“What you do now matters.”

This week Amber Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the murder of Botham Jean. A white woman burst into the apartment of an innocent black man shot and killed him and wasn’t even taken into custody at the scene. I could go on and on about how lenient the sentence was, how it only happened this way because we live in a blue and white world that gives privilege to those that don’t deserve it, but I won’t. Instead I want to focus on the impact statement from Jean’s brother Brandt and the inappropriate behavior of Judge Tammy Kemp.


When addressing the court of the impact of Botham’s death Brandt spoke directly to Guyger. He stated that he forgives her, loves her as a person and wants only the best for her. In addition he stated that he didn’t even wish for her to go to jail but instead to give her life up to Christ. After stating the best thing she could do now is give her life to Christ he embraced her right there in the courtroom. I am not going to fault him for his reaction. He may truly believe that prison will not make the difference and Christ will . However as an Atheist I cannot imagine how devoting her life to Christ would in any way be beneficial. Clearly it did nothing to protect Botham, a youth pastor and active member of his church. The only thing his devotion to God could really do is possibly give hope to other believers that he is now in heaven, when in reality he is dead, killed for no reason, not even a martyr… just gone.

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What really bothered me about the final moments of the sentencing phase was what the judge did. While overcome with emotion from the unprecedented act she had just allowed to occur in her courtroom, she decided to step far outside the bonds of our law. Judge Tammy Kemp left the bench and returned with a copy of the bible, she holds it out to Guyger and states “You can have mine. I have 3 or 4 more at home. This is the one I use every day. This is your job for the next month. Right here. John 3:16”. It continues on, in front of every member of Jean’s family she embraces Guyger, attempting to provide comfort to a murder while stating “I believe in Christ… you haven’t done so much that you can’t be forgiven. You did something bad in one moment in time. What you do now matters.”. Then she forces the bible upon Guyger who carries it out of the courtroom.


I cannot even process what just happened. I try to put myself there, having someone I loved taken away and having to watch a judge bring God into the courtroom and tell the killer that it’s what happens from this point on that matters. Does this mean that breaking into an innocent man’s apartment, shooting him, refraining from providing any life saving measures and then focusing completely on how it would affect you is totally meaningless? What kind of delusional world do these believers live in. I decided to look around at various sites to see what people were saying about the events and I must say it was unnerving. One exchange in particular caught my eye. While discussing the sentencing a person wrote “But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”.


Someone, anyone, please tell me how this is a positive thing? Yes, releasing your conscious of the weight of hate and forgiving can be beneficial for a victim to move forward in life, but they shouldn’t have to do it because if not they will be punished by God. The next response to the thread stated “the bible states if we do not forgive, we cannot be forgiven.”. Seriously, think about that for a moment. The murderer repents and is forgiven by God but if the victims cannot find forgiveness for the killer they will be judged by God. The third comment states “That’s what a true Christian would do.” but what I wonder is, why would they do it? Are they doing it because it is what they need to move forward? Are they doing it to honor the memory of the one they lost so that hate doesn’t tarnish their legacy? Or are they doing it because if they don’t God will never forgive them?
Let us also not forget that there is a huge difference between a grieving brother expressing that faith may be beneficial and a judge assigning religious work to a criminal. What gull it takes to think that you can force your beliefs, a person who has power over you, using that power to direct someone to take on their belief system. Imagine the outrage our country would have had if they judge handed her a Koran. There would have been protests and shaming, an appropriate reaction, but only if it applies to the bible as well. As an Atheist, if I was told that my punishment included finding Jesus I would have to decline. I would accept a punishment that fit my crime as long as it was within the boundaries of our country’s laws, but never would I allow God to be forced on me.
God and religion have no place in our judicial system. Do not let a beautiful embrace and act of forgiveness take away from the fact that a judge forced religion upon a criminal. Don’t let it negate the fact that people are seeing this act as inspirational and the perfect way to not be punished by God. I am fortunate to have never lost someone to a tragedy such as this, I cannot imagine the pain and I won’t pretend I do. I respect the Jean family and all those that loved Botham and I will not criticize their grieving process. But please, remember that this is just another reminder that Christian’s feel entitled to force their religion on us at all times and it is because we let them get away with it… and we cannot keep allowing this to happen.

