godless depression

I haven’t blogged in a while. I haven’t felt like it. I haven’t been able to collect my thoughts. I haven’t had the energy to try. Grad school is demanding and deployments are hard, but my current problems has more to do with the struggle I have had with depression for my entire adult life. I have only recently started to think about it outside of the tiny dark hole that my mind has been hiding in. I am carefully and continuously applying all of the tools that I have been given by counselors over the years. I am methodically and grudgingly starting to remember that depression lies. And I know that I will come out of this empty black hole eventually. Mostly that just makes me feel tired rather than hopeful, but hey, that’s okay.

The thing I have begun to think about in the past few days is how faith has played a role in my experiences with depression. I have done a lot of praying, reading, and waiting for my faith to make it better. I can’t honestly say that it has. I have come out of it eventually, but looking back, I don’t see the hand of God or his guidance or anything like that. I see me and my loved ones and good counselors doing hard work. That’s it.

I had the realization a few months ago that I no longer believed anything that was part of Christian doctrine, except that there was probably a God. And then I questioned that. And then it was like the doors on my mind got blown off their hinges and the whole world came rushing in. I have learned so much in just a few months. So much about science and history, but also about myself. Most importantly, I have learned that I have a great capacity for that most beloved-by-the-Army word, resiliency.

I am a resilient person. And it is not because of the hand of a supernatural being, picking me up and puppeting me into the places he wants me to go, or magically shoring me up and teaching me lessons. I am resilient because I have worked hard, and will continue to do so. I have learned that life sucks sometimes, and that I want to make life better for other people. I have learned that depression lies. My world is not empty or hopeless without faith, it is big and amazing and full of life and wonder, and I want to be in it. And that is a pretty fucking resilient outlook.

And on the Third Day Faraday Rose From The Tomb…

I have been stymied by my own problems for a while. This expresses what I have been unable to while this cloud keeps me quiet. Well done!

Robinince's Blog

 

This was not my intended blog, but another reactive one to some of the comments I received about the last one. For those new to this, I am writing a post a day, many of which are me working out what I think I think about something. They are written hastily, messily but passionately. Sorry for the grammar and punctuation chaos. 

 

As I presumed while I was writing yesterday’s blog post on science, a few have commented that it sounded “a bit like a religion”.

Religious promoters and science decriers have an advantage using the positive PR for faith groups, who rationalise that so many human endeavours, social behaviours and private contemplations are “like religion really”. I have already trodden in religion to some minds by mentioning contemplation, hang on, isn’t that what monks may do, and thus, thinking about things “is a bit like religion”.

Enjoying a…

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“A pious man ex…

“A pious man explained to his followers: ‘It is evil to take lives and noble to save them. Each day I pledge to save a hundred lives. I drop my net in the lake and scoop out a hundred fishes. I place the fishes on the bank, where they flop and twirl. “Don’t be scared,” I tell those fishes. “I am saving you from drowning.” Soon enough, the fishes grow calm and lie still. Yet, sad to say, I am always too late. The fishes expire. And because it is evil to waste anything, I take those dead fishes to market and I sell them for a good price. With the money I receive, I buy more nets so I can save more fishes.”
― Amy Tan, Saving Fish from Drowning

This quote was brought up in a class, and I had so many reactions to it, that it took me a couple of days to sort it all out.

First- As someone who is working to help make the world a better place (I am a social worker!), this is a remarkable demonstration of how so many organizations go into a place and start “saving” people. They give them all the aid they can handle and they never ask what the community actually needs. Did we stop to think what use a hotel size bottle of shampoo would be to a person when we were sending them to Haiti? Or did we just unload and thank god it was so convenient to help people. They ignore the desires and talents and needs of the community and they impose their own expectation and vision onto them. I am as guilty as anyone else of convenient giving. The giving that serves my pocket and my ideals and my vision. But true, lasting, life-saving help is not convenient, and it has nothing to do with what I think is best for someone from another culture and experience. This irritates me more than I can say. To some extent, I think missionary work is guilty of this. Which leads to my next reaction…

Oh religion, religion, religion. Why do we expect so much of a man made construct. And in this quote I see so many of the problems with religious organizations. Now, let me be clear. I am specifically talking about the Church (big C), as an organization, the same way you would talk about the UN or United Way. The organization and man made, man lead agenda of the Church is probably the beginning of the end when it comes to keeping believers within the faith. I would hazard a guess that the Church has often been the reason people leave, or the reason they stay away. Because like this well meaning pious man in the quote, they blunder about doing their best to impose their ideas on others with no idea about what those others really want. And they never stop to wonder why they keep killing off fish, they never stop to educate themselves about the people they are trying to convert. They just keep fishing them out and leaving them there to gasp for breath.

Ignorance is irritating. But willful ignorance is not to be borne. This man may have been pious, but he was also ignorant. And willfully so.

