Monday, March 14, 2016

My First Free Thought Blogs Post

Read it here, wherein I introduce myself.

I'll be moving some of the content from this blog to Freethought Blogs. I may be cross-posting posts here, but may also begin to move away from the Blogger platform, as the extra work will become kind of tiring.

I hope you enjoy my new home and come over and read with me.


I. C.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Moving to Free Thought Blogs

Or Freethought Blogs. Or something...

Yeah. That happened.

In February, 2011, I began Incongruous Circumspection. It was on a whim, really. I hadn't considered blogging before, but knew I loved to write and provoke thought in the process. I had just joined a community of survivors from Bill Gothard's institution, most of them homeschoolers.

Many of them encouraged me to take my Facebook writings and turn them into what became this. In the beginning, a woman named Liberty began to comment. She was intelligent, had common sense that matched, in greatness, my utter lack thereof, and best of all, was a fledgling atheist that took a liking to me, a liberal-minded Christian.

She had also started blogging. Her blog was Love, Joy, Feminism.

Then, Liberty evolved to Libby Anne and became much bigger than me. She filled a niche in the interwebs - intelligent and fascinating feminists who loved to write, and write well she did. It didn't take long for Free Thought Blogs to notice her. They invited her to their network and I watched as her star grew brighter.

Libby Anne wrote a post on leaving the pro-life movement that went viral and became the star of the summer, that year. Or winter or fall or something. She soon left FtB for Patheos and has become even more of a force since.

I mention her because her ascent to FtB was a dream of mine. A dream for five years and counting. I wanted it too, and Libby Anne left no coattails to grab onto. She was just too big for me. I was lost in her shadow. (I have no idea what I just wrote)

I've religiously read Pharyngula, P.Z. Myers namesake, as well. He was the real reason I've desired to represent that network. He inspires every cell of my being, for some odd reason.

Meh...I'm rambling.

I may cross post here, once I make the official move, but more than likely, things will begin to peter out. I am so grateful to all of my readers - all six of you, and I realize I'm being generous with that head count.

I look forward to writing for you in the new venue.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

My Writing Style Around Religion

In my last two posts, I've been writing to a young man, named Tom B. He was kind enough to attempt to bring me  back to Christianity by some very poor logic. So poor, I almost wept with the deepest of pity. In the first post, I spoke about Tom's view of authority and his role in a defined hierarchical society. In the second post, I got down to brass tacks, speaking to Tom about the idea that rigid rules don't allow for the nuances of life.

From those posts came two types of responses. I was thanked, profusely, for my calm and collected demeanor, while taking the kid down a notch from his perceived superiority. Secondly, I was approached by a dear friend who told me the following:
If I didn't know you personally, I wouldn't want to get to know you better, after reading your responses to Tom B. You come across as a dick, making a mountain out of a molehill, seeming to desire to argue about everything.
I found the stark contrast of the two reactions to be quite fascinating. If you've been following Incongruous Circumspection for any length of time, you will see a plethora of reactions to religion.

Sometimes I am very angry, and in my view, rightly so. Especially if the individuals or groups the post is directed toward, are treating those they find different than themselves, in a hurtful manner. I have no time for that.

At other times, I write in a very theoretical way, speaking directly to theology, with an eye to the practicalities of life. I find this approach to be helpful to both my readers and myself, giving me a moment in time to point back to if I ever doubt who I am, if I am asked about what and why I believe or don't believe, and finally, to be able to update my convictions when I am presented with new information.

But these two approaches aren't where I am most comfortable. Sometimes, in my anger, I enjoy being an asshole. But later, I go back and read my words, wincing, yet realizing that, caught in the moment, I want my readers to witness my intense passion. Also, the theoretical missives that I write are a bit dry for my taste. I feel that while good information is being disseminated, it isn't the best way to change minds, being that the attention span of most people ends at the third paragraph. (By that assumption, you're done reading by now)

My favorite approach is to respond in a personal way, to those who write to me, to those who publicly make a statement, and to those that talk to me face to face. I am convinced that this style of writing is the most effective. While it may appear that I am "making a mountain out of a molehill," I'm not really writing to the person the post is directed toward.

I'm actually writing directly to the reader. I want them to identify with my target, being able to personalize the words on the page. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

When Rules Are Stupid, Breaking Them Is a Good Idea

My continued response to Tom B....

