNOW this blog and its tone are sometimes seen as rubbing things in people’s faces. And that’s exactly it’s intent at times. I named it “stupid church people” for my own reasons, and some have interpreted it in different ways. This blog has cost me friendships (yet gained me others).

    I think I’ve been fairly consistent in treating people with respect in regards to their beliefs. But others may correct me if they wish.

    Where you and I may differ is that I do actually care about what others believe and how they feel.

  4. Big Man,

    I see what you’re talking about in my own life. I find myself more entrenched in my disbelief position when I become irritated by Christians. When my son’s soccer team played a Christian high school last year, I was probably at my zenith of disbelief, poor sportsmanship and just outright vulgar language. That was a real eye-opener for me. Their team seemed to be dirtier players than the average high school, and I’m not sure if that was reality or if my perception was colored by my anger toward Christians.

    This year when the two teams played, I was mindful of my reactions from last year and calmed myself down when I started going down that path. That doesn’t mean that I’m not very angry toward the Church nor does it mean that I’m finally solid what I believe (I’m far from that!), but I do see what you’re talking about in my own life.

  5. I think that the reaction experienced by this lady is based upon a perceived sense of betrayal as seen by some of her friends. This friend of Steve’s is no longer ‘part of the family’ by her own statement. Just think what happens to some of your church friends when you leave one church for another. You’ll never hear from some again. Magnify that a hundred fold when you say you’re leaving the community of faith.

    One of the other unfortunate things she had to endure was the question of her morality now that she doesn’t believe in God. I think that stems from the idea that the concept of morality has been used to assert that there’s a Lawgiver. Evolutionary folks view morality as an extension of the concept of kin selection. So, when she says there’s no God, she has, in their eyes denied that there’s such a thing as morality. She became amoral in their way of thinking.

    Hey, I even shock myself when I hear myself say I don’t think God exists (when I have my atheist moments).

  6. Steve

    From the little I’ve read here you react aggressively to people who state without a doubt that God does exist. I’ve read a few posts, thinking of that missionary one in particular, where you’ve admitted that you find it the height of arrogance for people to not only make this assertion but to take actions based on this belief.

    So, if you react aggressively to assertions of fact, and I consider snide remarks and insults to be an aggressive response, why wouldn’t other people do the same.

    Is your reaction to the Christian assertion that God is real, a result of fear?

    Maybe you don’t see this blog and it’s tone as a way to rub things in people’s faces, but I’m sure other folks do.

    Just like I’m sure some friends of this young lady saw her assertion that God wasn’t real as a sign of aggression. Given the history between the two groups, atheists and believers, I can see why they might make that leap.

    Like I said, I could care less what this young lady or any other person believes or feels. The existence or non-existence of God is not a provable fact. Both beliefs require a measure of faith. The problem is that most of the folks on both sides are afraid of admitting this is true.

  7. Big Man – Looking at your avatar above, I am actually a little afraid to answer you!! 🙂 But seriously, I am not sure you can ever apply anything across the board, but certainly there is often a measure of fear if someone acts out aggressively towards another regarding race, religion, political or sexual preference issues.

    And why should the assertion of fact (either way) change a persons level of aggression? The fact of me knowing something that someone else doesn’t shouldn’t cause aggression in that person unless I am going to constantly rub there face in it. Just my assertion that I know God doesn’t exist shouldn’t cause you to be aggressive towards me unless your lack of knowing makes you afraid.

  8. Yes, while I believe that there are legitimate points on both sides of a discussion of race, I think white people are possessed of a measure of fear regarding racial issues. Fear of opening a can of worms, fear of making a misstep, fear of being misinterpreted or misunderstood. And there’s a measure of guilt that feeds this fear also. As has been said, it’s human nature.

  9. Interesting idea that the harsh reaction comes from fear.

    Question, when you see the enormous pushback from the white community whenever the issue of race is interjected into a discussion, do you assume that these white people are also afraid, or do you believe they have legitimate points?

    Just curious if you apply this fear standard across the board.

    Personally, it wouldn’t bother me that somebody didn’t believe in God. Why should I care? However, I can see people responding a little more aggressively if your friend is making an assertion of fact, which is different from saying she doesn’t share the same beliefs as others.

  10. There is nothing open-minded about Mac users. We are simply better than other people. It is one of the few absolute truths mankind is able to grasp (well, the better ones).

  11. I like to think I’m open-minded, but I’m really not.

    Of course, I’m buying a MacBook next month. Maybe that’ll help…

  12. Jeff – First off… NO I DON’T!! 😛

    You are using some pretty exclusive language… “NO ONE wants to be wrong” and “we ALL feel the need to correct”… now that’s open-mindedness in action!!

    To both of you Jeff and Dorse – Seriously though… first I am not sure I would define atheism as a “belief”. Been doing some thinking and reading on that and it’s interesting to consider. Also, I wouldn’t say atheists are open-minded at all. In my opinion, atheistic thought is much more close-minded than, let’s say, the emergent church people.

  13. In fact, I tend to think that there’s a fair degree of mutual exclusivity between the two. The more open-minded you are, the more malleable your conviction has to become.

  14. Ultimately, whether you call it human nature or not, the tendency is to defend one’s beliefs, because no one wants to be wrong. And for some reason, we all feel the need to correct or convince those who disagree.

    It is a rare thing to find a person of conviction who is truly open-minded these days… not even sure if it’s possible.

  15. No.

    I was trying to agree with you and be funny.

    But I do think what I said is a view that Christians have of atheists therefore presuming that “no God” equals “no morals”. However, they/we presumably have God/HS living within them/us and yet… well “human nature” can be quite a good excuse when one needs one.

