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"And how in the world
Can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they'd write me a letter
Saying that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over."
That is basically the response I got from a long time friend that I thought I could trust or who I thought was a friend that I could trust, but, and I hope I am wrong, apparently there were conditions to that friendship. Before it was over she was telling me what I could not say, what I should write, and eventually, when I asked her two honest questions, she gave me what was, in my opinion, a trained response. It really was like I had threaten her beliefs and I could not believe she was a person who would feel insecure about her beliefs when someone expresses a different view, but I guess I was wrong.
The words to the song ring so true, especially when it comes to the idea that one can just get over it and accept “true religion” as opposed to what my relatives believe, which is not “true religion” apparently. Such a statement, as I told her, is the same thing as my grandfather saying, “Calvinists are wrong and Wesleyans are right”. Sorry, but I have never and will never never achieve Christian perfection- Wesleyan doctrine. There is no such thing from what I can tell, because every sect believes differently and many times they each have a different human concept. You name it and it is probably a different concept.
This same friend seemed to resent my saying that even her beliefs could become authoritarian. She does not believe she is authoritarian, but in some respects she comes off as such. Telling someone to not call certain groups certain things is a form of authoritarianism. Telling a person trained responses is a means, given her profession within the Church, to keep the masses in line and not get out of control with their own thoughts. Her responses only gave me red flags to leery, no matter how hard I tried not to be.
Sorry, but I have a right to my own thoughts and opinions. So does everyone else and I am willing to allow her to believe as she wants as long as she does not impose those beliefs on me. What she was spewing was PURE Wesleyan- Christian perfection, although the Episcopal Church is not necessarily either Calvinism or Wesleyan. Both men came out of the Anglican Church and both men strongly disagreed with each other.
Sorry, but I am not ready to make nice with Evangelical Fundamentalists. She may want to make nice, but I do not wish to do so, due to the wrongs they have committed and are committing. However, I was willing to reach out a hand in friendship and hopefully achieve a mutual understanding, but I get the feeling she is not, much less reach any understanding of me and other non-theists. She may say she is being open-minded, but with statements such as, “have you read the New Testament lately?” it does not bode well with understanding a non-theist. All such statements are same old, same old tired remarks of many Christians who are confronted with a non-theist.
The other thing was, she almost demanded that I write a chapter in my book on how religion can be healing, adding that my book would sell well because “Christian bashing is in” or something to that affect. My only response was that I would not know about how religion could be healing and that was an attempt to make nice with her and give her an in to express herself in greater detail. She missed the opportunity. Thus, I felt I was basically told to shut up, stop bashing Christianity, and write what she wanted to read for a change. It is not going to happen, not in my book. “Shut up and write or you're life will be over.” Not her words, but I feel like she might as well have said that.
As I told her, I have not removed my membership as of yet from the Episcopal rolls, thus she has power to have me declared as a heretic or even excommunicated. I practically dared her to do it, but she backed down, saying, “You are not a priest” “who vows to uphold the teachings of the Church” and that she rarely uses the ““h” word”. No, I am not a priest and I never intended to be a priest and much less she did not know how we got into such a dispute any more than I did, adding that she did not have a problem with humanism. My older son thought what she said was a “half-ass” apology, but what does he expect? For me to demand a better apology? I cannot demand such a thing from anyone.
Even she did not know how our argument got so far out of hand, but it did and I will still say and write what I want about any group of Christians I so choose. I will call them what I want to call them and I will believe what I so choose. She has no right to dictate to me any of those things and when I ask her a question, I expect her to stand by her words of “I am not your priest and you are not my parishioner” and address me as a friend, which is what I thought we were.
Just as the Episcopal Church has a chance to reach out to gays, lesbians, transsexuals, and bisexuals, she had a chance to understand a lapsed Episcopalian turned humanist/agnostic and left the Church. She missed the opportunity and I do not know if she will ever get such an opportunity again. I have nothing against the Episcopal Church and I have not said anything bad about that particular church itself, only individuals who behaved badly within the Church. I also said good about her and other individuals, but currently, I am very hurt and angry by how all of this turned out, especially when I was trying to treat her as a friend, which is apparently what she also wants too from what she says. Thing is, she may say it, but sadly, and to my sorrow, she does not seem to follow up with her other words.
However, when she is ready, I will be here, willing to talk, answer any questions she may have, as well as ask questions I may have. I just hope it does not take too many years for her to take that opportunity. In the meantime, I doubt she realizes that she too has hurt me, not so much with religious dogma, but with her words and attitude that defied the notion that I could trust her. I have tried to communicate with her why I have taken the position I have, but she does not seem to be listening to her anything but her own dogma, which she states is grace and not a set of rules. In my honest opinion, dogma is not grace.