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To the US Government: You cannot have my body

 

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For as long as I can remember I have identified as pro-choice. I can remember attending a Clinton/Gore rally in 1992 and in front of me was our future president and behind me a group of protestors. I was probably in the second grade at this time but already I was becoming aware of what a divisive issue abortion was. The hostile energy that radiates from someone intent on taking away your rights is unmistakable, this small moment gave me a hint that my right to choose was precious and something worth fighting to for.

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In my teenage years I didn’t have much direct experience with abortions but I did have knowledge of what one was. I knew that it was a medical procedure that was used to end a pregnancy, and that there were a number of reasons why a woman might need one. It was a nonissue for me until my senior year of high school when I started dating a guy that was 4 years older than me. We had sex and we also had a pregnancy scare. As much as my young mind thought I loved him, the way he treated me behind closed doors made me aware that I could never have brought a child into our relationship. I was with him longer than I should have been. Trapped in an abusive situation that I was lucky to get out of with just a scar on my lip and knowledge how fast things can escalate from bad to worse. I am thankful that I never had to make the choice of whether or not to abort because at that point in my life I was far too fragile to face something so serious. At least then I would have had the choice to not tie myself to an abusive man; our lawmakers want to make it so you have to stay.

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October 2003, Sophomore year of college. I went to a party at a neighboring university. I arrived with three of my friends but walked home alone the next morning. At some point during the party I got separated from my girlfriends and I have no memory of the night, just what I experienced in the morning. I woke up in the bed of a man I did not know. I still had my tank top on, still had my boots on, but my jeans were just past my knees. I looked up at him and he said “don’t even say it, no one will care”. As I walked down Forbes avenue back to my dorm I remember the empty feeling inside that let me know I was never going to be the same. To this day it is something I have a terribly difficult time talking about. I can’t say the word rape because it makes me physically ill to do so. Even typing this out right now I keep questioning if I should talk about what happened that night. I cannot imagine what I would have done if I had become pregnant. I didn’t know his name, I didn’t want to know his name, and certainly I didn’t want to be connected to him for the rest of my life. The shame and regret I felt overpowered me to the point that I left that University when Sophomore year ended. When I think of all the young women in college right now that could easily experience what I did and could become pregnant; their only choices would be to keep a child born of a crime or to commit a crime by aborting the pregnancy.

the day I had my first "abortion"

Now that I am a mother you would think that abortion isn’t something I deal with when in fact according to my medical records, I have had two. After a perfect pregnancy that resulted in my beautiful daughter Arabella, I lost two babies to a gene mutation. With both losses I had to have a D&C procedure to remove the products of conception from my womb. This is not a procedure that every woman who miscarries needs. Depending on the circumstances they may be able to pass naturally, this was not the case for me. Both times it was traumatic, both times it was called an abortion. When we lost Lily the procedure helped me to heal a bit as I did not have a daily reminder that my baby was gone, with Riley it was much more graphic. Products of conception were left behind after the D&C leaving me with months of bleeding that resulted in me collapsing at work when I started passing massive clots and pieces of tissue from my vagina. In the ER the asked for a urine sample and the entire collection cup overflowed with blood. I cannot imagine our government forcing women to go through this when a pregnancy is lost. The emotional toll it takes on you is bad enough, but to have to physically experience it is torture, especially when there is another way. The men on the panel that passed the hideous Alabama law have never and will never have to look down and see the remainder of what was once a child they desperately wanted. No one should have the right to dictate what happens inside of another person’s body. It is wrong, it is just so wrong. I am fearful for what my daughter may have to deal with in the future.

I am not sure what fool spread the notion that an abortion is somehow a pleasant thing. Pro-lifers always make it sound so casual. They pretend that it is used as a form of contraception when in reality that is not the case. I know women who have had abortions.  Some felt a sense of relief, some felt shame but none of the woman I have ever talked to said it was a good experience. For some it is the absolute best choice under their circumstance and having the right to recognize that is so important. The laws our government officials are trying to pass will not stop abortions. What they will do is put women in an impossible situation that damages them physically and emotionally.