  16. Yeah, you’d expect an atheist to succumb to human nature. After all, they have no basis for morality whatsoever. Atheists are lost causes with no compass to guide them and allow them to know right from wrong.

    Christians on the other hand….


  17. I agree. Human nature is precisely the culprit here.

    But it’s the notion that christians are supposed to be (and put ourselves out there as) different that makes this more worthy of comment. Just like the irony of the “tolerance crowd’s” hypersensitivity to dissent, the “God is Love” crowd isn’t really all that loving.

  18. If your friend was primarily surrounded by fellow agnostics/atheists and suddenly declared faith in God, I wonder what their response would be.

    I’ve declared faith in God amidst those who do not believe in Him and have experienced their aggression & wrath.

    Could it be that the response has less to do with evangelicalism, and more to do with human nature? I’m not saying I know– just asking.

  19. It grieves me to think that someone has decided to stop believing, because I do believe that God Is. Still, I think you’re absolutely correct, Steve. Fear and insecurity drive the type of bashing your friend has received. I must confess, I’ve done that. I’ve done it, not so much because I was concerned for that person’s soul (although I was, I think), but because their declaration illuminated my own doubts about what I believed about God.

    Eventually, though, I came to grapple with those doubts for quite a while, and my struggle culminated not in a rejection of God, but in the letting go of the religion that had clouded my view of God. And guess what? I took fire from people who feared letting go of their religion.

    I see the same kind of thing happening in political discourse in America. If your friends are liberal, criticize the President on your Facebook and see what happens. If they’re conservative, praise the President’s healthcare proposals. Fear is an effective, if destructive, motivator.

  20. I’m so sorry to hear that people were so mean. May you continue your quest for truth and spiritual peace. And from someone who does believe in G-d, I say this as a blessing from my faith: “May the Lord bless you and keep you.”

  21. I’ve never posted anything quite that controversial, but have been known to be somewhat of a lightening rod on occasion. It can be quite hurtful and even harmful at times. No doubt about it … people can be poisonous. Usually it’s those we least expect and then, of course, that in and of itself is even more hurtful. I’ve gotten to the place where I believe that it doesn’t matter that the internet and/or FaceBook is public, no one has the right to speak to me in a way that is harmful to my mental health. If they choose to be that ill-mannered and lacking in grace, then I have the right to delete their comment out of hand. Without explanation and without warning. I don’t do this very often (perhaps 5 times in my blogging and FB history combined), but when necessary I wield this sword without any guilt whatsoever. Then I go on about my day as those comments are gone and forgotten. The wound will heal in time. Depending on the comment, I would also consider unfriending the person on FB. I’m not God, nor am I Jesus and my time/love is not unlimited. I’ll pray for my enemies, but I don’t have to allow them unlimited access to me. It’s not healthy.

  22. reminds me of job’s friend’s when he started having doubts and struggling with life….stupid friends.

  23. Amazing, isn’t it, how after one declares they believe God is non-existent, many who do believe go into a panic, like the deconverted has/have contracted some sort of contagious virus. Also interesting is that if someone doesn’t believe in a higher power, others who do automatically assume the non-believer has no morals or anything. (Rubbish!)

    She didn’t deserve the hurtful comments she got, IMO. But I also agree that they’re, more likely than not, coming from a place of fear than one of stupidity.

  24. That Christians believe an obsolete book about “How it all went down” written by dudes in tents during the bronze age makes me laugh. Gimme a break.

    LOVE what I’ve read so far in this blog. Krakauer wrote a book, Under the Banner of Heaven, that chronicles the Mormon religion from the get-go. It’s a full on expose, and man’s first look at the birth and development of a huge religion. Amazing read. A real page turner.

    Looking forward to more…you rule.

  25. If I may ask… what is so “obsolete” about the bible?

    The reason the bible may be seen as “out of date” or “no longer in use” is sadly, because those of the Christian faith really don’t use it any more. In my opinion, the bible was written by man but was to spoken to them by God. This may be just something I was raised with and while I fall victim into not applying what I’ve read in the bible with my everyday life… the things I have read and applied, I’ve seen to be true and definitely worth my while. It sucks because I know the I as a Christian, one of the dudes that supposed to “be” Jesus to a broken world, am lacking in that area of love. I say I love, when all I do is condemn which then makes me just like the people that were total douche bags to the girl that this blog was written about. If you can’t go to your friends about this kind of stuff, then who can you go to?

    Anyways, if the bible is seen as obsolete its because a lot of Christians aren’t practicing what they preach… or, your just so turned off by the idea of “God” that its fun to say that “God” is out of date and pointless. Either Way…

  26. Wow this is remarkable.

    You are absolutely correct about the fear. Fear is what their beliefs are based on. They obviously don’t realize it because they have quite literally been brainwashed. They consider myth to be fact and have no problem doing so because they have been taught to believe in a RELIGIOUS text (not scientific!). My religion teacher in Catholic high school always said with a smile on her face: “the Bible is the world’s longest best-seller” …as if that proves anything. I obviously can’t say this anywhere else because I’d be shamed by my theist friends, but it’s actually sick how they justify their beliefs.

    I think it’s quite amusing (sarcasm of course) that theists have the social freedom to express their beliefs but those with atheist beliefs are not allowed to do so publicly without some sort of lash back. Theists take any sort of remark as an attack which, again, shows that what they believe and how they express it stems from fear.

    Check out my blog I have a post about a wonderful website/social network called Officially Atheist where all sorts of issues like this are discussed.


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