Saturday, October 03, 2015

When religious beliefs (or lack thereof) cause massive familial strife.

Over a month ago I had an article posted in the local paper. It was an opinion piece, written for the monthly Freethinker's Perspective. With a limit of only 800 words, naturally I could not be long-winded and explanatory on some of the points I made. It was an article on the 10 commandments and whether those commandments should be used as a basis for morality. In other words, should a person's morality be based on whether or not he/she followed all 10 commandments.

In the US, there are monuments placed in areas that are supposed to be secular. The government is not supposed to endorse a specific religion. However, many of these monuments were placed during the Cold War, a time where anyone who was an atheist was seen as a threat because atheists were communists and communists were evil. That thought has still prevailed along with another thought: those who are Muslim are also evil because of the events that took place on September 11, 2001.

So, right off the bat, with the first commandment, we have established an us vs them mentality. And then when you look at the commandment for the Sabbath (by the way, WHICH Sabbath are we even talking about here?) when you have the majority of Christians following a Sunday Sabbath, a number of Christians as well as Jews following a Saturday Sabbath, the division occurs even more. The 10 commandments in the US excludes quite a few people and the commandments themselves are not entirely clear. And that was my point for the article, to look at some of these commandments and to say, NO, this is not a good way to judge how moral someone is.

The article was received pretty well online though there were a couple of snarky comments regarding my weight and my hair (unfortunately had to submit a head shot for it which in and of itself went well beyond my comfort zone because I'm not overly photogenic) and how that should kill my credibility for writing that kind of a piece but there was no actual criticism on the article itself. No one could rationally discuss any issues with the actual article.

The president of the freethinker's group I'm in suggested I consider seeing if the Freedom From Religion Foundation would be interested in publishing it in their monthly column. Sure, why not? And they accepted it so it's going to be published for other freethinkers and atheists to see. Cool! And my younger sister was totally impressed and shared the news and the article. I hadn't really shared it on my page because I have a lot of Christian friends and figured some might take offense and really, I tend to not post a lot regarding my beliefs because I have people of different beliefs as friends on my page.

However, I made the mistake of mentioning it to my one older sister in Chicago. And she wanted to see the article. So I shared it on her husband's page which was the biggest mistake EVER. On the 21st, she calls my younger sister at 4 IN THE MORNING ranting and raving about how I was going to go to hell and how they needed to have an intervention for me because I was being brainwashed by my freethinker friends.

If only it had ended there...but it didn't. Two days later, my BIL posts my article on my page and included this note:
Did you not know, that these 10 commandments, occurs almost completely the same, in the Qur'an(Muslim), in Buddhism, In Hinduism, in Confusiousism etc? In all the world's religions, for TRUTH IS TRUTH. Though in this day and age, it's easy to pick on Christianity. I fear you only wrote this, from your failure with your husband. Who as u said, won't even read it. Why throw God under the bus? Did u consider everyone else you'd offend writing this? Maybe before you write these opinions, you should know what your talking about, by actually researching the subject.
This was taken word for word so spelling and grammar is not corrected. And I would have been fine with discussing with them what specifically they had issues with. Well, one of the problems seemed to stem from what I wrote on the commandment of honoring thy mother and father. I merely asked why the focus was on that specifically and to me, it seems to be very broad in scope. But these are the same people who went off on me, saying I was not honoring my parents because I testified against them in their trial, the trial they both had for committing MURDER which is also a commandment but apparently not as important as honoring your mother and father because I guess, honoring your earthly parents correlate to how you honor your non-earthly parent(s).

And it wouldn't even be that bad if it hadn't escalated to them attacking me for having my sister send presents for my kids (which I never obligated her to send and one year even told her NOT to send anything because John was sick of how much stuff the girls had) and how I am a liar and a gold digger. So again, no rational discussion on what they specifically disagreed with in the article but rather guilt trips and attacks (not just to me either but to my younger sister as well).

This is a trigger for me. I do still suffer from some post traumatic stress from the murder and one of those ways is that it has taken me a really really long time to feel comfortable with actually doing things for ME and not for other people. I am a massive people pleaser and in the years following the murder, I stopped doing a lot of things for myself and did what everyone wanted me to do. This included religious beliefs. This included a lot of the things I have done as a parent that I have not fully agreed with but did because I wanted to keep the peace. I lived my life for everyone else because stepping outside of that would be wrong. People would become angry with me, and consequences would happen, sometimes bad ones.

The day before my BIL's murder, my mother had a fight with him over the phone and she called me ranting and raving. I didn't take her side. I tried to be neutral, pointed out both of them were wrong. She started making threats about wanting him dead, I told her to knock it off. She abruptly ended out business relationship, wanted to come over and pick up stuff for the business and a computer she and my dad were getting and she let my dog out the front door by the street then called me and told her to get her before she got hit. And I relied on her for transportation. And then when she and my dad came over for the stuff the next morning, my father shot and killed my BIL.

SO...this is not something I deal with well but I worked to be calm and rational and tried to say hey you don't have to send stuff if you don't want to, I'm not making anyone send anything. And when it just kept going, I said enough. I will not discuss it anymore; I stand by what I wrote and I'm not changing my mind. I am not going to change my religious beliefs just because someone wants me to. If I were going to do that, I would be in the Dells right now with my husband and children! But I'm NOT! I am giving him the latitude to teach them his beliefs (though I don't agree with them) and I'm here doing what I enjoy which is going to school and learning what I need to learn for my degree. But I'm the worst person in the world because I don't believe in a god. Oh, and I'm crazy too, I guess.