In my eyes losing the right to choose is the government of the United States of America telling me that I do not matter. We cannot let them break us. We need to share our stories because clearly people are not understanding that abortion is more than a graphic image on a protestors sign. Whether physical or psychological, abortion can be the difference between life or death for the woman that is pregnant… and I refuse to let the government kill the women of our country.

“I can’t shoot someone because in my mind they had a weapon.”

Yesterday the jury issued a verdict of not guilty in the case against officer Michael Rosfeld, the man who shot and killed Antwon Rose. As I followed the trial I noticed that much of what the defense was presenting came from what people thought and what they felt with little focus on what they knew. It brought me back to another high profile case where a 17 year old black boy unjustly lost his life. On November 23, 2012 Michael David Dunn shot into a car and killed Jordan Davis. In the first interview that Dunn had with detectives he made a point to say that he shot his gun because in his mind the occupants of the vehicle had weapons. One of the detectives responded with the most sensible statement I have ever heard; “I can’t shoot someone because in my mind they had a weapon”. What an amazing revelation. It seems some law enforcement officers still belief that it isn’t enough to think it, you need to know the truth before you kill someone that is not an immediate threat to your life. Sadly during the trial here in Pittsburgh the officer stated over and over that he thought he saw a gun and as it turns out those feelings satisfied the jury.

We live in a culture that is relying too much on what they feel rather than what they know. This is pretty much the driving force behind religions, blind faith, no evidence required. Sometimes I wonder if the adults that were indoctrinated as children are even capable of relearning critical thinking skills. If they have gone their entire life believing their future is set in motion by a higher power and that their is a judge higher than man. Will they always be comfortable saying  “well i can see why he felt that way” to justify actions that following the facts should never have happened? Will they say “he did what he had to do” because subconsciously they believe our actions are ultimately out of our control? If you are not able to set aside emotion and deal strictly with facts, can their be justice in the world?

Fact: Antwon Rose was in a car that was involved in a drive-by

Fact: Michael Rosfeld had no proof of this at the time of the traffic stop that resulted in the death of Antwon Rose.

People say that the officer was just doing his job, but was he? During a traffice stop he shot a teenager that was not an immediate threat  three  times in the back, then handcuffed him and left him on the ground as he gasped for breath. He did not feel the need to try to preform life saving measures, he just panicked and left the rest to the officers who arrived several minutes later. All we hear is that he thought he had a gun, he thought he reached for a gun, he thought he saw a gun. But guess what, ANTWON ROSE DID NOT HAVE A GUN. So these feelings he had are why Antwon is dead. People argue that Antwon should not have run from the car and I agree that it was not a wise choice, but running from a traffic stop does not warrant the death penalty. You would think that officer Rosfeld’s feelings at the time shouldn’t be a factor because the jury was able to view video evidence that showed Antwon running away. They could see that he  didn’t reach for anything and he didn’t turn around, in fact the shots came so fast I can’t imagine he’d have had time to. Luckily I don’t have to speculate, there is evidence that we can see and it is plain as day that a defenseless teenager was shot dead as he retreated. So how did a jury of his peers find him not guilty of all possible charges? It is because people become blinded by personal bias and after-the-fact information. I cannot tell you how many people have commented “He wasn’t innocent, he was involved in a drive-by earlier”. There are even people still listing Antwon as the shooter in the drive-by despite (once again) video to the contrary as well as a confession by the real shooter. Others have stated that Antwon had a clip in his pocket at the time of his death and therefore that makes him a criminal and office Rosfeld had the duty to protect himself and others. Yes, he did have the clip in his pocket, but it is a moot point because officer Rosfeld could not have known it was there when he shot and killed Antwon. We live in the United States and whether you like it or not, everyone has the right to a fair trial. The other boys that survived the event will all be charged and unlike officer Rosfeld they will likely serve time for their crimes. Apparently when you have the right combination of judge and jury you are allowed to be the executioner.

I have no idea when or if this epidemic will end, I am ashamed that my hometown has now contributed to the injustice.  All I can say is that I promise to do my part to bring awareness to the state of our society.  My thoughts and my heart are with all of the people that loved Antwon, he will not be forgotten.

