The One Where I Get Self-Righteous About Self-Righteousness

“Have you accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?”

The first time I heard this question I was really confused. I mean, I was devoutly Catholic, so I understood who Jesus was, obviously; and I understood the concept of spiritual salvation, but those words in that combination confused me greatly.

“Yes? I guess?”

But in my head I was thinking, Why are you asking me this? What a weird question.

You see, I went to after school care and summer school care at a Southern Baptist Church growing up. Eventually, I learned to understand what those words meant and how people at that church viewed salvation. They believed that until I was “saved” – I was bound for Hell. I felt like this was tragic because I was growing up Catholic, and I believed NO ONE knew who was getting into Heaven but GOD. But, BUT! I was DAMN SURE if these people weren’t Catholic, they didn’t even have a CHANCE. And here they were getting all self-righteous about the destiny of their souls and I knew the truth: I had a better chance of getting into heaven because I had just gone to Confession and received Communion that day! TWO sacraments in ONE DAY! No WAY I was missing out on the train to Heaven if we all go struck by lightening and died in that moment.

Now, let’s fast forward a bit. To right now. Let’s fast forward to this moment in my house in early morning where I’m kinda pissed off at any and all religion that teaches there are paths to a LIGHT-FILLED GLORIOUS and PERFECT afterlife, and paths to eternal darkness and fiery damnation. And more specifically – I’m pissed of at the people from those religions who insist on telling my kids they’re going to Hell. But generally speaking? I’m just angry about it all. Every bit of it. Tears of anger stream down my face and I’m shaking my fists at their Heaven and saying, “SCREW ALL OF YOU.”

Hear me out.

(SIDENOTE: My focus is on Christianity because it’s what I know and it shapes the politics and the culture in our country and specifically in my home-State of Alabama. If your religion is NOT Christian and you want to chime in why it does NOT cause the problems that I feel Christianity does? I’d love to hear about it.)

Christians go to church and learn about Heaven and Hell. They learn that when you die, you go to one place or the other, depending on how you lived your life. Heaven or Hell. And because you’re in this one church hearing these words teaching about how to get to Heaven, your chances are better than anyone else who is not in a Church teaching these same words.

That’s the simplest breakdown right there. No dogma. No delineation of severity of sins. No differentiation of sacraments or faiths. Just the basic lesson of most Christian Churches: There is a Hell and people not in this Church right now have a much greater chance of ending up there when they die.

Now, there are Christian Churches (from what I understand) who don’t believe you have to be Christian to get into Heaven, BUT THOSE ARE A MINORITY. So we’re removing them from the equation. They’re a minority nationally, but they’re like an Extreme MICRO-minority here in Alabama. So for the purposes of my family and our lives and my view of the division in our country? They’re really inconsequential.

Around here? Christians believe you are bound for Hell if you are not a Christian.

So they teach this in Church and in Sunday school and they talk about it during prayers at bedtime or at mealtime. This superiority is taught early and often and then…this is the kicker: Many of these same people see the anger and hate in our country or our communities and BLAME A LACK OF RELIGION. A lack of God. They feel like if we all found THEIR God and THEIR Church the world would be better.

And guys? I’m super-pissed about this. TEARS OF ANGER, Angry.

I had to have yet ANOTHER conversation with one of my kids yesterday about why classmates keep telling them they’re going to Hell when they don’t believe in God.

And here’s where I’m taking off the kid gloves I often wear to preserve the feelings of Christians who may go to these churches. I’m taking off the kid gloves because I’m sick of having this conversation with my kids.

If you go to a church or take your children to a church that teaches that anyone who believes differently from you is bound for Hell, then you are at least PART of the problem of the divide in our country.

And some days? I’m going to be honest. Some days I feel like you’re ALL of the problem.

But I know those days are because I’m hurt by the damn teachings of your damn church. So I’m trying to recognize that.

But your Church and it’s teachings are DEFINITELY a large PART of the problem. Because they are perpetuating this “Us” v/s “Them” mentality that has us pitted against each other on a daily basis. You divide the world for your children very early on where they are BETTER because they have SALVATION and therefore they must minister to and pray for all of the souls that are lost and it teaches them to look DOWN, LITERALLY DOWN FROM HEAVEN, on anyone else and they get to carry around this knowledge of self-righteousness that tells them it’s OKAY, as a matter of fact – it’s HEAVENLY, to judge other people.