Labels

Labels mean a lot. And they have always sat uncomfortably with me. Most of them anyway. I was reading The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry last night, and he devotes an entire chapter to his smoking habit and I deeply felt every loving description of it. I remember when I quit smoking how I disliked being a non-smoker. Smoking had become a part of my identity, a label I liked, and now I was leaving it behind. I was Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You, “So I’m a… non… smoker?” 

Another label that is difficult is Army wife. My main struggle with it, is that it seems to preempt my own career identity. But I guess that would just lead to discussing another label, feminist. I like that one more, but it comes with serious historical baggage.

Speaking of historical baggage! Obviously, this post is leading to religious and non-religious labels. I have always chaffed at identifying as a Christian. Mostly because of how that label makes people see me. Now it’s because I am not sure it’s true, but initially, my discomfort with this and so many other labels was that it changed the way that people looked at me. It changed their expectation of me. And it changed the way they interacted with me.

Right now I like the labels, free-thinker, humanist, and I am interested in deist. Not sure if any of them are 100% accurate for me. But honestly, I am not a cell phone, nor am I car. You cannot personalize me with a specific label and think that you have defined me. And this is true for all people. We are all multi-colored, brightly, woven tapestries of experience and people and loves and hates and hidden things and thoughts.

I dislike labels, unless I can use them like sticky notes. Not permanent, not big, not all encompassing. But if you need an idea of who I am, here’s a few sticky notes: mother, sister, wife, sci-fi and fantasy loving, chocolate addicted, social worker that would rather watch British panel shows than do pretty much anything else. How’s that for a label?

AAACK!!!!

AAACK!!!!

Oh Cathy. You really do get me sometimes.

I keep upsetting myself because I am worrying about the future. As I am worrying about the future, the present is sapping me of my life force. FInals, kids, long ass deployment, crazy family, overcommitted on committees, and just normal irritations like dentists and ordering contacts.

In two weeks I will be sitting on a beach watching my children playing in the water. I just have to “ack” my way through two more weeks. Then I will have reached a well deserved break, before my last semester in grad school.

This blog was originally my outlet to talk about my spiritual struggles. As time has passed, I am realizing that there is so much wrapped up in that! Hence all the “ack”-ing. It isn’t just about me. It is my marriage, my children, my friends, my family, my community, and my future. This blog is indeed, about somuchandsomuch…

Personal-God-Life stuff

So I am struggling with my faith. I am not sure that I still believe in God. And the whole thing is quite a shock as I was raised by a pastor, married a man who wants to be a pastor, and he was raised by 2 pastors. So yeah. Can you say black sheep? But tonight, that is so NOT in the forefront of my mind.

Here are a few unasked for facts about me. I am a mom, I am in grad school working on my Masters in Social Work, and my husband is serving in the US Army. He is deployed right now. And that is really when I started to realize that I was in the midst of a full blown “crisis of faith.” My timing is impeccable. You don’t get a magnifying lens on your strength, faith, and beliefs quite like the combo of Graduate level Social Work and deployment. It’s a roller-coaster of fun I assure you. And this was the time when I started to realize that my source of comfort was not God, my peace was not found in Jesus, and my feelings of being lost were not healed by prayer. Crap.

So now, when I encounter a night like tonight (i.e., twenty page papers due, children wired, me exhausted, one too many glasses wine, and a bit too honest with myself) I put on some gloriously sad music (Radiohead mostly) and have myself a good cry at my computer while I look at old pictures. Depressing right? But honest. Or I call my sister, or I hang out with a friend, or I actually DO my homework, or I just watch TV. That is how I cope with the loneliness. That is how I cope with the stress. And it has taken me years to realize that I no longer see God in that. And I guess… right now… that’s fine. Because that works for me.

Christianity-o-meter

Can I be Christian and disagree with the Bible? Can I believe in God when the only link to his almighty plan and wisdom is a text I no longer have faith in?

I started disagreeing with the Bible pretty early on. When I first heard the story of Abraham being willing to sacrifice his own son I was a kid, maybe 8 or 9. The automatic leap was to wonder if God would test my parents faith with this demand and if I or my sibling might be on the receiving end of it. My dad is a preacher, so I felt my concern was valid. My parents assured me this was pretty unlikely, but I still thought it was a pretty awful thing to put- not only an innocent child- but Abraham through. 

As I got older I had to suspend disbelief pretty frequently with bible stories like Jonah and Noah and I think it was Elijah who got pulled up to heaven in a chariot. But I still felt that there was something under these “stories” that could be gleaned and learned from. I began to look at some parts of the Bible as I looked at other literature. It was a teacher about human nature, the nature of God, and faith, and how to live and be faithful despite hardships and challenges. It became more nebulous and interpretable this way, less of a historical document and more of a work literature to learn from.

