Image by sakura_chihaya+ via FlickrAlthough this may need some polishing, this is what I wish to one-day say to my mother, but having difficulty working up the courage due to her anger when I say something contradictory to her beliefs. It is more or less in open-letter form, boldly packed with much emotion, which I have yet to send to her, if I ever do. She will never see it on the net, because she has some issues with modern technology, but none the less I wrote it and maybe one day soon I can say these things to her or at least mail this to her to read. Regardless of the intent, I still see her reacting vehemently with anger. That is the way it has been when I stepped “out-of-line” in her view and probably will always be until one of us dies- hopefully in the order nature intended. The thing is I have always been better at saying my thoughts in writing than verbally, regardless of other people’s reactions to my words.
Mother, have you ever noticed that when I left home twenty-four years ago, I did not stay in the Lutheran Church ELCA, Free Methodist, Church of God, or any other church with remotely similar to Evangelicalism? Instead, in order to meet one of your requirements, I chose the Episcopal Church and spent many years studying various religions and philosophies in order to find my own way.
My rejection of the crucifixion because of its barbarity you forcefully pushed aside in favour of your dogmatism concerning it. Because you and my relatives said it was the ultimate sacrifice, that made it so in your minds and I had to believe it or else. However, just because authority and the Bible say so, does not make it so. It is all a human concept and the Bible is not the inerrant word of God, but rather the very errant word of Man, written and inspired by Man.
Your wish was to get me to attend church after your third born-again experience and even said you knew I would rebel if you chose something like my great uncle or grandparents’ church, so you chose the Lutheran church for us. Unfortunately, the one you chose carried the Evangelical label. While I have nothing against Lutherans, it was not for me, yet you did not comprehend why I stayed sick with anorexia and got upset when others blamed you, for you did not see yourself as abusive.
No, you were not physically or sexually abusive like my father, but the demand that I conform to your beliefs was and is abusive. It instilled fear of you and my other relatives, not of a deity, especially when you reacted with anger in response to what I said that you did not agree with.
The list of things that should have given you a clue that our beliefs differ somehow did not register with you or if it did, you pushed them aside, because you want to see your family in your very human concept of an afterlife. You did not notice that I went up to comfort you after you went up to my great uncle’s altar for a third time due to your “backsliding” and not to “be saved” nor did you realize that you wanted me to be baptized and that you and my great uncle were intimidating concerning the baptism.
Yet, when I attempt to tell you, “I’m a humanist” you cry, “You’re hurting me!” and then take an emotional turn into venomous anger as you demand to know what I believe under no uncertain terms. What do you expect me to do when you are rabid with dogmatic ideology? The only thing that calms you is to give you lip service and appease you. However, I am tired of playing the game and want to be myself with you and allow you to get to know me, not some fantasy version you desire.
How easily you forget the first seven years of my life, in which your raised me by the humanist philosophy. You may not have known it consciously, but the various influences were there, especially with Dr. Benjamin Spock’s childrearing ideas and the various books you were able to read to me without me throwing a fit about what others were doing.
Please do not regret that though, because I am very happy with my philosophy and live a good life of reason and compassion without reliance on any superstition or dogma. I strive for that at least. I thank you greatly for all the humanist influences you gave me during my very early years. In fact, since I chose humanism for myself in my thirties, my health has improved greatly over the last several years. I chose to live my life as I see fit without allowing others to do it for me. I chose to stand on my own two feet and face reality head-on as I brushed aside trying to be what everyone else wanted me to be.
I do not need anyone to send a letter to an adult Santa Claus because of it either. What I need is acceptance and real unconditional love that is not contingent on believing and conforming to what you believe. I need acceptance and acknowledgement as a human being who has a mind of her own and the capability to think for herself, not someone pounding me with their Evangelical dogmatic ideology.
Just once I would appreciate it if you called to ask, “How are you?” instead of the first thing I hear out of you being something to do with your religious beliefs only to bring you down with my lack of response to your enthusiasm. I have no logical or rational reason to get excited about such things, contrary to your belief.
You have a choice. You have always had a choice, but if your reaction is like that of my grandfather towards his brother, then it only serves to reject actually knowing who your daughter really is. I am still the same person, minus trying to appease and please you. Except for that one thing, nothing else about me is different.
I am not you. We are not the same person because you gave birth to me and it is well past time to change the all-inclusive “I” and “me” to “you and me”, because I am a totally separate person, an individual. I have never been you, either. My thoughts and opinions, which I kept to myself all these years, have never been your thoughts and opinions. They have always been my own, which I kept to myself, regardless of having a voice that is all mine.
Please keep in mind, that I am not that doll that you spoke so much about and supposedly prayed to come alive and a reality. A doll is something a little girl controls and manipulates, but it is not real. I am a real human being, not made of wood nor do I have a wooden heart. I am flesh and bone, which you conceived years ago, but not a doll that came to life due to a prayer answered by God. There was no fairy-winged angel dust that brought your doll from many years ago to life. It pains me to force you to see that reality, but it is a reality you must face.