“Oh, but it’s only God who has the final judgement. My kids know that. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. We don’t judge.”

Bullshit. Those words may be taught to you and your children, but that’s not the message you carry with you. You carry the idea that YOUR soul is saved and MINE is not. And yes, you may read from the script and say to me, “I will not judge your soul! That’s only God who can do that!” But that’s not the message in the lyrics to the songs you sing, and the words to the prayers you recite. You sing and pray that you are GRATEFUL for this God that lead you to righteousness and you are GRATEFUL for the salvation of Jesus. You are blessed with knowledge of the path to salvation and therefore you are inherently better off than those who are not on the same path.

You v/s Them.

You v/s Me.

You v/s My kids.

And maybe you don’t actually believe this. Maybe in your heart you believe I’m going to end up in Heaven because I’m a good person. But does your Church teach that? Does your Church allow someone like me who tries to make the world better with kindness and love, does your Church allow me who doesn’t believe in your God or your Savior, does your Church teach there’s a place for ME in YOUR Heaven?

If the answer is, “No,” then – once again – your Church is part of the problem.

Last night Wesley broke it down, “I mean, it’s just not NICE to tell people they’re going to Hell.”

My 8-year old kid is right. Your Church is wrong. And I’m really angry that I keep having to have this conversation with my kids.

“But I believe that we are all sinners in the eyes of God. I’m not better than you.”

Yes. I know. That’s another line from your, “How Not To Look Like A Self-Righteous And Judgemental Ass” script. But your Church is teaching the message: “There is a path to Hell and it takes more than just being a Good Person to avoid it.” So while the line in that script sounds great, the through line in all of the teachings of your church divides us in the afterlife.

“But that’s because we are all sinners and we need God and The Bible and the Church to teach us how to be good people.”

Then please ask your Church teachers this:

“If someone is honestly good without God, do they still go to Hell?”

If you aren’t surrounded by a lot of fundamentalist Christian Churches then let me tell you, a lot of those Churches teach a resounding YES! to that question. That’s why my kids have the problem they have. But, there are some Christian churches around here who try to be diplomatic about it.

“We don’t know God’s final judgement.”

“But you’re pretty sure they don’t get to go to Heaven, right? That’s kinda the whole point of having a Church, right? And of Baptism? And the Bible? So that believers get the good seats in the afterlife?”

“Yeah. We’re pretty sure those people who don’t believe are screwed.”

Because that’s truthfully what most Christian Churches believe. Or else they wouldn’t bother with Church on Sunday mornings. They believe it’s helping them get to Heaven. And therefore, those NOT in that Church have a worse chance.

US v/s THEM.

YOU v/s US.

Here’s the fact: The dominant religion in our country – the religion claimed by all of our leading government officials – teaches from birth that there is superiority in righteousness. That religion teaches at Sunday school that THEY are chosen to some degree, THEY are on the path to enlightenment, THEY must pray for the souls of those not as BLESSED as they are. They teach early in these churches that there is a group of cool kids on a God-Driven train bound for Heaven. And while their spiritual goal is to get EVERYONE on a train to Heaven, they don’t actively allow for the possibility that there’s another train going that way that doesn’t have God in the lead car.

Do you know how hard it is to be an atheist and to try to care about politics in a country where all of the leading government officials go to Churches that teach these messages?

I guess these Christians are lucky, because their goal is their heavenly afterlife. So as long as they follow the playbook given to them, they’ll reach that goal. They hope that while striving for this goal that they make the world they live in now better, but that’s not the ultimate goal. The ultimate and final goal is Heaven. So if they make the present world shittier for a lot of us in the process, NBD.

But here is what I teach my kids about our “goal” with this life: We get ONE chance at this life and this ONE life will be better for us and the loved ones we leave behind if we make the world around us better with this ONE life. We spread love and joy and kindness at every chance we get because we all know how easy grumpy spreads. I always use the example about how if I’ve had a bad day I’m quicker to lose my patience with them. GRUMPY SPREADS, so we try to counter that with LOVE and JOY and KINDNESS. We treat people how we want to be treated and how we think we should treat people in order to MAKE THE WORLD BETTER.

