Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It's a Kinder, Gentler Hell

Not really, but it may seem that way for this post.

This is Bethany Patchin. If you're not familiar with her, in short, she was the poster child for chastity, courtship rather than dating and the quiverfull style of reproduction- for a while. At the age of 19 or 20, she wrote an article that become quite famous in certain circles stating that her first kiss would be at her wedding, with her husband. Then she wrote a book not long after her wedding condemning any kind of birth control, even natural family planning.

Then she had 4 children in 5 years.

Bethany experienced horrific post partum depression and in the end, she changed her mind. Publicly. She got help for her depression, got divorced, went back to college, started dating, and repudiated her former very public opinions on religion, dating, chastity, what have you.

I like Bethany. I admire people who are brave and strong enough to publicly say, "Hey, you know what? I was totally wrong. My bad!" So, I am not being rude to her in the following critique of her post on atheism. I am being kind because I like her, and because I can see her point of view.

Anyway, here's what I take very polite issue with:

Here's what I think about atheism. I don't really believe in it. I think that faith is never actually lost. I think it's there in everyone, like that "springtime is the work of winter, all the time" quote. We all have spring in our hearts. Every human throughout time has had it there. Some people were and are forced into a life of winter, some people choose it, but I think the undying spring is ALWAYS there. (I guess I'm a universalist now.)

Yes, I could spit fire about someone telling me where my faith is. (Nonexistent.) I could deride anyone telling me that not having faith is like eternal winter. (We both hate winter with the same passion.) I could condemn her for condescension and the arrogance of presuming to know exactly how I feel.

Or, I could think back to yesterday, to one part of a very long post about GAD and the worries it causes me to have:

What if I go blind? What if I go deaf? What if I can't work anymore? Am I being offensive to blind and deaf people by fearing this? Am I prejudiced against the disabled? I am an awful person.

It is condescending to say to a deaf person, "Oh, poor you, you don't get to hear things. That is clearly lesser than being able to hear things." That is offensive and awful.

It is not, however, awful and offensive to fear the unknown. I have never been deaf or blind. I fear it because I don't understand it, because I have never experienced it, because my knowledge is limited. I don't look down on deaf or blind people, nor do I think their experience of the world is less than mine. It is different. So is being Canadian or gay. It's a different life from mine, but so is yours. And, quite frankly, were I suddenly plunked down in your life, I'd be afraid. At first. Then I'd get used to it, figure out the rules and move on.

So here it is. Yes, there are people that have no faith at all. I am one of them. If I had faith, I assure you, I would know about it. I do not exist in a winter of the soul. I am not afraid. In fact, I am free. I have less fear than I did when I believed. My life is richer, more satisfying, more complete than I ever thought it could be.

Hi, I'm Faith, and I am entirely without faith, and I'm okay.

(Yes, yes, I know. I'd like to change it to Fleur. Still starts with an "f" and so much more appropriate to who I am.)


  1. I was going to say that she needs to get out more, but given her background... actually, I think she's doing surprisingly well.

  2. I've found that most people find godlessness over time. It's like that old Seinfeld bit: Relationships are like soda machines, you have to rock them back and forth before they fall over.

  3. It's a hell of a thing to be sure of what the inside of your own mind/body/soul (if you think there is one)/senses/consciousness looks like-- let alone being sure of what's going inside of everyone else.

    No seriously, let it the fuck alone.

    I find the presumption hilariously staggering. The idea that life looks the same from everywhere is so privilege blind all I can do is gasp and laugh.

  4. I think that's what I was getting at in "ZOMG- I'll be blind! . . . um, wow, that's pretty rude to blind people just living their lives like everyone else."

    It's privilege blind, but it's also something everyone does to a degree, because almost everyone has some sort of privilege.

  5. @PF-- Yes exactly. I hope that my use "privilege blind" was not ablist against vision impaired people, and if so, I apologize. I should have said, this person is wrapped in the warm cocoon of privilege that allows one to not only not know things, but to blissfully bloviate about all ones assumptions as though one does know.

    I mean, my privilege is like a huge fucking castle heated by burning baby bunnies and staffed by a fleet of invisible servants who make it seem like things just happen for me by *magic*!

    I can't tell anyone, at all, how they should feel, about anything. It's laughable.

  6. On the one hand, Bethany's comment is a bit too close to the Comfortesque "you know god exists you just deny your faith in unrighteousness" (oh god, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit) schtick for my liking.

    On the other hand, it's entirely possible that she's not referring to "faith" as we think of it. She might be referring to what I think of as "spirituality".

    Faith, as I use it most of the time, is "Belief in Spite of Evidence (or Lack Thereof)". Spirituality is far more benign: it's more like "Sense of Wonder and Imagination Applied to the Unknown".

    Atheist 'religons' like, some forms of buddhism and taoism, and a quite few pagan and nature-worship religons, have always seemed to me to be overflowing with "spirituality" while not requiring much "faith".

    On the other hand, it's also possible I'm just redefining words in a vain attempt to communicate a poorly thought-out mental construct. Oh well.

    BTW, I think "Faith" suits you in a snarky, ironic sort of way. Like a heavyweight boxer called "Tiny". :)

  7. no, Quasar, i see what you mean.

    i mean, we all go to bed secure in the faith that sun will come up again.
    and all things considered, that *IS* faith - we are just as likely to die in our sleep or wakeup to a white-out blizzard or to the new world created by nuclear war...

    we all act on faith [i.e. belief that something is true without explicit proof] every day.
    faith that our fellow man isn't going to kill us
    faith that our means of transportation WILL transport us [seriously - how many people make back-up plans to their bak-up plans of getting to X place, for fear that the car will break and the bus will break and the taxi won't come? who gets up 4 hours early to MAKE SURE they can get to work, if they have to walk 20 miles? no one - we trust our transportation will work]

    where i'm NOT with you, is assuming this is what Bethany means [Bethanys are... troublesome for me. they aren't really Elizabeths, BUT they have the "beth" part, and so can they be part of the Lizbian army, or should they be an adjunct?]

    i think Bethany almost lost her faith - or maybe she DID fully lose her faith - and this is what she's saying to reassure HERSELF. she's saying "even if i don't think i have faith, somewhere inside of me, i DO." because she's still terrified to live without faith.

    at least, that's how i'm reading it.

  8. ”i mean, we all go to bed secure in the faith that sun will come up again.


    we all act on faith [i.e. belief that something is true without explicit proof] every day.”

    That’s a different kind of faith to the way I was using the word, Denelian: I'd call that "confidence" or "trust". I have confidence, based on statistical probabilities, that a nuclear holocaust won’t start tomorrow: that is an extremely likely outcome based on previous experience, external evidence and reasonable extrapolation. Same goes for dying in my sleep and a blizzard.

    But unlike “faith”, that confidence is empirical and is supported by available evidence. It’s a conclusion, not an assumption.

    So... uh... yeah. Anyway.

  9. if that's how you define it, i won't argue. if it works, don't break it, and all


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