R.I.P. Antwon Rose II

A Secular Response To Tragedy

I haven’t been able to find the words to express my feeling for the senseless loss of life at the Tree of Life synagogue. Perhaps it is because it happened just across the bridge from me as opposed to across the country. Maybe it is that the combination of Antwon Rose’s death, the pedophile priests and now a mass shooting, makes raising my children in Pittsburgh seem like an unwise choice. Running from all these issues isn’t the answer, I know that… so how do we stop this?

As a secular humanist my initial response is always to promote tolerance and respect. I may be an Atheist but that does not mean that I do not respect people of faith. I may disagree with their ideology. I may find them to be misguided. I may request that their believes are not forced into my life. Despite all our differences I never wish anything bad to happen to them. I don’t want to see a battle between the believers. I do not want anyone to lose their lives. Kellyanne Conway mentioned anti-religiosity when discussing the tragedy in Pittsburgh. Stating that this is not the time to remove religion from the public forum and that it’s not the time for jokes.

“The late night comedians. The un-funny people on TV shows. It’s always anti-religious. And remember, these people were gunned down in their place of worship’,” Conway continued. “As were the people in South Carolina several years ago. And they were there because they’re people of faith and it’s that faith that needs to bring us together.”

I do agree that this is not a laughing matter. Anyone making light of this horrible act of terrorism is an entirely different level of disgusting that I am unable to comprehend. What I do not agree with is that faith needs to bring us together. Just like politics will not unite us all, religion will always be divisive. These innocent people were killed while worshiping their God. The rest of the people within the Jewish community are going to grieve based upon their belief system. Is this really the best time for Christians to remind them that according to their beliefs, people who follow Judaism will not be going to heaven? Of course not. I am a firm believer that times of grief are off limits to proselytizing. Even if you are promoting a secular/atheist message, don’t do it while someone is in mourning, wait until they have a clear mind.

Their faith can’t bring us together or heal these wounds, but if their faith gives them strength, then we could show them that strength is found in unity. Despite what faith others might hold. I may not believe in an afterlife, but I can understand the psychological need for the comfort it brings. I may not pray to a God, but I do find the benefit in pouring all my feelings out into the void via writing. So, though we are not the same, we are still capable of relating to each other. Perhaps people could look inward and reflect on how thankful they are for the ability to worship as they wish. Maybe they could take that and bump it up to being thankful that we all have the right to worship as we wish. If they could just keep reminding themselves that it is the freedoms of others that allow you to be free, maybe then we could unite.

I still don’t have adequate words for the loved ones of the eleven people killed here in my hometown of Pittsburgh… saying I am sorry isn’t enough and neither is promising to keep you all in my thoughts and heart. Action is needed at this point and so I vow to continue fighting for our freedoms so that these deaths are not in vain… and I will vote on Tuesday to do my part to create a government that wants to protect the citizens of our country.

Burn Your Bible Instead

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Our society is completely backwards. People are outraged because Nike included Colin Kaepernick in an ad and have decided to burn the products that they already paid for as a form of protest. They are outraged by a quote, a statement against intolerance… I bet it will be the hot topic at lunch after church on Sunday. Yes, we live in a society that will burn their shoes when someone stands up to police brutality but will put money in the collection plate when they learn that priests are raping children.

What did Colin Kaepernick really do that was so disgraceful that it warrants this type of outrage? He used his celebrity as a platform to peacefully protest police brutality. He wanted to stand up for those who lost their lives. Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Freddie Gray, Antwon Rose… those are just a few of the higher profile cases, but this is a problem that runs deep and if people with power don’t keep it in the public eye people will keep brushing it under the rug.

People try to say that kneeling during the anthem in memory of the victims of police brutality is somehow disrespectful to our troops. What is truly disrespectful to our troops is the way they are treated by our country once the government has taken all they need. Our vets that cannot get proper healthcare for the devastating physical wounds, that suffer PTSD and are dismissed, having to deal with a president that refers to a POW as a coward, and most importantly the ones who died in combat in wars that never had to happen. Colin Kaepernick is not the face of disrespect towards our troops, our politicians are.