I'm going to walk away from Tom B's response to me for a bit and just sit down by this fire and have a chat with a little boy. Tom, you're a little boy. You may be 20, but you have no idea how to live in the real world. Your rigid ideas of life may make you a disciplined young man, but it won't go far in your relationships with the rest of humanity.

Tom, you learned quite well, the idea of authority and rules. In fact, life for you is so simple - follow the rules set up by God, and you don't get hurt. Don't follow the rules and pay the consequences.

But what happens when the rules mean that you hurt others? Yourself? Your family? Let me give you a few examples:

When the rules say you must kill all gay people, should you kill all gay people?

When the rules say you must sell everything you have and follow Jesus, is that always wise?

When the rules tell you that gay marriage is wrong, but you know that it hurts absolutely nobody, yet gives human beings, different from yourself, a joyful life, do you prevent them? What does that help?

When the rules tell you to cover the head of a woman and keep her silent, is that respectful?

When the rules tell you the proper way to own and treat slaves, does owning another human being as property suddenly become a fair idea?

When the rules tell a husband to rule over his wife, is that intelligent, especially when the woman may be better suited to take charge?

When the rules tell you to beat your children, because beating them with a rod will make them wise, and studies show that hitting your children hurt them more than it helps, do you ignore the wisdom of good people?

When the rules tell you to never leave your abusive husband, do you stay?

When the rules tell you that a suffering child must continue to suffer, his lessons to be learned through his suffering, do you walk away?

When the rules tell you to continue a pregnancy, even when it is ectopic, nearly guaranteeing the death of the mother, do kiss your wife goodbye and trust God's plan?

As you read through the listing of rules above, I understand that your mind is both spinning the rules to be reconcilable with your personalized brand of religion, or you are rejecting some of them altogether, concluding that I am ignorant to ideas like the Bible being a single organism, not being under the law anymore, or Jesus provides grace and mercy, nullifying the necessity of death for earthly sins.

What you fail to see though, is the fact that you get to reject and mold rules because, just like those who don't believe that they receive their morality from an ancient book, you subconsciously understand that all rules in life are malleable, allowing you to make choices that benefit those you care for the updated rules to benefit, especially yourself.

If you take away ONE thing from this post, please let it be the following:

Making choices in life that benefit you and you alone is not inherently bad. 

Don't ever forget that. Once you learn to love the boy-man that you are, outside of the sphere of influence where others tell you who you are and who you should be, you will much more easily be able to be empathetic toward others and discover what true love is.

And true love is NOT requiring rules to be followed or face the consequences - the greatest of which is permanent separation from your love. He who loves greatly does not set up rules that end in you burning for eternity. That is not love.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

When Deserving of Burning in Hell Depends on a Mystery

Tom B. grew up with me at Normandale Baptist Church in Bloomington, Minnesota. I am 15 years his senior, so really, not that much older. He was better in softball than I was, mostly because I couldn't play an inning without pulling a damn muscle that I never knew I had. He's 20, and as he says, "independent, away from his parent's tutelage."

I'll take that at face value, and hope beyond all hope that he reads my words and the reasonings of other better people than me, and sees the fallacious logic that is so prevalent in fundamentalist Christianity (and all religion, for that matter), and steps out into the freedom that can be his.

I responded to one of Tom B's comments in I Can Kill My Children if God Tells Me To. He responded back to me again. His words caused me to whimper in pity, nearly bringing me to tears at how reaching his arguments were. I respond to him below:
Christianity isn't supposed to make sense to us, God doesn't need it to.
Why? Why doesn't God need it to? If, as the Bible says, we are supposed to figure out the riddle of salvation, the eternal consequence for our finite non-mastery of the subject being burning in hell forever,  shouldn't it be imperative that the supernatural being who set the whole thing up, give us an unequivocal path to eternity away from burning?