Dolls are toys. Daughters are real and unlike dolls, they have feelings, thoughts, and opinions, which cannot and should not be manipulated, imposed upon, or ignored. There was no prayer in which some deity brought any doll to life. That is only a little girl’s childhood fantasy in relationship to a god concept about a favourite doll and nothing more.
By the way, I always hated that song “Wooden Heart/Muss I Denn” too, because for some reason, the actual words were ignored in favour of a fantasy of a doll coming to life by a little girl’s prayer to God. IF I lost my strings, then there is no more controlling or manipulation from anyone, not even you. It is time to give up such Pinocchio fantasies, especially when you know I never could stand Disney stories.
That is the first of many fantasies I wish for you to discard concerning me. The second one is your belief that everyone should share the same god concept, because not everyone shares your god concept. The rest we can work on slowly and at your own pace, but I do not expect you to disregard all your beliefs, which you hold so dear, nor do I intend to force you to do so, just the ones you impose and/or project upon me in relationship to what you believe everyone should believe. For me to do so would be psychological abusive to you and I do not want that either, especially since you held them for sixty-four years. However, those beliefs you hold so dear were imposed upon you and even enforced on you from day one of your life, yet you did not question them completely, even when you “backslided”.
Also, please do not send me any more propaganda about people having a bad relationship with their father reflecting their relationship with God. This has nothing to do with that, but rather an education, which you feared so much. I will grant you that a real education brings about critical thinking skills, which in return brings about reason and logic. However, an education did not harm or destroy any faith that I might have had, which was never the same as yours. Rather it answered my questions and doubts about religious beliefs, which I was denied until after I left home and made decisions for myself.
It took me over twenty-five years to get this far, but these are the choices I made for myself. I claim humanism as my own worldview. I did not choose disbelief in your god, but rather, it chose me years ago. Not once did I ever share your god concept and still do not. Whatever god concept I ever possessed was purely pantheistic, or sexed up atheism as Richard Dawkins calls it, and never theistic. Such atheistic beliefs do not require any religious text, so there never was any faith to destroy via an education. It all came from within myself and never was external or other worldly, which is something I do not expect you to comprehend, even if I explained the neurological basis of it to you. What an education did was help me understand the god concept I possessed as a child and gave me a greater appreciation for the human condition.
Sadly, your concept only brought me pain and misery. It was a source of misery and never a source of comfort, contrary to your belief. I watched our relatives over the years and I doubt such a concept ever actually brought anyone comfort, maybe pseudo-comfort, but not a real sense of comfort. The dogmatism behind it all did little except to perpetuate a cycle of abuse and neglect, which I am sadden you never saw. Trying harder to believe and clapping your hands together, like that in Peter Pan, will not change any of that.
I do not say these things to anger or upset you, but rather to continue my ongoing journey into adulthood and maturity, independent of any authority. In addition, I have not “backslid”, for I never dedicated my life to any deity as you have, but rather tried to keep you from being angry with me, especially as a child. My only regret is that neither you nor my other relatives ever saw what they were doing or even enabling with Evangelical beliefs, such as the abuse I endured from my father. I broke the cycle of abuse when I left home at nineteen, never to return or subject my offspring to such psychologically abusive ideology. You may be my mother and respect you as that, but not your beliefs. I never shared your beliefs and I never will. I cannot share your beliefs for it is not within me to do so and I am very happy to say my sons always had freedom of religion and from religion. There is no freedom of religion without freedom from religion, thus they had an advantage I never had until I left home.
I hope that we can move on from here without any more games or attempts to appease to keep the peace, because it is getting old and wearing thin. I also hope that we can move on from here as individuals who are respectful of each other’s worldviews without imposing on each other, as well as have a relationship that is more befitting of a mother with an adult daughter, because a non-theistic worldview such as humanism is not the end of the world, but a beginning. For me it is a way of life, which involves freedom, peace of mind, my own health, and well-being. This is not to anger you in any way, but rather a statement of my own independence as an adult and there is not a thing wrong with that.
Our forefathers made a Declaration of Independence to the Motherland years ago and today, the U.S. has a good relationship with England. In fact, it is a better relationship. Granted, there was a war, but it did not last forever and I expect, or at least hope, our relationship will eventually turned into a better one than it is now, regardless of your first reaction to this.
Note: “Backsliding” is a Wesleyan term that involves one being “born-again” or “rededicating” their life to the Lord Jesus Christ and can be repeated over an over again until one reaches “Christian perfection”, which are two of many Wesleyan ideological terms I may discuss in a later post. Thus, one of many differences between Calvinism and Wesleyan practices that may cause some confusion for some when I talk about the many times my mother has been “born-again”.