Back to the outrage and misplaced anger…. Why are people so gung-ho to destroy the merchandise of this company? They haven’t done anything other than remind us that some people use their platform for good. Where was the burning of bibles when the priests were exposed for the monsters that they are? Where was the boycott of all churches for covering up the abuse? How is speaking out against a problem more severe than hiding one? What has happened to our world?

There are so many major issues happening right now. We are living under a corrupt government that wants to strip us of our rights. America is on the verge of being nothing but a joke and you are allowing yourself to be distracted by an ad. You have been so blinded that you don’t even see that by fighting against Colin you are risking your own right to speak out.  If you really think that defending police brutality is the place to direct your energy, I support your right to protest. If you want to ignore the real issues and burn Nike merchandise, just do it. But remember that this nonsense will not be without consequence and by the time you realize what is happening it may be too late.

God’s Divine Order Encourages Sexual Harassment.

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Just a few days ago I wrote about the sexist attitude of religious men. How they talk down to me, call me things like “sweetie” and “honey” and they even try to make my existence as a sexual being part of the debate when clearly it has no place being discussed. I also made a YouTube video addressing how religious men wouldn’t dictate when or where I would breast feed my child. It was titled “my breasts are not your stumbling block” and it covered how these men like to sexualize everything a woman does and blame them when they cannot control themselves. Needless-to-say this is an issue all women face at some point in their lives, whether you are an “obedient wife” or a “heathen temptress”, religious men will find a way to blame you for their actions.

When I watched Bishop Ellis fondle Ariana Grande I was sickened… not surprised at all, but still sickened. You know that oppression of women in religion has hit an all time low when the pastor thinks it is okay to fondle a young woman, in front of millions of people while at a funeral. It is just mind blowing. Of course it is horrific no matter where or when it happens, but when we’ve reached the point that you think you can just touch someone’s body that way, knowing the rest of the world sees you, things are getting out of hand.

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As of now Bishop Ellis still hasn’t apologized. He released a statement that he may have gone too far but at no point took responsibility for his actions, this is because he doesn’t believe he did anything wrong.  You see men in religion are taught from a young age that women are subservient beings. That men only have to answer to God. This is the type of dangerous teaching that I fear is being introduced to each generation of young men. Do you think it is a mistake that up until recently all of the priests, rabbis, pastors. etc were men? Men are second only to God and with that message we put all women in danger.

I have seen many people defending Bishop Ellis by blaming Ariana’s dress. To Ariana and all the women reading this, your dress is never the problem, you are never the problem. You have the right to dress any way that you wish and should be able to do so without fear that the divine order will make it okay for a man to touch you. We cannot let events such as this get brushed under the rug. We’ve all felt the chill of suggestive words or a hug that goes on for just a little too long. If you are not inviting someone to touch your body they have no right to do it. If you have invited them to touch your body and they go too far, stop and say something. We need to speak up, we need to make change, the indoctrination that women belong to men needs to be eradicated. #MeToo

 

To the believers, why does God hate children?

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I want to pose a question to all of the believers. Why does your God keep abusing and killing so many children?

So many times, we hear of criminals that find God while in prison. For some reason it is only after the crime is committed that they can accept Christ into their heart. Some people go as far as to say that it was the crime itself that brought them to God, that he put them in that situation for the specific purpose that they needed a way to see God’s plan for their life. Fine, I can see where they are going with that. They didn’t believe in God, as a result they did wrong, the suffer the consequence and with that learn that they need God to live a life without sin. It is nonsensical to me, but I can at least follow the “logic”, but what about the victims?

There was a case here in Pittsburgh where a man named Matthew Franks killed a 12 year old girl named Tia Wright in a drunk driving accident. The driver was sentenced to 2 years in prison with 8 years of probation and that should have been the end of it. However, Matthew felt the need to push make this about his life and not the life he stole. At sentencing he stated “Throughout the past three years, I’ve become a very religious person,” and a believer in “divine intervention,” he said. “I believe that Tia Wright saved my life and was sent here to serve that purpose.”. That means that God, the same God you worship each day, created her only to have her suffer a gruesome, painful death right in front of her father and best friend. Just the thought of that makes me ill. Where is the compassion, the love that this God is supposed to possess for all those that worship him? How can you continue to support a God that creates innocent souls for no other reason but to cause them pain?