He deleted it, along with the comments from friends who were defending me but not before he made one more comment that got to my email that basically said my sister will never forgive me for this because I turned against blood.

Fine. Whatever. I still remained friends with them on FB because I didn't quite know what to do though my therapist advised doing a pros and cons on doing a DEAR FAST (DBT terms) and I didn't want to totally cut them off without thinking it through for a little bit. In the meantime, because of the "fight", my sister can't send my younger sister her birthday presents or anything for her or her kids. She's getting punished for not taking their side against me and agreeing with them about my hell-bound soul.

Final straw was a meme he posted that showed how to convert an atheist by having the pilot sky diving holding a sign saying, "I was your pilot." This would then scare the atheist to convert at the last minute before inevitable death because duh, no pilot. Goes off the whole there are no atheists in foxholes argument (which is not whatsoever true). He had gotten this from a page he apparently now likes called Freedom From Atheists Foundation.

I cried. It came after a long day for me where I was feeling lonely, missing my family, feeling left out. It hurt. I do have feelings; if anything, I probably feel TOO much.

I called my younger sister and told her I would be deleting and blocking both BIL and older sister and why. I wanted to warn her because I more or less figured that she will get even more backlash from it. She understood. And it's not like she even needs to be dealing with all of this crap having had emergency gallbladder surgery just a week ago and still dealing with some complications from it. But hey, being RIGHT is more important to some people than considering the feelings of others, ESPECIALLY when it comes to forcefully converting more people for their god.

Seriously, with Christians like these, who needs Satan? And worse, they can't even SEE the hypocrisy of their actions.


Karen Loethen said...

Janeen, What BS you have to deal with. Did you ever think that many of your emotional difficulties come from the people you are surrounded by...?
I know you have.
Not to question your understanding of your personality struggles, just being snotty I guess. (Not helpful.)

I wish I could have hugged you as you wrote this. <3

Janeen said...

Oh yeah. That's part of the social aspect that leads to borderline personality disorder. I come from a very dysfunctional family. If my parents were not in prison for what they did, I can't even imagine how things would have been and what kind of a parent I would have become because both my mom and dad had so many of their own emotional issues and were abusive in many ways. No doubt it is how I ended up with John. In many cases, it's classic. Fortunately, this sister (who is my dad's daughter from his first marriage and his ex wife is also considerably mentally ill) and her husband live hours away and since I cut contact, I have not heard from them.

My oldest daughter is still kind of sad about it and I told her to send her aunt a letter but I don't know how she will respond. She may return to sender. I don't know. I remember being Natalie's age (she's 10 1/2) and thinking this sister was just the coolest thing ever. She's 13 years older than I am and was a college student and I was just a little kid. But I outgrew her by the age of 12.

She has her issues and her husband, I think, is a little controlling and has caused fights in the family before. She and our brother (my dad's son from his first marriage, just a few years younger than my sister) have not spoken in 4 or 5 years now. And they do live in the same area more or less. It is what it is. It's not the first time we've not kept in contact. Her massive defense of our father, that he was the best father ever, how dare I say anything bad about him, much less testify against him has bothered me greatly. She either had a very different dad than we did or she forgot how he could be. And yes, he certainly had his good moments but by and large, he was a very unhappy man and made the rest of us miserable in the process. And in the end, he caused me massive trauma that I will never easily forget and destroyed a family. Those are not things one just easily forgives and forgets and she's never understood that. To her, he will always be her daddy.

Karen Loethen said...

<3 It's so true that different kids have different parents. My sisters both ADORE my dad because he was COMPLETELY different with them than he was with me. We three sisters know this. We call him "My dad" and "Your dad" because his behavior was so different between us.

My sisters and I have OFTEN wondered why we didn't end up more messed up than we are. Addictions and whatnot. We each have our issues, for certain, but it could be worse. As for me, I thank ten years of excellent therapy and the many, many other works I did to improve myself over the years.

Janeen, as you did, the best things and the absolute hardest things I have ever done was go no contact with the toxic as fuck people in my family. HARD. Hardhardhard. But so very healthy and freeing. <3

Janeen said...

Oh yeah, I totally get that one! Therapists have wondered how we kids aren't more messed up than we are! Oh, borderline personality disorder? Well, that's understandable! That you haven't gone totally off the deep end? That's amazing!

Not sure if you've gotten kind of the idea from some of my posts, I witnessed a murder 13 years ago. My father shot and killed my brother-in-law, my younger sister's husband. It happened in my apartment and I was in the room. So that I'm not more messed up is definitely something that has been said!

I went through the process of seeing if I needed trauma therapy and it was determined that the dialectical behavior therapy has helped on that a lot. I struggle with some anxiety here and there, still need to work on getting my driver's license and I haven't spoken to my dad since the murder (I have seen my mom but I set up boundaries with her pretty quick and she's been good about staying within them because the last thing she wants is to lose the chance to see me). This is one of the things that bothers my one sister and something she doesn't understand. I gave her a lot of leeway because she has her own mental issues but unfortunately, she went to far and both my younger sister and I decided it was best to cut ties there.

And yes, it is hard. I think it's been harder on my oldest daughter than anything else but it really is for the best. Just less drama that way.