However there are some things that I just flat out don’t agree with. It isn’t a question of historical accuracy, it is just saying, “No. I don’t agree.” One of the biggest is sin and homosexuality in the BIble. Basically, the Bible and I fell out over this and we have never been able to reconcile. 

It comes down to a dissolution of trust and the use of logic. I have interpreted and interpreted, and justified, and attempted to put the Bible in a culturally and historically relevant framework so much that I have constructed my own logical test for things! One question- does this “sin” hurt other people? Murder? Yes. Adultery? Yes. Theft? Yes. Jealousy? Sometimes… that one is more internal. Saying the word God? … no. not really. Being gay? Nope. Definitely not.

So. I disagree with the Bible. Regularly. Vehemently. How much of the structure of the Christian faith can wilt or be reasoned away before I am left with nothing? Luckily there is tons of structure to sift through :).

Morals… and finals

Morals... and finals

I haven’t posted in a while due to being buried in research and assignments and papers and expectations of myself. But I ran across this picture on facebook and I can’t get it out of my head. As someone involved in social work, the word “empathy” is huge important word for me. Having empathy for your clients is essential to the process, whether you provide counseling, case management, or manage programs.

Religion however, doesn’t play into that. My religion is not a matter for discussion, dissection, or influence over my work. My work is based on clear cut guidelines provided by scientific research and a code of ethics set forward by the NASW. And yes, I know ethics and morals are different. And no, I don’t want to discuss whether or not religion has a good moral base. That’s too much for my tired brain right now.

But for some reason people think that without religion, you have no moral base. I disagree, STRONGLY. But then where do the morals come from? They certainly aren’t instinctual… are they? I have no idea about the science around that, that will have to wait till after graduation. Dawkins is starting to address this in a book I am reading, but I haven’t gotten far enough to get to his point yet. So I like this picture. It is short, to the point, and probably as accurate as any other existential explanation or the basis of morality. Simple and straight to the point. Just how I like it.

Scale of God’s Probability

One of the books I am reading is the God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. He has described a scale of belief as he tries to explain the levels of a persons belief in the probability of there being a God. I am finding it very challenging to put myself on this scale. Here it is verbatim from his book*:

1. Strong theist. 100% probability of God. In the words of C. G. Jung “I do not believe, I know.”

2. Very high probability but short of 100%. De facto theist. “I cannot know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.”

3. Higher than 50% but not very high. Technically agnostic but leaning towards theism. “I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.”

4. Exactly 50%. Completely impartial agnostic. “God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.”

5. Lower than 50% but not very low. Technically agnostic, but leaning towards atheism. “I don’t know whether God exists, but I am inclined to be skeptical.”

6. Very low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist. “I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”

7. Strong atheist. “I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung ‘knows’ there is one.”

*The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, 2008 edition

This is beautifully written, well described, and simple to understand. I could find myself in it at different points in my life. As a child I was probably a 1, as a teen a 2, in college more of a 4 or 5. Then I had children and tried my best to do what my spouse and I saw as the “right thing” so I may have swung up a bit to a 3. Then while I was employed at a church… I don’t know, maybe still a 3 and a 2 on good inspiring days. Now… if I am honest… I am probably back to being a 5. This is hard to admit because it feels like a failing. It feels like I have slid down the scale to a lesser score, dropped points somehow. It’s a scale of what I think is probable, I know, but it is hard not to feel graded. Am I passing or failing?

Homophobia and children

Homophobia and children

This article mad me so mad I can’t stand it. I am venting here because I can’t vent anywhere else right now. Read it. Join me in being pissed off!

There are a list of things in this person’s behavior that are utterly outrageous: touching someone else’s child, verbally assaulting another adult, and then a child, implying that a child should DIE. ALL IN PUBLIC. Are you kidding me??? And what about the people watching? Where was the support for the mother who was intimidated and bullied, along with her toddler. Online support is great, but she should have had people lining up around her in that moment.

This leads me to the terrifying side of this event. It is not an isolated event and it is not an uncommon point of view. I think we are hearing about it because of the occupation of the mother, and because it happened to a child. But this terrorizing and bullying and threatening behavior happens to people every day. And every single time it is UNACCEPTABLE. 

Our country and our culture is built on the right to express your views and ideals freely, but when they infringe on the safety and health of another person, I think your rights end. It is your right to think that a child wearing a headband makes him gay. But your rights end the moment you touch that child, his possessions, threaten his safety, and threaten his life. 

One more thing. We are all super brave online. We can post comments that are inflammatory, call out bad behavior, vent our frustrations, and accuse others of being small minded all from the safety of our keyboards and the anonymity that the internet provides. But this means NOTHING if we cannot show the same bravery in a moment when a child is being threatened. Be brave. Stand up. Call out dangerous behavior and bigotry and violence and homophobia when you see it, not just when you read about it.