Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Lone Atheist

About two weeks ago my two girls left for Bible camp, the younger one for the first time. It's become such a tradition now, that I don't even question it though I do question the means of paying for it when we are relying on some government assistance and therefore are eligible for financial assistance for the camp itself (nevertheless, my husband sometimes insists on paying for it out of pocket). My oldest has been going for years now and enjoys it. There are a lot of fun activities to do, and she gets to see friends she normally wouldn't see. Still, it bothers me because I would never be given the leeway of enrolling them into a secular camp. My opinion is oftentimes ignored because I don't believe in the truth as far as my husband is concerned.

My beliefs are irrelevant.

I have pushed at that a bit though. I went back to school which has infuriated John to no end at times. I decided that homeschooling was no longer working for us and enrolled the girls in school last fall. I enrolled them in a local charter school where they have access to some form of the arts every day and is the only elementary school in the city to have a drama class. That was certainly a rough transition because again, my husband didn't agree with it but as he did nothing to help when I was struggling with the homeschooling, he no longer got to have a say on the matter. The girls WERE going to get an education and if he wasn't going to do it, then they needed to go to school. He was literally sleeping on the job.

On a lot of issues, it is like this. I do my thing, John does his. Our values are different and it's not just due to whether one believes in a deity or not. I believe in equal rights and ending as many of the "isms" as possible. He believes that he is part of a group of people specially called on and blessed by God himself and therefore, anyone who does not believe as he does will, at some point, cease to be or recognize the error of their ways and believe what he believes (believe what the Bible says word for word or be thrown into the Lake of Fire). And I won't even go into his beliefs regarding other races and cultures.

I'll give you a recent example. A few months ago, a booklet was sent home for summer enrichment classes. They had these classes back when I was their age and in school and back then, I would pour over the book for hours looking for the perfect classes to take. Natalie, being Natalie wasn't quite so enthused and I had to push her to look at it. Isabelle, there wasn't really anything for her to take (not this year anyway). We found a few classes she could take that wouldn't interfere with Bible camp in July. Unfortunately, all of the classes she wanted were taken (that's what happens when you can use the internet to sign up and you wait until the LAST DAY to sign up--oops). There was one class I found for her that was an art class that sounded like something she might enjoy. It was called Zentangles. Looking at the description, it really just mentioned using shapes to create pictures. Okay, so abstract drawing, cool.

We get to the week of class. John, suspicious of the word ZEN in the title, has to go looking it up to make sure it's not something sinister. He finds a number of things on it including that it's used for mindfulness (oh hey, a connection with DBT, now I wish I had known that beforehand!). The shape drawing can lead to a meditative state. Now, you would think that this would be a good thing, right? Well, not for John. For him, meditation equals Buddhism. And Buddhism leads one to worshiping false gods. He found this article online: and printed it off. He was going to share the article with the teacher and included a note on the back:

Did you know that Zentangles is a form of and promotes meditational behavior, and derives from and leads into the Zen concept of exploration of the Buddha-nature? It is a subtle and unconscious, unstressed introduction into Buddhism, a false religion.

I wish I was making this up but I took that word for word from what he wrote. I kept the article to show my therapist. Fortunately, John never did show this to Natalie's teacher (like he/she would even care) and Natalie did complete the class because seriously, it was just drawing lines and shapes to make a picture. She would draw a pony and then a bunch of lines and shapes around her pony. She also, on the first day, colored in a drawing which is something we have done for mindfulness in my skills group. But that leads me to my next point.

I am in a therapy program that stresses mindfulness/meditation as a way to control emotions. 

Mindfulness of current emotion, of current thought, is HUGE for those in dialectical behavior therapy. And meditation is not a load of woo either. An article in the Scientific American magazine from November 2014 titled The Neuroscience of Meditation goes rather thoroughly into the practice of meditation and how it can change the brain. It is being studied at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and one of the subjects looked at is a Buddhist monk. Does it have origins of Eastern philosophy? Yes. Can it be used without religious significance? For sure! I go to a Catholic hospital. One of the therapist is a nun. There are no issues with this program being used. DBT was developed by someone who suffered from the borderline personality disorder herself.

But I'm not using the Bible to cure my emotional issues. 

And that's not acceptable as far as he's concerned so he tends to not see any improvements I've made though others have noticed. But really, from my understanding of the Bible, God himself could use some DBT skills. I mean, talk about emotional disregulation!

And that's just one example. Probably the biggest issue is that sundown Friday to sundown Saturday is to be used for church only. There is to be no working, no spending money (no grocery shopping even), no chores outside of cooking. The girls are not to go to any parties or any other activities during that time. Yeah, pretty much every single birthday party and town event occurs on Saturday. Over the winter it's not too bad with parties because sundown is earlier but during the summer, the girls miss out on a lot and it really sucks. He won't back down from it either. And while I know that it's a deal with his church and not Christian churches in general, it is a big issue in our household and something that is really hard for the girls to understand especially with this past year being their first year in school.

If I didn't have my freethinker's group, I don't know what I would do. That's been such a relief for me. I'm able to get out once a month (most months) and spend time with people who are open-minded. Living with someone who only thinks one way, who only believes what one book tells him, is incredibly hard at times. There is not much you can talk about with someone who is that closed minded. To someone like that, the world is black and white. My therapist and I talk about it (no, I'm not seeing the nun though she's really nice but the therapist I do see speaks more my language) and talk about how it is fear that rules someone like that. We talk about my trying to understand that fear and being more compassionate because of it but there are times it is just too hard for me. I'm not able to empathize. And for sure, I'll never believe what he believes. I did try and I gave up a lot in the process of trying and in the end, lost part of myself.

I'm still trying to find that part, the part that would be there if I wasn't married to John.

One thing I've heard a lot is that the reason I'm an atheist is because of John. I was questioning my beliefs long before I met him. I was questioning them back my freshman year of high school. I don't think that would change. What might be different is what I would have been drawn to instead of Christianity. I had been dabbling in paganism when we first met and forced myself to abandon it because of his beliefs. Would I have stayed with it? Or would I have found another path instead? It's hard for me to know. I'm sure his belief system has influenced mine in some way especially as forceful as he has been about it. But how, I can't be entirely sure. It gets lonely sometimes though, being the lone atheist here.

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