MAKE THE WORLD BETTER.

Because this is it. This life. It’s all we get. When we’re dead? That’s it. Dead. Over. Done. So every day we get one more chance to spread joy. To spread kindness. To spread love. What do we do with that chance? What do we do with our day? How do we make the world better than it was when we found it?

I don’t know how many days left I have in this life. I would love to spend my days trying to bring people together with love and empathy and kindness, but how can I do that when my community is filled with people on an entirely different mission than me?

Their goal is eternal salvation and the teachings of their Church tell them to pity people like me as my soul will be damned eternally. Their Church teaches that no matter how many times I try to spread Love and Joy and Kindness, I’m on a train to Hell if I haven’t boarded the one driven by their God.

I know many people belong to Churches that believe that train driven by that God is the only path to Heaven – but those people DON’T believe that. They just claim that Church as theirs and believe something different in their hearts.

But as long as your Church is still delivering that message and as long as you’re not LOUDLY shouting, “I DISAGREE!” then your membership to that church silently condones that message. And my kids are going to see your membership and assume that you believe no matter how good they are, they’re still bound for Hell.

You may not believe it’s “Us v/s Them” on the spiritual path to enlightenment, but if your church does? Then you need to consider your role in perpetuating the divide in this country.

And can you please talk to your kids? It’s not nice to tell people they’re going to Hell.

Translating The Language Of Love.

The tragedy at Pulse in Orlando hit me hard. But just like my heart was lifted by the overwhelming majority of my friends who changed their profile pictures to rainbow flags when gay marriage became legal nationwide – I’ve been engulfed in the shared pain and loss of the people in my community. I haven’t seen one friend share a link or post a status completely ignorant or hateful in the wake of the tragedy. I’ve seen expressions of pain and sorrow from all of my friends – especially my Christian friends who I’ve also seen apologizing on behalf of some of their ilk who sometimes use their religions platform to deliver messages of hate.

It’s a nice thing to see as a Mother who has always worried about her child’s safety, but now has news reports of mother’s discussing the last texts from their sons to go along with that worry.

But I do feel like I need to address something. I need to discuss language used by Christians who mean well, who I truly believe in their heart of hearts believe their words are full of love and nothing else. Language also used by politicians who have been asked about their previous stance against the legalization of gay marriage. Language also used by members of Congress who previously voted against equal rights for various members of the LGBTQ community.

It’s the language of Love masking beliefs of inequality. And it’s keeping the Christian community complacent.

Many struggling to rectify their social views of loving their gay friends and family, with their church views, have fallen back on some language that makes them feel like their professing love but they’re also not denying their church’s official statements on such issues. And I get it. I struggled with my conflicts with church for years. It’s hard sometimes to deny your church’s teachings when you love your church so whole heartedly. I loved my church. LOVED. I prayed the rosary every night. I wanted to be a nun. I understand the love you can have for God and for Jesus and how it can run through every molecule of your body. I also remember the pain of realizing my views conflicted with the views of my church.

Today there are churches around that profess their acceptance loudly: WE DO NOT THINK GAY LOVE IS A SIN!

But those churches are few and far between, especially in the South. And you want to stay with YOUR church. You love YOUR church and YOUR church hasn’t said that yet. And so you struggle. You love YOUR bible. It’s the word of God! You pray so much over it that it hurts. “Please, God, show me the way. I’m so confused.” Just writing that prayer makes me cry because I remember praying the same prayer for so long. And you deal with that struggle by using language around LGBTQ issues that allow you to speak the love you feel in your heart, without being in conflict with your church. I GET IT, I REALLY DO.

But we need to talk about the fact that the people on the other side of those words still see the message under the words, the hidden message that taints the love you think you’re conveying.

“Jesus did not judge or shun the sinners, he loved them all and so I do the same.”

I love this message when it applies to atheists like myself. I acknowledge that my lack of a belief in the Christian God means that I’m sinning in the eyes of many of my Christian friends, and that’s okay. I appreciate those who love me anyway, like Jesus would have.

But it’s not the same when your professing the same logic behind embracing your gay friends or family.