I suppose that up to this point the cases could fall under the no true Scotsman fallacy. That the Christian could say that these killers don’t have true a relationship with God. I don’t know how you could possibly prove that but for the sake of this argument I will let it slide. That being said I must ask what do you do when it is under your own roof. When the abuse is happening in the church. When the people committing the abuse are the ones that have found God, devoted their entire life to God, that have a relationship with God that the organization recognizes them as the people capable of delivering his message. How can you accept that most holy beings alive are the ones that take away the innocence of God’s children?

In the case of the recent ring of pedophile priests that spent years abusing, molesting and raping children, what did the children due to earn a lifetime of pain. Children whose only mistake was entering the house of God now have to live with trauma they endured at the hands of God’s most trusted servants. They have lost the ability to trust because not only were they hurt but when it was exposed, it was dismissed. If the God that they thought loved them could allow the ones he put in charge to cause this pain and the very highest leaders to pretend it never happened. How would it be possible to ever trust again? When the accusations are proven to be true and still there is no justice. There is not a punishment, no consequence for hurting innocent children, God knows the truth, and this is how he wants his leaders to proceed. Just today I had someone reply to this question with “God allows evil to happen to bring goodness out of evil.”. This explains a lot, of course the believers would be willing to cover up crimes and allow abuse to continue, in their minds they are actually benefiting from it. I find this disturbing and disgusting and so I have to ask again, how is this the reality that believers choose to live with.

I would really like to hear the reasoning. I would gladly listen to the justification. Please show me the evidence that makes you continue to believe in God despite all the pain he causes. How do you justify the suffering of children? How do you rationalize the pain? Feel free to message me or reply here, speak openly because if you’ve got an answer and the evidence to back to up I really do want to hear it.

Ignorance is Bliss and Sexism is Plentiful

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A few days ago, my husband posted an article to our blog on the topic of religious versus secular ethics and why secular ethics is superior. I tweeted a link for anyone who might be interested and received one particularly ridiculous comment from a believer. The twitter user, Terry Stevens wrote “If Atheism is true then why can’t scientists explain the origin of matter?”. This comment made it clear that he had not read Rich’s article but instead what to play the part of the religious troll. He quickly showed that he was incapable of a coherent discussion and at one point flat out stated that he wasn’t interested in learning about opposing viewpoints. On top of that when I said that I enjoy learning what others believe and why they believe it he made a spectacle of himself going of the grid with by making a “reading list” of all of the propaganda he felt fit into his attempt to compare Atheism to hate groups. There was some terrible titles and yet somehow he left out all of the Christian hate… interesting, don’t you think? He even added me to a list called “Atheist Commies” which showed that he had no idea who I am or what I stand for. I asked him how he could possibly justify his own set of beliefs if he doesn’t know what he is against. Again, he said he doesn’t wish to educate himself and tried to deflect from the original discussion.

At one point another gentleman started to engage him in conversation. He was supporting my viewpoint and Terry responded with the sexist words “She’s not gonna shag you mate”. Implying that the only reason a man would agree with a woman is for sexual gain. Thankfully he simply dismissed the comment and moved on but still, it was a reminder that even in 2018 religious groups see women as inferior beings. If you check out the link to the twitter thread you’ll notice in the screen shots that Terry didn’t attack the other gentlemen until it was about me. There is nothing wrong with stating that you can’t make an argument and you want to bow out. In this case Terry not only felt the need to get the last word but called me “darling”. If you cannot engage in a respectful discussion just move on. Patronizing remarks are unnecessary unless you want to remind everyone that you aren’t just close minded but sexist as well.

