Working to Forgive Christians

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  • #4913
    Profile photo of Dang Martin
    Dang Martin
    Participant

    In one of my previous posts, Being Told What I Am, I highlight some of the horrible treatment that I’ve received from so-called “loving Christians” over the course of my life.

    Before I continue, those Christians who say that those people “are not true Christians” [No True Scotsman Fallacy], understand that they would say that YOU are not a true Christian, because you are accepting of my blasphemous and sinful ways.

    Their treatment of me is nothing unique, for many examples of this are present in today’s society, from the Westboro Baptist Church and their hate-filled signs, up to the government policies written or endorsed by those who declare America to be a “Christian nation.” Nothing loving about them, at all.

    They will be quick to defend themselves, by declaring that they are “not perfect,” and that I should not expect them to be perfect. While I never, ever had this expectation of them in the first place, I DID have an expectation that they would be behaving at least a little bit like Jesus, since they call themselves Christians. In my mind, I thought that you could not just call yourself a Christian and then behave like a monster. I was wrong.

    They will also tell you that they are “forgiven.” This is a “get out of jail free” card, which gives them license to do whatever they want. It would be like what my religious girlfriend in college did, where we’d have sex outside of marriage, she goes and gets forgiven, and then all is right until we got busy again. I wonder if her ownership of a diaphragm invalidated her forgiveness. Nah, mental gymnastics probably covered that up nicely.

    I would get angry at these “better than you” Christians, who don’t read their bible and go to church maybe twice per year, and this somehow makes them superior. While they would actually declare superiority on rare occasion, it is the “better than you” attitude that made their feelings about me crystal clear.

    I would get angry at the hypocrisy, such as what I experienced with my college girlfriend, who made it clear that she was forgiven, I was not, and this was why I was going to burn in hell for eternity. It made no sense.

    And even though lots of it makes no sense, I am supposed to “RESPECT” it at all times. Respect Christians! Respect their beliefs! DO NOT hurt their feelings! But, oh yea, don’t complain when they tell you to shut the fuck up, or tell you that you’re a sinner, or less-than-human.

    Remember that they are not perfect and are forgiven, and that you are a heathen, sub-human piece of filth.

    WHAT FORGIVENESS DOES NOT DO
    It does not excuse their behavior. It does not inform them that, “It’s okay. I’m understanding.” It’s not the same as their god’s forgiveness, which allows them to keep repeating things over and over again, while maintaining superiority.

    WHAT FORGIVENESS ACHIEVES
    It is something that allows me to let go of the horrible things they’ve said and done, and will say and do in the future. This is important for me, because it allows me to be free of the hatred and resentment that I have toward them, for being horrible stewards of their faith, for not doing as their “good book” says, and for all the other crap they do and say that goes against the grain of what they supposedly “believe.”

    IS THIS A SPIRITUAL TYPE OF FORGIVENESS?
    One could argue that it might be, although for me it’s more of a psychological exercise, designed to take a personal experience or issue [Christian Abuse], acknowledge it, deal with it, and then set it aside so that I can move on with life.

    ISSUE ACKNOWLEDGED: NOW, HOW TO DEAL WITH IT
    There are things that I have done in an attempt to deal with the religious abuse that I have experienced in the past, as well as in the future.

    For the past abuse, I deal with it by acknowledging that the past is far behind me now. So are those people, their bad attitudes, and their ability to threaten me. When I used to think about them, I’d refer to my child state and feel the fear all over again. Their hatred would be as fresh as a Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. Dealing with it means understanding that it is no more, and that I will no longer allow it to define me.

    For the present and future abuse, I deal with it by acknowledging that I am not obligated to respect them, simply because they hold a religious belief. As for the belief itself, that is an idea, and ideas are open to scrutiny, criticism, and mockery [if warranted]. Just as they are not “good,” by definition, I am not “bad,” by definition. They no longer have the freedom to dictate what I am.

    And when they get angry, I remind myself that this is their defense mechanism, which is essential to protect their fragile beliefs. Religious belief is a very fragile thing, as is evidenced in a number of ways, such as the forbidden nature of questioning, as well as the requirements of childhood indoctrination and weekly church reinforcements.

    HAVING SOME SYMPATHY
    This is hard to do, especially for people who were relentless in their attacks on me for the first 21 years of my life. But I have a great deal of sympathy for them now, because I recognize that they are victims of childhood brainwashing. This is child abuse, and I make no bones about it.

    This is not to excuse them, and in fact there is no excusing it at all. Grown adults should know better. Declaring one’s own self to be morally-superior, while behaving in a morally-vacuous nature is unacceptable, regardless of who does it.

    Being an Atheist does not make someone bad or good, by default. Neither does being religious. There are good and bad people in all walks of life, with all different kinds of beliefs, or no beliefs at all.

    REFUSING TO BE A VICTIM
    For years, part of my anger toward Christians revolved around how they treated me, and how I felt like a victim of their beliefs and behaviors. By dealing with what they’ve done and what they will do, by forgiving them, I psychologically free myself from being their victim. Sure, they did horrible things to do and said nasty things. I refuse to let it rule my life, be it the past or the future.

    FORGIVENESS = UNDERSTANDING
    Understanding why Christians do and say the horrible things that they do aides in the process of forgiveness. That said, one thing must be crystal clear: understanding why they do and say these things does NOT excuse it all. It merely EXPLAINS it.