You need to understand that with statements like this you are still saying to the two women married on your street and raising a family: I believe the love you share with your spouse is a sin, but I will love you like Jesus would have loved you. And while you think you’re spreading a message of love to the gay community by committing to be more like Jesus and loving the sinners instead of hating them? You’re not. Because you’re still calling their love a sin. And that’s a painful message wrapped up in lovely words.

“I am a sinner too. Who am I to judge others when my sins might even be far worse?”

Again. If you’re delivering this message about someone who is addicted to gambling or meth, then I’m pretty sure they’ll stand by the implication that they are sinning. But if you deliver this message to a young man who recently got down on one knee and proposed to his boyfriend under the glow of the Eiffel Tower? That’s not the same. You’re still calling that love he has with his fiancé a sin. And calling someone’s love a sin is not, inherently, a message of love. Even if you’re calling out your own sins in the process. Your newly engaged gay friend does not want you to celebrate his engagement by comparing it to your bad habit of gossiping with the ladies in your book club.

“Just because I disagree with their lifestyle…”

I choose to not eat meat and I buy cruelty free cosmetics. Those are lifestyle choices. Loving someone is not. Reducing someone’s love to the word “lifestyle” is an insult. Sometimes people think who you love is a “choice” and it is to a certain degree. I was never attracted to the asshole I knew in college who said, “If I didn’t need my toilet cleaned or my dinner cooked I could totally be gay. Men are way cooler than women.” I chose NOT to be attracted to that guy, right? So maybe I could choose NOT to be attracted to women? Every Christian I know who believes homosexuality is a choice has an arsenal full of stories they know of people who “changed their mind” and who now say it was a choice. But once you feel love/attraction for someone, that is REAL no matter how many people you know who have told you that they thought they were gay in college but they’re really not. And that’s fine. Keep believing that those people telling those stories represent the millions of others who are never going to find someone of the opposite sex attractive. But know that the second you reduce someone’s love to a lifestyle choice? You’re not expressing the love towards them that you think you are.

“My mother was an addict and I loved her just like God loves her…”

I appreciate these sentiments demonstrating the power of God’s love and the power of your own capacity to overlook a huge sin to still love someone dear to you. I do. But equating the love someone feels towards someone else to being an addict…is just insulting. If you are using negative life choices and comparing them to the love someone feels to someone else, putting them on the same level of “sin”, then you are insulting the person doing the loving.


It’s simple, really. Members of the LGBTQ community – Queer, Gay, Trans, Bi – all of them…they want more than your love. That want equality. Not just legal equality. They want to be looked at as THE SAME and not THE OTHER. They want you to feel about them the same way you feel about cisgendered people in heterosexual relationships. When I married my husband no one said to me, “Just because I don’t agree with your lifestyle doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate your marriage and be happy for you!” And you can not, under any circumstances, give them that equality if you:

1) Believe they are choosing to be gay/trans and could just as easily choose not to be that way.
or
2) Believe the sexual relationship they have with someone of the same gender is a sin.

No matter how much you think you’re speaking the language of love and acceptance, you are not if those two things are still peppering your beliefs and your messages.

(Updated: If you believe these things, that’s fine. This entry isn’t for you. Feel free to continue using the fake language of love because it’s at least better than outright homophobic hatred. But, if you don’t believe either of those two things, you need to quit hiding real love behind this inherently judgemental language.)

It’s hard to change your mind or your belief about something. I grew up Catholic. Coming to terms with my lack of beliefs in anything even remotely close to Catholic dogma was a struggle. I would say words my church wanted me to say but in my heart I didn’t feel like I believed them. Then I started being open to my new set of personal spiritual ideations and suddenly I started feeling my words again. I started feeling the Faith behind my statements in my love of humanity and the ripple effect of Joy. But the transition is hard. And I have empathy for people who believe so wholeheartedly in the teachings of their church and struggle deeply with this one issue. But listen: you have choices that do NOT involve being an atheist like I am.

You can

1) Loudly proclaim at every turn that you love your church and are dedicated to it but you don’t agree with their view on homosexuality and you want all of your gay friends and family to know that you don’t think their love is a sin and you’re hoping to be on the wave the bring change to the church. There are MORMONS FOR EQUALITY, so if people can push to be the voice of change in the Mormon church then anything is possible!

or

2) Find a church that supports the LGBTQ community by NOT believing that sexual relationships with someone of the same sex is a sin. And make sure YOUR church knows that’s why you’re leaving it.