The answer to that question is actually the reason why, even if the Bible god was real (which he cannot be), I would want no part of him. And this answer is exactly what Tom believes - God has no imperative to be reasonable with mankind. He can set the rules as he sees fit. He can remain as mysterious as he desires, never revealing his true self or nature, guaranteeing that only a select few will ever enter the kingdom of heaven. The Bible supports this. "Wide is the path to destruction, but few there be that find the way of salvation." Couple that paraphrase with the idea that God is all knowing, all powerful, and present everywhere, and my point is made.
God set up rules and boundaries and gave us one a (sic) mission, to glorify Him. If we don't obey Him there's (sic) consequences and if we do than (sic) we're rewarded  which sounds an awful like raising children, pets, or the law of our land. Play by the rules and everything is fine, screw up and turn your back on your authority and there'll be consequences. It's simple. 
Yes. It really is that simple, if you stick with that horrible narrative. But that's not how good parenting works. That's not how good employers treat their employees. According to Tom, authority is the end all and be all of life. Everything in life is structured in an hierarchical manner. Everyone has someone to answer to - and must answer to that someone without question.

This approach to life has two problems (among a myriad others):

  1.  Unquestioned authority leads to abuse of power by the individual or group in charge, especially, as Tom dictates here, if that authority plays by zero rules of fairness or logic, both swear words in fundamentalist Christianity.
  2. The individual under authority has no ability to disagree with the authority and be respected for that disagreement, even to the point of changing the authority's mind. Yes yes, I understand that Bill Gothard, Tom's favorite golden boy, puts together an appeal process, awash in the power of the authority figure, shining a harsh light on the utter helplessness and weakness of the victim.
All I knew of parenting was my mother's awful heavy-handed authority. But, over and over again, I was told to respect and obey her. I was beaten, as were my siblings, sexually abused, mentally abused, brainwashed, cussed out, and finally had the gumption to "escape" at the age of 19. I was a child.

Yes. If I disobeyed my mother, there were consequences. That was how the game was played. Yes. It really was that simple.

But it wasn't right. Not in the least.

Any system that sets up an artificial rule book, leaving no room for the nuances of life and the minute-by-minute circumstances of the color of humanity, is bound to fail, leaving hopeless victims grasping for something - anything - that will lead them to understand their own individual value.

I am still scraping my mother's shit off my brain and heart and learning that, while I am here on this earth to love, protect, clothe, feed, and teach my children about good sex within consensual boundaries, they can still shove their finger in my eye, and tell me that I am wrong. And Tom, many times, they are completely and utterly incorrect. Sometimes not. And yet, they are beginning to discover that I am pliable, that life is about their individual voice - NOT the voice of the collective, following lock-step, to a set of unquestioning rules. 

It's really that simple.

Finally, the god you described in that last paragraph does not deserve my glorification. He doesn't even deserve yours. Someone who stands by, waiting for you to break a rule, doling out predetermined consequences should you fail, is exactly the opposite of someone you should love and adore. A focus on your sins, rather than a focus on your goodness. Pathetic. That god is an asshole.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Nice Letter from a Reader