    There is a big difference between an excuse and an explanation.

    WORKING TO BE BETTER THAN THEM [CHRISTIANS]
    As horribly as they treated me in the past, there was a time when I gladly “returned the favor,” so to speak. I would call them “stupid,” and be just as abusive as they were. And that’s just one of many examples. It took me a few years to recognize that this was wrong. Since I have no god to ask for forgiveness, it took me some actual work.

    It is sometimes tempting to lash out, especially when they’re not being rational or logical, which is a good portion of the time when they are discussing things pertaining to their religious beliefs.

    So, instead of giving them what they’ve given me, and still give me to this day, I do my best to be better than this, by not name-calling, threatening, swearing, or doing anything else that might mirror some of the things that many of them do.

    Forgiving their horrible words and behaviors has helped me to better achieve this.

    This does not mean that I won’t be kind about it during discussions of things like “childhood indoctrination.” It’s brainwashing. It’s child abuse. There is no sugar-coating it, or “churching it up.”

    IN CLOSING: I FORGIVE YOU
    To the Christians who have called me a sinner, a horrible person, and less-than-human, I forgive you. I know that if you were not blinded by childhood brainwashing, that you’d not be so aggressive toward me. I know that if your morality was not hobbled with religious belief, that you’d be acting in a more kind and gentle way toward people who are not like you. I know that if you did not believe that you were better than me, that there would be a possibility that we could be friends.

    I’m not a sub-human, blasphemous sinner. I’m a human being who has no religious belief. I know that this frightens you, but I am here today to challenge you, not to give up your belief, but to FACE YOUR FEAR. Yes, there are people in this world who do not believe, who are not afraid of threats of eternal damnation, and who are positive contributors to society. Morality comes from the heart, not a book. I hope that one day you can realize this.

    All of this, I find to be most sad. It’s pointless. It’s destructive. It’s completely avoidable. But your parents were abused in the same manner, so they abused you so that you could be more like them. I get it, but it’s still sad.

    I have criticisms of your behavior at times, because it is abhorrent. A grown adult should know better.

    I also have criticisms of your beliefs and philosophies, because some of them are negative and destructive. A morally-sound person should know better.

    In my sadness, it is my hope that you can some day break free of the brainwashing that was forced into your head, long before you could defend yourself, and learn how to love other people who are not like you, instead of fearing them. It is my hope that one day, you can break the chain of abuse and rise above a system that was forced upon you in order to make you more obedient and fearful.

    Once you can rise above the fear, you will then be free to embrace Humanity, and all that life has to offer. Then, instead of going to church because you are afraid of eternal damnation, you will reach out to your neighbor, out of love and true brotherhood, and let them know that they’re not alone in this world, and that they can count on you to care.

    Christians, you have been brainwashed. You have a philosophy and ideology that you cannot defend. You have beliefs that you cannot explain. You have a fear in your heart that is rivaled by no other. The hatred you exhibit is how you express your fear; it is how you defend your fragile beliefs. You were convinced that you were “broken,” back when you were NOT, and then you were re-built so that you would never stray from the brainwashed pack.

    To be clear, you were not broken then, but you are now.

    Now, instead of hating you or having contempt for you. I feel sorry for you, and I forgive you. This does not give you the freedom to continue to attack me, with the expectation that I will not stand up. I am standing now, and I will advise you that my forgiveness for your horrific words and behaviors should not be mistaken for weakness.

    Sadly, I also know that, for everything that I have written, I cannot ever reach you. Your heart is hardened and black, full of fear, and void of Humanity. You will easily dismiss me as a sinner, and continue your struggle for self-preservation. Still, I forgive you, and I wash my hands of you and your abusive ways. I am free of you.

    #4923
    Profile photo of PopeBeanie
    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    I would love to see an ex-Muslim’s version of this narrative, too, but the personal stakes for them can be soooo much higher.

    #4926
    Profile photo of Dang Martin
    Dang Martin
    Participant

    I would love to see an ex-Muslim’s version of this narrative, too, but the personal stakes for them can be soooo much higher.

    I’d like to see that as well. I should note, at this time, that I am not an ex-Christian. I’m not an ex anything. I’ve actually never believed. I wonder how many people are in that camp.

    #5002
    Profile photo of Strega
    Strega
    Moderator

    I’m not an ex Christian- I never had to escape.  However, I spent my life in London when I wasn’t globetrotting.  If someone in London told me they’d pray for me, I’d hear it as if they’d said they’d say a little magic spell for me.  Most Londoners would. A bit weird, but whatever floats your boat.   You just smile a little and move hastily past the odd statement.

    Here in the US, I hear the prayer offer far more frequently.   It’s still weird to me.

    #5005
    Profile photo of Dang Martin
    Dang Martin
    Participant

    My girlfriend’s brother died in April. My little sister died at the end of June. There was no shortage of people saying that they’d pray for us. We would just thank them and move on. I see it as a place holder that they use when they don’t know what to say.

    #5041
    Profile photo of Tom Sarbeck
    Tom Sarbeck
    Participant

    A placeholder. I like that name for it. Isn’t the numeral for ‘zero’ also a placeholder?

    #5044
    Profile photo of Dang Martin
    Dang Martin
    Participant

    I will usually go with “sorry for your loss” and stop there. Otherwise, I may head into “how ’bout then Dodgers?” territory.

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