IT IS SO HARD, I know. Church was such a huge part of my soul and disagreeing with my church was so painful I ended up leaving. But that doesn’t happen to everyone. I know plenty of Catholics and Mormons (I’m related to many of them!) using their love for people like my child to be the voice of change in their Church. I have Catholic friends who are pushing for the church to disavow the idea that gay love is a sin just like they disavowed the idea that women couldn’t distribute the Eucharist. (I was a female Eucharist Minister in a time when people would choose to go into a different line because me being female meant my body of Christ was not transubstantiated.) And I also know plenty who have simply found churches who don’t believe gay love/homosexul sex is a sin.

Because this fake language of love is keeping people complacent. It’s giving the illusion of acceptance without really accepting. Until you can say, “I love you because I believe God looks at you and I – and the love we feel towards our spouses – the exact same,” to the gay couple down the street…your language of love is tainted with judgement. And until the masses of people who really don’t believe gay love is a sin stand up in their church and admit that, the churches are going to keep preaching it’s a sin. And the profession of homosexuality as a sin is the foundation that radical hate is built upon. That may be a painful thing to acknowledge, but it’s true. Radical homophobic hate is build on teachings from religion. Until those religions teaching that message are the MINORITY, the hate is going to always find a fertile ground on which to grow.

On Religion. Again.

I write a lot about religion for someone who has no religion.

I was thinking a lot yesterday about churches and the messages they either blatantly or subtly give their communities about homosexuality. I have a lot of Christian friends who are deep in their faith but – in no way – believe homosexuality is a sin. And a few yesterday spoke out in my social sphere and one even went so far as to say, “If your church preaches that homosexuality is a sin, you need to walk out.” They used the tragedy in Florida as an open door to address the problems some religion can cause in blocking acceptance.

It’s hard though, to challenge your church.

I had a friend publicly separate from her church yesterday, calling out homophobic attitudes and while part of me was like, “HELL YEAH!” another part of me had a broken heart.

I spent a very long time trying to stay committed to a church with dogmas I didn’t support. My parents were the first in my class to get divorced and for years I felt very ashamed of that. I went to Catholic schools so “religion” was a 1-hour subject in school every day. There were a LOT of religious discussions during my 12-years in school. Any time divorce came up in religion class I flinched. I learned that since my parents didn’t (or couldn’t) get their marriage absolved in the church, then any future relationship would be a sin and in my heart I knew that was wrong. I had gay family so every time homosexuality came up, my heart broke at the internal struggle I felt over loving my family but fearing for their soul. I was having premarital sex and felt very judged even though I couldn’t understand how I was expected to marry someone until I knew if we were sexually compatible. And let’s don’t even discuss birth control.

But for a very long time I tried to stay committed to the church with the different views. I tried – as many of my friends and family do today – to stay with the church but be the voice of change within the walls.

And then I lost Faith so being in any church, even if I was hoping to be the voice that pushed it into acceptance, was useless.

But I still know the struggle. The desire to make the church the church I wanted it to be. I also remember the struggle in looking for a church home that maybe matched my heart better. I remember the pain in both situations. It’s like trying to make a bad relationship work, you know in your heart they’re never going to change, but you’re scared of life without them.

And I just want my religious friends to know I cherish them so much. I cherish them for still fighting the good fight in churches they don’t want to give up on. I cherish them for giving up, and finding churches that don’t need change. I cherish them for speaking out and NOT being silent. The saddest stories I’ve crossed as a parent of an LGBTQ child are the stories of teens struggling with their Faith. There are stories of suicidal kids who were sent off to camps to make them straight. Stories of closeted kids terrified to tell their religious family what their friends and their friend’s families already know. The pain I’ve seen always traces back to religion and it’s hard for me some days not to get bitter at the institution of church all together.

But then I have friends who publicly proclaim their church’s support of the LGBTQ community so that their friends know they have a church home that would welcome them. And there are friends who publicly call out their church’s behavior. There are friends who loudly say, “I DISAGREE WITH MY CHURCH!” but who continue to be the voice in the silence that hopes to push the church to change. All of you, your pain is not lost on me. Your struggle is something I know and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for speaking out. You may not know anyone directly in the LGBTQ community, but you know me. And there are other people like me in your sphere – people who need to see that there are churches who will welcome the people they love so that we don’t always association church with hate.