While I disagree with this woman's conclusions about God and the singular organism nature of the Bible, I sincerely appreciated her tone. Her letter is below:
I found your blog because I am keeping up with the Gothard drama. It is riveting.  
I do not blame you for your anger for having been raised under legalism and patriarchy or even for becoming an atheist and calling something that does not exist all sorts of names.  It is like you were hit with a teddy bear full of nails, constantly being told how warm and cuddly it was, but your senses told you different.  (Smart man, you were right to question.)  Nobody in their right mind would even hug any stuffed animal after that. 
(BTW, in a college class I took, the professor told the story of a toddler who every time he was presented with a stuffed animal, the “researchers” would make loud banging noises.  In essence, like Pavlov’s dog, they were conditioning him to hate or be afraid of or at least have a dislike for soft cuddly things. Even though the stuffed animals would never hurt him and were still soft and cuddly those researchers ruined it for the little boy to ever enjoy a stuffed animal.)  
Under religion, my husband, who was min. of music, ed and youth in a bapt. church,   was called into the pastor’s office and asked “what is wrong with your wayward wife?” I had ridden my horse to church along with a little girl who rode her horse to church.  (it was the only way she would come to church, you think we would get credit for getting the kid to church) geesh! this same pastor told me I was to wear dresses at all times and not have pets because of the image wer were to keep !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  
at another church, we  went through a partial  Gothard thing in the 80’s, wives being subservient, feminine, keepers of home and children,  and obedient and fruitful.  I stood out like a sore thumb...I hate dresses, do not wear make-up, love horses, did not want to have children, did not care about keeping house, have cats, dogs and horses. had a full time career teaching in public school, (while our church pushed home school as the only way God would bless) did nothing except put all sorts of guilt on me...why was I different, must be something wrong with me, etc.  I tried it but was not me and was NOT happy.  That and 2 tornadoes hitting our house  in 3 yrs was driving me to a nervous breakdown.  I hashed it out with God, not man, until I got a hold of Him, heard directly from Him that He had made me a certain way and it was not sin.  God does not make cookie cutter christians.  when they all begin to dress and act alike, I figure their salvation has become slavation. 
Too bad that men get the wrong idea about christianity and turn it into a religion with all sorts of rules. The original rules in the OT were meant for the Israelites, who became the Jews. They lived under a theocracy and God used them to destroy the evil in the land (like the cultures that burned live babies as sacrifices to their gods) . In the NT, Jesus affirmed only the moral rules of the OT and  left only 2 rules for men to follow, love God, love others. (I have trouble with both, so I am glad I am free of any other rule.  My husband, not so much. he still likes that submissive thing, even though he won’t admit it.) 
As a  free thinker and problem solver and my mind is always turning trying to solve life’s big and small problems.(would I believe in God if I lived in a country where christians were really persecuted for their faith?)   
Anyway, if you got to the bottom of this letter, and I do not blame you if you deleted it in the first sentence, I want to tell you how sorry I am for all you had to suffer.  I hope you find your way and healing comes to you.
 I didn't destroy the letter. Again, thank you.


I. C.

Letters from Mama: Be Careful, I Have Spies

Disclaimer: Against my better judgment, I'm going to continue sharing Mama's letters and shenanigans with my readers. While I realize I am giving a voice to a proud narcissist, propping up her already overblown ego, I am convinced it is more important to offer a case study to those who may find themselves in the clutches of someone like her, or give those who may have escaped an evil human being, an outlet to empathize with another human being, understanding that they are not alone in their walk of life.

So I continue...

This was a short note from Mama. Obviously a quickly spun letter, trying to defend herself from accusations that I leveled against her in the last post. Then again, she really isn't defending herself as much as she is attempting to "put me in my place."
Dear son,
To Mama, it's important she doesn't use my name. By calling me "son," she asserts her God-given authority over me. If I don't listen to what is coming next, I am rebellious and denying God. More about that later.
No, I don't go over to your column online. Saw one, some years ago, about you being snipped. But that's it.
First of all, I don't have a column online. I would love to reach the level of "columnist," but alas, I am but a lowly blogger. Secondly, the fact that Mama is responding to my "accusation" that she reads my blog essentially proves that she reads my blog. I sure hope she does. It's important for an abuser to know how they affected (and continue to affect) their victims, especially when the victim can be a safe distance away.  And I never finished my Snipped! series at No Longer Quivering. I should get on that.
I was told by a kind-hearted soul, about your one concerning that wonderful Christmas present I had concocted for your family a few years ago.
Wonderful, eh? That Letters from Mama post is one of the most popular of the series, exposing the true insanity of who she is. The fact that she calls it "wonderful," as well as the revealing fact that she still focuses on herself, with respect to a gift, solidifies her label as a narc. Read it for yourself. You won't be disappointed.

Also, "kind-hearted soul" is shorthand for "spy."
Your community page on Facebook, notice of it, pops up every so often on my FB news-feed page, and, every few weeks or so I look in there to see if you are still alive.
Sure you do. Sure you do.
I do love you even through this God-denying portion of your life. When you exit that portion, you will be grateful Jesus taught me how to do that. : )
I have no idea why I'll be grateful. But she brings up a good point. In her theology, love is not a human emotion, unless the person in front of you is doing what you expect them to do. If, on the other hand, a person is different than you, the love you show them is Jesus' love, and not your own, you being incapable of accepting the differences in other human beings. It's sad, really.

Mama is convinced that her tiny boy is in a phase, and once he finally discovers that his doting mother was right about God all along, he'll race back into her arms, which will open just at the right time, having been locked closed until I am acceptable to her.

Exactly the kind of Christianity that makes me all excited to go back to - not to mention, when I finally do, I'll end up going blind anyway