Oh I have listened to her, maybe a little too well and I feel she is not hearing me, because I regret coming out to her as a humanist and agnostic. What better position to take, after weighing all that I could than to say, “I know what it is not, but I do not know what it is” or to just say, “I do not know”. This is not a denial of her god nor is it an affirmation, thus it should not be an affront to her beliefs, but it appears that it is and not matter what I do or say, it all seems to just get worse, as she responds with trained and unquestioned statements. The worst one being, “All of history, including the revelations of other religions, prefigures, leads up to, and prepares the human race for the coming of Christ.” What a well trained and well-ingrained response to something that threatens one's beliefs. We have all heard similar things from other theists. It is not new nor is it one bit true. It is not even a thought out answer for oneself, but something she was taught and she accepted without question. Thus, it was like saying, “how dare you question the teachings of the Church”, in my opinion. Thus, I was not talking to a friend, as I had hope and as she wanted me to treat her, but rather a member of the clergy. I even told her, I did not want her to respond as clergy, but as a friend, with her own thoughts and opinions. I have come to the conclusion that she does not have her own thoughts, but only those she was trained to say.
I'm through with doubt
There's nothing left for me to figure out
I've paid a price
And I'll keep paying
I even told her I have done my own research, just as I was allowed to do and came to my own conclusions about it all. I asked, got what I asked for, and I have paid the price for it, but I am glad I did it, even though sometimes I feel sorrow over it. However, I do not feel sorrow currently. Right now, I am glad I did it and would not change it for the world. If she truly wants me to think for myself, as she says she does, then why take so much offense to the words I say?
She was surprised to be lumped in with those who have hurt me with religion? She was not and I said nothing but good about her and I tried to show her that, by sharing the blog post where I did talk about her. Thus, she was not lumped in with Evangelicals and she is still not, but that does not mean she has not hurt me. That is, she had not until now and if she never brings herself to read what I have written here, then what can I say? It only tells me that she does not want to even try to understand my point of view or even from where I am coming.
I still appreciate her as a friend very dearly and will even miss her friendship, if it is truly lost, because she is like a sister to me, but I cannot see how it will work if this is what I get in return, even with honest questions in which I mean no ill-will towards her. Apparently, we have both learned all we need and there is nothing left to figure out, leaving us to pay a price, which one or both of us will keep paying. I, for one, am grateful for what I have learned, for it has left me with little doubts, and obviously I am still learning, but her behaviour is not going to change any of my views. Neither one of us can change the other and I never once expected to change her views or beliefs, whether she realizes it or not. I value our friendship too much to impose my views on her, but that does not mean, I will not ask her tough questions when they come to mind, if she decides to stay friends that is and allows me to have my views. However, I am getting the feeling that will not happen, no matter how many openings I give her to expand on her statements.
All I can do is sigh and keep any further thoughts I may have to myself. What did I expect of her? I expected far better of her than this. Sadly, I did not get what I expected from her and I doubt that I ever will, thus all I can do is sigh and say my fellow non-theists were right about pretty much everything. I wanted to say to each and every one of you, “You are wrong. Not all Christians are like that. Not all Christians are threatened by us.” Sadly, I cannot and I am only left to retreat from this whole situation, back to those who share my views leaving any hopes of making any headway into even one single Christian understanding any of us without feeling threatened. You all were right and I was wrong. Needless to say, I am heartbroken that it looks like I have lost a long time friend in the process, but what was I suppose to do? Continue to lie about my views and pay her lip-service, when she herself said she “would rather see someone commit fully to another religion than half-ass their way through Christianity”? Even though humanism is not a religion.
No, I need to tell the truth about my non-theism, instead of hiding in order to please and appease others. I cannot continue to be quiet about religious abuse. I need to share my story and speak my mind. If I do not, the same patterns will continue. Regardless, it is sad and disheartening “that the words I say can send somebody over the edge”. What I have written stands and what I publish in my book will not change much, except to polish and expand a little on some of the things I have written. Of course, this and many of my other rants will not be included in my book.
That said, it would be far more healing and not at all a dishonour, if we could still be friends. In the end, it could be a potential means of gaining some understanding and compassion for the views of the other, especially of non-theists. I am not so sure it will begin with the two of us though, because I have a feeling she would rather turn a blind eye to religious abuse or call it not true Christianity, than confront it. When and if she is ever ready, I will be here, even though religious abuse is only one reason I am a humanist and if per chance she sees this and reads it, I hope she realizes that I have nothing against her, but am deeply sadden by how things seemed to have turned out between us. However, I hope, if this is not truly over, we can still be friends, regardless of our disagreements, because it was never my intention to hurt her.
* The two quotes above are from "Not Ready To Make Nice" by the Dixie Chicks.