I just wanted you to know that I know your pain. I gave up the fight a long time ago, but I remember it and I cherish you for sticking with it. Your voices on Facebook on days like yesterday, your voices proclaiming your unwavering support for a community sentenced to Hell in my religious institutions, your voices mean more than you’ll know to people who will never publicly thank you. Have Faith in that on the days that the Faith in your church is difficult.

Faith and Guilt

I love the Humans of New York instagram account. His photos are always so simple, but so poignant. And the stories have such a range. I loved his refugee series he did desperately. Recently he’s doing a fundraiser series for a charity (DONATE HERE) that supports children with rare cancers. And while the photos are too heartbreaking for fragile sensibilities, I do want to discuss one trait of a few of them.

Guilt.

And a little bit of Faith.

The first I know a lot about. The second? I’m kinda redefining in typical Zoot Style.

This is one of the surgeons who works with these kids with rare pediatric cancers. In case you can’t see the embedded file on the page, the photo isn’t what’s truly important. It’s his quote/caption:

““The absolute best thing in the world that can happen to me is telling a parent that their child’s tumor is benign. I live for those moments. And the worst thing that can happen to me is telling a parent that I’ve lost their kid. It’s only happened to me five times in thirty years. And I’ve wanted to kill myself every single time. Those parents trusted me with their child. It’s a sacred trust and the ultimate responsibility is always mine. I lose sleep for days. I second-guess every decision I made. And every time I lose a child, I tell the parents: ‘I’d rather be dead than her.’ And I mean it. But I go to church every single day. And I think that I’m going to see those kids in a better place. And I’m going to tell them that I’m sorry. And hopefully they’ll say, ‘Forget it. Come on in.’”

His declaration of going to church every day and his preparation for an apology at the gates of heaven, it is something I can’t stop thinking about. I think maybe he believes he’ll get into heaven but is worried the kids will be there and he’ll need to apologize on more time? Either way. There is doubt about his reception in heaven. I read it two (three?) days ago and it’s been haunting me. I talk a lot about the parts of my past religious life that I miss, but this is the part that I am so glad I left behind. The guilt. The self-doubt. I have had to teach myself so much about forgiveness of myself for my failures and my sins, I do not think I could live a happy life if I had to also deal with the guilt imposed on me by my religion.

LUCKILY – I know many Christian friends who don’t have the view of a Punishing/Judgemental God. Their God loves without impunity and forgives and they have no doubt that they’re going to have a peaceful afterlife (some don’t define it as a biblical heaven, per se) because they strived to live good lives and the rest is moot. Many believe the Hell of afterlife is an extension of an evil life. They would never EVER believe a man like this would end up denied any sort of peace in his afterlife. NEVER. And I wanted to contact all of them and beg them to pray for this Man. Pray that he be delivered from his guilt. It just breaks my heart that someone doing such good is concerned about his soul.

And then yesterday there was this photo of a Father of a patient who has had a rough go of it the last two years.

His quote/caption was as follows:

“Mark is such a good man. He’s the most dedicated father and husband you can imagine. He never spends money on himself. He never thinks of himself. He only cares about what the family needs. He helped start an organization that raises money for widows. He worked so hard on it. He went from synagogue to synagogue, asking for money. Yet he still thinks that all of this is his fault. He thinks that I’m pretty much perfect, and Avi is pretty much perfect, so it must be his fault. He couldn’t sleep for months after the diagnosis. He would be up for all hours. He spoke to so many rabbis and mental health professionals. He gave away all his possessions. He’d always tell me: ‘I know I’ve done something wrong. We’re being punished for something I did. And I don’t know what it is. But I’m so, so sorry.’”

This man is CONVINCED his son’s struggles are his fault. Even sadder, one of the earlier pictures of this family indicated the son thought it was punishment for something he did. But this man, who has been through hell and back, is trying to make things “right” so his son will stop being punished. He’s apologizing for something he doesn’t even know what it is. AND MY HEART IS BROKEN AGAIN.