Unfortunately this isn’t a new experience for me. I’ve seen it many times during religious debate, a woman is not worthy of the same respect as a man. We must explain our views tenfold. It happens a lot on the Facebook page that Rich and I share for all things related to Couple of Atheists. Since we share the account people don’t always know who they are speaking with right off the bat. There have been many times that halfway through a conversation they will realize which one of us it is and suddenly the tone completely changes. I am spoken down to. Suddenly Rich’s arguments have more merit… it’s bizarre to see. Personally, it doesn’t upset me, I know that I am just as capable as Rich is when it comes to defending the secular point of view. What does bother me is to think that there are women out there who have to deal with this every day. Women that stay in relationships, join organizations, work for companies that look down on them only because they hold faith in a God that say that is the way it is supposed to be.

If you are reading this and you are in an abusive relationship with God, please know that you are just as important as any man. That despite what you have been told you deserve the same respect as anyone else. If you are reading this and are the one that is abusing in the name of God, please know that by dismissing so many people you are cutting yourself off from full life. If you don’t treat the people that care for you with respect, eventually there won’t be anyone left that supports you. If you are the type of person that closes their mind to all other viewpoints you are missing out on a world of knowledge. You are making it impossible for you to truly understand the views you hold because you don’t even know what else is out there. Blind faith will lead you right off the cliff into a life of ignorance. And though it might be nice to not have to think for yourself, this bliss can only last so long. Eventually you won’t be able to hide behind God and you won’t know what to do. Educate yourself, that knowledge may be the only thing that truly saves you.

Victims of God

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I have always loved living in Pittsburgh. It is a friendly city with deep roots and lots of unique qualities. However, something happened just this week to cause me to feel intense shame, Pittsburgh was tied to a ring of pedophile priests. It was a massive cover-up that went back decades. It was made possible by local priests, various clergy, the once highly regarded bishop, now Cardinal, Donald Wuerl among many others. A plethora of information has now been released. You can read all 1356 pages of the report online, you can watch interviews and hear the sobs of those directly affected, you can read the gruesome and heartbreaking details of what these children endured. Though I recommend it, as I do not think post people understand how absolutely horrifying this really is,  I will also warn you- that it is not for the faint of heart.

One quote that jumped out at me came from a letter written by one of the victims. He has since died of an overdose as he became addicted to the painkillers he was prescribed after suffering an injury to his spine while he was raped by his priest. The words of the victim were as follows. “He killed my potential and, in doing so, killed the man I should have become.”. To me this serves as a reminder that though the physical pain of abuse is significant, the psychological components are what can destroy your entire life.

I can’t imagine what it feels like to be physically or sexually abused as a child. I was fortunate to escape my younger years without this time of trauma. As an adult I was not as lucky, but still, there is something different about it being a child. The innocence that is stolen away. Preying on someone who thinks you care for them. Destroying their ability to trust. I think most of us respond differently to child abuse versus the abuse of an adult… unless you are a part of the Catholic church.

Within the walls of the church anything is possible. You can rape a child, confess it and you are forgiven. Sure, you might get sent off to another church, but that just means a new group of children to abuse. In one article it was stated that after finding out about his sexual misconduct, including the abuse of an 11 year old boy, Pope Francis sentenced U.S. Prelate Theodore McCarrick to “a life of prayer and penance” which  means that absolutely nothing happened. It amazes me how many of the rapists can have their names redacted from the list and the paperwork. If a regular citizen sexually assaults someone not only will it be all over the news, but they will have to register as a sex offender. For Christ’s sake there are people who dated a 17-year old when they themselves were 19- years old that have had to register as sex offenders, but the priests can save face because religion has its own rules and are treated special in our society. This must stop.

Another thing that has boggled my mind is where is the public outrage over this? Where are the protesters? Where are all the Catholics denouncing their faith? How can anyone still want to be involved in the Catholic church (or any church) after hearing about this?  I am unable to comprehend it. My brain does not have the ability to flip this around into a positive experience. Lots of people say that they still identify as Catholic but simply don’t attend church anymore. In fact, during an online chat I saw someone say “I don’t go to church, but I hold much of the catholic faith still, even after being one of the victims of molestation by a catholic priest who they moved around. I still have faith I just keep my faith away from the buildings.”.  So, this person knows firsthand of the abuse that can come as a result of the corruption within the church and still believes that Catholicism is the standard on which to base your life. They believe the same bible these priests read from is the best book from which to learn what is right and wrong. They have had the fear of God beaten into their brain to the point that nothing, not even this, can break the grip religion has on their life. The power that religious indoctrination can have over an individual is simply outrageous. And if people keep finding ways to justify it, those in power will continue to do it.

