(in response to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ryan-j-bell/a-year-without-god_b_4512842.html )
I think the pursuit of knowledge is always beneficial. It doesn’t matter how you came to the decision that it is time to reflect and read about view points different from your own. So what that Ryan Bell is writing a book to document his process? I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to do the same thing.
How can I capture the emotion I felt at reading Carl Sagan’s eloquent explanation of the solar system some 14 years later? The feeling when I finally read a book by Richard Dawkins, who gave me science- that world that had been previously denied as the devil’s territory? My heart raced, I sweated, and I felt faint. I felt a weight lift from me. I was not the most important of creatures, one of god’s chosen in the remnant church. I was not about to be tortured, because it was not the end times as taught by the prophet.
I no longer was cursed by the sins of my ancestors. I was free of the sin that was put on me as the result of rape. I could listen to secular music, and revel in the beauty of opera; I could dance!
I am on one teeny tiny planet, with an atmosphere, and a moon that reflects light. I am an amazingly unlikely outcome of genetics. The world is full of these beautiful moments that I can appreciate because they are not tainted by sin. They are the remarkable outcome of thousands of years of evolution. When I stopped believing in the literal word of the Bible, and the Prophet, my depression became less marked.
I came from the religion that Ryan Bell came from. By his choice to live as an atheist even for one year, he is losing everything he built. I’m not sure that most people who are criticizing him understand what that means. He lost his career. The community he loved has disowned him. Unless his family is on the very liberal side, they may disown him too.
Seventh Day Adventism is very insular. They believe they are the remnant church, and everything outside of them is worldly. They do their best to avoid anything worldly. You can go your whole life without having to deal with anyone outside the church. They have their own churches, schools, and hospitals. They have their own television network, as well as publishing company because you are discouraged from reading anything that is not the bible or Adventist produced. In one of the towns I lived in, everything closed on Friday night in observation of the Sabbath.
I found out about Ryan Bell because I have a few of my old Adventist friends on facebook. They were talking about him. One of them claimed she could tell he wasn’t a good leader, and questioned his spirituality. If you are not all the way in, as demonstrated with Ryan Bell, you are out. You can not change the church from within for very long. It does not want to be changed. His big sins? He championed LGBTQ and womens’ rights.
I am glad he has decided to use his platform to talk about his experiences learning. He has come from a place where even thinking about questioning the status quo is sinful. I think he should be cut some slack. Who knows how he will feel in a year? Maybe he will be a Christian, and maybe he won’t. The point is, he will have been able to ask himself what he believes.
I made a list of 10 books that I read along the way. Each of these helped me explore the world outside of fundamentalist parameters:
1. The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution- Richard Dawkins
2. Cosmos-Carl Sagan
3. Feet of Clay-Anthony Storr
4. Into the Silent Land: Travels in Neuropsychology- Paul Broks
5. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales-Oliver Sacks
6. Beyond Good and Evil-Nietzsche
7. His Dark Materials- Philip Pullman
8. The Elegant Universe- Brian Greene
9. I know Why the Caged Bird Sings-Maya Angelou
10. Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs-Leonard Cohen
cross posted from Patheos
My rapist had listened to me. I had warned him I was thinking of telling on him. I was getting tired of being his rag doll. He explained very gently that no one would believe me, or if they did they would tell me it was my fault. He decided to demonstrate this. He was very sensitive this way.
He brought me to the pastor’s office on the big church campus. There were two men inside the office. The pastor, who I didn’t know, and a blond blind man, who I didn’t know. Then there was a rapist. And then there was me. Three adult men in a locked office, and a minor girl. Me. It’s good to know a room’s dynamics.
My rapist had big blue eyes that he filled with the most convincing tears. He cried about how I was making him sin. I was causing him to stray from the path, and he had raped and sodomized me, and blah blah blah cry whine poor him. I sat there silently. I mean, what a show! What should I say? Adult me wants to reach back in time and say fuck you to all the men in the room, dial 911 to report some rapes, and get child me out of there. But, alas, I had been programmed to be polite. Be nice. And I actually kind of felt sorry for my rapist at the time. I mean, he was crying! He was apologizing, kind of! Not really, but in a way!
After he was done sniveling, and was passed the tissues, all eyes turned to me. The Jezebel. They wanted me to agree to forgive this whole unfortunate event, to pray with all of them. The blind man offered that he used to be angry at god, like he could tell I was, but now he wasn’t! So see? It would be in everyone’s best interest for me to comply. Forgive and forget, and make nice with my rapist.
When I remained silent, they started to wonder if I was touched by the devil. That was why I was so alluring to this poor, helpless man. They wondered if I might need an exorcism. The rapist had seen me shake when raping me once, after all. What was that all about? Must be Satan (Sadly, I have no demonic powers. It’s epilepsy. Damn.)!
I didn’t want to have an exorcism. Everyone was praying but me, and my eyes were wide open. This was one of the most frightening events in my life. I wanted out of the room. I couldn’t breathe. He had just confessed to doing all this torture and somehow what he had always assured me was right: No matter what, it was my fault. No one would stop him, no one would help me. I was scum. He was holy; he just needed a quick touch up. “Dear Jesus, I totally raped the hell out of this underage girl. You forgive me though, right?” Of course! He was free and clear, his soul pure as a dove.
I remain soiled.
Starting tomorrow, my book will be on a special sale at Amazon for one week!
Today- World Poetry Day-I released my latest book. It is a YA novel in verse about a girl in treatment for anorexia.
Every bit of food I eat
Is turning into more thoughts
And what do I do with the thoughts
I am too afraid to say?
After a party changed everything, Miranda loses her appetite. She is placed in an eating disorder treatment program, where she must be brave enough to face the truth she was trying to bury.
A novel told in verse
Holy smokes. This is the kind of review that makes it worth rolling out of bed in the morning.
I love this quote by J.D. Estrada : "Disclaimer-if you're not ready for something raw and dark and honest-brutally honest-you might want to skip it."
Of course he goes on, and says why you do want it, but that line killed me.