This will be the part of religion I never can understand. How you can have Faith (because Faith takes serious dedication, it’s not for the faint of heart) in a God who would do anything but love two good men like the ones mentioned above. I have no idea the religious affiliation of these men, although I think the presence of the yarmulke denotes that the Father is Jewish. Whatever their religion, there is obviously intense Faith in some sort of righteous God who handles all decisions of justice and I just…I just can’t. I have this incredible urge to find these men and give them hugs and hold them and tell them they’re beautiful.

I mean, I’m not going to do that. That’s weird.

But my heart just breaks for them. I want to wrap them up in love and healing and let them see the world through my eyes for a moment. A world where shitty things happen but not because we do shitty things. But a world where love like theirs (for their job or their family) lightens the world around them. They are not darkness in the lives of others, their failures or mistakes don’t warrant epic punishments. They are sources of light and love as humans who strive to be the best they can be. I wish they wouldn’t waste another second on guilt and would just take that energy and convert it to love and direct it inward.

Of course, these two men could be serial killers and that’s why they’re feeling guilty, but let’s just assume they are what they seem to be for the sake of argument.

Religious guilt is so strong, but I’ve learned I can be just as hard on myself without a God to loom over me. And I imagine this God that my friends believe in (I don’t think about the God I used to believe in, it’s a bad trigger) -I image that, that God that loves and embraces and wants nothing but light for his people. And I think he would have the same reaction to these men’s guilt as I do. This God my friends believe in, that they talk about, he would just want to wrap these men up in light and warmth and apologize that this has to happen to them but I believe that he would assure them that he loved them no matter what.

I have a lot of faith in a God I don’t believe in. I have NO faith in other Gods I don’t believe in.

I believe in NO Gods, but I have faith in ONE of them.

You know, because I like to keep it simple and completely logical.

Praying To Myself

I was looking up at a post-storm blue sky yesterday and just breathing in the smell of Spring and trying to deliberately think about breathing in love so that I can exhale it to the world around me. I closed my eyes and really tried to reflect on soaking in some energy as it was that point in the day where I tend to collapse emotionally since I get up so early. I really struggle with post-work energy. I thought about filling my heart with love and joy and so that I could reflect that to my children instead of entering ZOMBIE MODE which is what I tend to do in the evenings.

As I was having this moment, so to speak, it occurred to me: This is my prayer. And I’m directing it inward.

During my religious years I prayed a LOT. God was basically my therapist. I would cry to him and confide in him and I have often thought that the praying part is what I miss the most about religion. I miss not having a concrete format for praying to someone or talking to someone out in the universe somewhere. I know some agnostics have abstract ideas of a God-like being that they pray to, but I don’t really have that. I don’t deny there’s a chance that there could be a power greater than me in the universe; but if it exists, it’s beyond comprehension of my feeble mind so it’s not a source of comfort in the way I need for “prayer.”

But lately I have just been turning my thoughts inward to reflect, and then outward toward the universe. Just almost talking to the world around me. Thinking about the energy I want to give out and the energy I want to soak in. I keep a bullet journal page open on my desk now that says things like, “Breathe, walk, stretch…” to remind me to take a moment and FOCUS on what is bigger than me. I had noticed I was getting wrapped up in the mundane daily to-do lists and forgetting the bigger picture of who I want to be and how I want to influence the world around me. So, I’ve been taking these moments to re-center myself and remind myself that the energy I put out in the world stays there, so I should try to make it positive.

And that is basically what I used to pray for. “God, help me be a better person.” Constantly. I begged for help with everything from lying to abstinence. I would beg for help to stop gossiping and I would pray for discipline for attending mass. I was constantly looking to my God to help make me a better person which is now what I’m doing by turning inward upon my own heart. I’ve essentially started praying to myself. And it feels pretty good.

I AM MY OWN GOD, BOW BEFORE ME, SELF!

(Kidding.)

I do enjoy the feeling I get though, when I remind myself in those reflective moments to focus on the energy I’m putting out into the universe. It’s like a reboot when I’m dragging through my daily tasks. I actually do this several times a day lately, this praying thing, and I hope to keep up the habit. Especially now that I realize the connection to what religious me used to do. Prayer was a stabilizing force when I believed in God, it only makes sense that it be stabilizing again as I learn to believe in myself.