Don’t be fooled, this is not a new problem and it is not a problem that will go away just because some 300 priests have been outed. The abuse of children has a deep and dark history within religion and it isn’t just the Catholics that are at fault. Do not be naive, this is not the power of the priest at work, it is the power of “God”. There are individuals from all religions that have been guilty of this crime, and all of those criminals know someone will cover it up and that they can likely shame their victim into silence or simply threaten them with the wrath of God. Most of the victims and their families will never receive any justice. The statute of limitations has made it possible for these men to walk away with no punishment at all. So, what can we do? We can push for our legislators to change the laws that involve child abuse. We can let victims know that they matter and that regardless of how long it takes them to speak out their strength is meaningful, and something will be done. We can stop letting churches make their own rules and hold them to the same standard as everyone else. We can make more resources available for our children to report abuse, even if doing so anonymously, so that these abusers are being watched and not flying under the radar.

 

 

An Atheist Mother’s Positive Message for Kids (My response to Ken Ham)

Ken

I personally don’t follow Ken Ham on twitter, so I thank Luciano Gonzales for drawing attention to this ignorance and issuing the challenge for bloggers to reply. It’s funny that Ken Ham would question what type of positive message an Atheist could pass on to their children, because unlike religion a secular life is limitless. No one aspect is held back because of what someone else says is true. Every opportunity is available, and no God can tell you that you don’t have the right to learn. Living a secular lifestyle gives us the opportunity to show our child that there is a big world outside of our little community, and she should embrace every chance she gets to create a new experience.

We are not forced to teach our children that those that disagree with our beliefs are not as good as we are. That their lives are not worth as much because they do not follow the same path. No, instead we get to teach our children that it is these different paths that make it possible to embrace our differences and use them to expand our minds. We can teach them that by engaging someone new you open yourself to a chance to gain knowledge you may otherwise have never encountered. When you teach your child to have an open mind when meeting someone new they allow themselves the opportunity to have a wide range of people to influence their journey.  Unlike a believer that must engage, proselytize and if unsuccessful, move on. Atheists can choose who they want in their life without restriction and I can’t imagine anything more positive than that.

The positive message doesn’t just stop with one-on-one contact.  This freedom that we receive as Atheists allows us to teach our children that there is no limit on how much they can learn. When they go to school they learn facts, not falsehoods. We can let our children know that while they are exploring the world of science they are not confined to only those things that do not conflict with their religion. Secular children can research cancer treatments, rates of success, how treatment has evolved and what is to come without having to believe that Jane Doe was saved by a miracle of God and John Doe died because it was part of God’s plan. What is more positive than teaching our children that there is always a chance that things in life will change. You never have to give up because advancements in science and technology are constantly bringing in new information … it’s up to us as a society, not God, to find the answers.

A positive, secular message is also quite prevalent in politics. As soon as we can begin to teach our children about the legal system in our country we can teach them about justice and equality.  Instead of sending the message that people who hold different beliefs are automatically wrong and undeserving of the same rights as everyone else, we can teach them the truth. The truth is that it doesn’t matter how much money you make, the color of your skin, the gender you identify with, who you choose to love or your faith (or lack thereof). You are still an American and still deserve all of the freedoms are country was founded on. If we allow believers to use their faith to make our laws, we lose everything that this country is supposed to stand for. You may have the right to worship as you please, but you do not have the right to make it public policy and that is a positive message I will absolutely pass onto my child.

So if Mr. Ham really believes that a positive message is one that is built on discrimination, ostracization and dehumanization, I am proud to say that we disagree. The fact he thinks pushing this onto children before they are even able to question it, I cannot even comprehend. I will never teach my child to hate, teach her that there are limits to what she can do in her life and that she shouldn’t respect those that are different than she is. I will make sure to teach her that reason and critical thinking will get you much farther than blind faith. I will make sure she knows that she is responsible for the choices she makes and that the impact she makes on the world will be there long after she is gone… so she should try her best to make it a positive one.