The Dark Clouds – A rather random and hurried description of depression.

I don’t tend to read people’s blogs about depression because they are often, quite frankly, depressing.

I’m not writing this in the hope that others will gain great insight.  I’m writing it just on the off chance that someone who wasn’t going to reach out will now do so.  It’s unlikely, I know.

I remember very little about the first time I asked for help.  Asking for help is not easy for me, in any situation, be it physically, financially, or emotionally.  On this occasion, however, I knew it was necessary.

My youngest daughter was upset, and all I remember thinking was, “I’m going to hurt her.”  It’s not uncommon, I know.  My mum often reminds me of the times that she went next door for a cigarette to prevent herself from hurting me.  But something felt very wrong.  I was scared.  I sat down and cried.

I remembered a number I’d seen on a leaflet, and decided to give it a call.

“Hello.  I don’t know if you can help me.  I don’t know if I’ve called the right number.  I think I need to talk to someone.”

Beyond that, I remember very little.  I hadn’t called the right number, but they were able to help me anyway.  It was a women’s helpline, and it felt as though, almost immediately, I was in an office waiting to talk to someone.

The next step is also a blur.  There were referrals, and a diagnosis of chronic depression.  I wasn’t happy with the diagnosis, so I asked for a second opinion.  Again, I was told I had chronic depression, and I would be put on medication for the rest of my life.

I know I’d had a kind of help prior to this.  When pregnant with my son about 4 years beforehand, I’d flagged up as a possible risk for post-natal depression.  I’d owned up to having very dark thoughts when my eldest daughter was a baby, and was subsequently informed that I’d possibly had post natal depression which had been undiagnosed, so they monitored me.  I was sent for free massages as a possible preventive measure.  I’m not sure how much it helped, but I did have a brief episode of what may have been post partum psychosis shortly after my son was born.

I don’t recall much about the episode, apart from the terror I felt.  My son must have been a few weeks old.  My husband had been sleeping in the basement as he thought the baby and I would sleep better on our own.  I was lying on the bed one morning next to my son, and I had a sudden, intense fear.  I’ve no idea what about, but there was an enormous panic inside me and I needed to get to my husband.  It almost felt as though something were chasing me, and I needed to get to my husband as soon as possible.  I grabbed my son and ran to the top of the wooden stairs.  I remember standing there, pausing, and thinking, “This will take too long.  I haven’t got time to walk down these.  I have to get there sooner.”  At that moment, I thought it would be far quicker to jump and fly down the stairs.  I was a split second away from launching myself off the landing when I noticed my son in my arms.  My thought process went something along the lines of, “He can’t fly.  I can, but he can’t” and I rushed back to the bedroom to place him on my bed.  By the time I returned to the landing it had thankfully occurred to me that I couldn’t fly either, but I ran down the stairs in a crazed panic, screaming for my husband.  When I reached him I was a mess.  I don’t remember how long it took me to calm down.  I don’t remember much else at all, other than discussing it with my midwife during her visit the next day.  She explained the seriousness of what had happened, and made us promise to get to the hospital up the road if it ever happened again.

You see, it’s all coming back to me now in a very disjointed fashion.  But that’s how my brain works when I’m feeling like this.  It’s like my head is a maze of corridors, but not empty corridors.  They are full, like the corridors of a hoarder.  It’s muffled, and only occasionally does a door open, revealing information.  I don’t know where the corridors lead, or what’s behind the doors until I explore.  It’s confusing.  Sometimes it feels like a mad panic.  Sometimes I just want to sit among the mess.

So, I was put on medication, and assigned a psychiatrist.  I was given a questionnaire to fill in which she would use to decide whether or not I had bipolar disorder.  A friend of mine had been through hell after a diagnosis, so whether or not I had it, I wasn’t about to be labelled.  I researched the disorder and filled out the questionnaire to ensure that I wasn’t flagged up.  I’m certain I don’t have it anyway.

The psychiatrist didn’t last long as she had issues herself, and ran off one night, never to return.  It was then left to my doctor to continue my prescriptions, and one day he decided to try changing one of my pills to a different release rate.

I’m not sure if it was at that point when things changed, or whether I just perceive it that way, but I stopped functioning.  I hid all day.  My anxiety seemed to worsen.  I was a terrible mother, not reading, not playing, just surviving.  Of course there were good days when we would go to the park, but they would leave me exhausted, and begging my daughter to go to sleep with me.  I’d get up in time to tidy before collecting my other children from school, and make it look like I’d been busy before my husband got home.  Then I’d head out to work for the evening.

Anything important that happened during that time is a blur.  If my husband tries to relive any memories which I don’t have, he says, “Oh yes.  You won’t remember.  Those were your sleeping years.”

One day I developed a sore throat, which prevented me from eating.  I felt so ill that I was in bed, and after about three days I started to hallucinate.  I don’t remember what the hallucinations were, but I remember that they accompanied a certainty that I was going to die.  This was it.  It was over.  I asked my husband to bring my children to me.  I wanted to touch their faces.  The fear of dying wasn’t as bad as I’d previously imagined.  My only fear was for them.

My husband was obviously convinced that I wasn’t going to die, and started to look up my symptoms on the internet.  He soon realised that I was suffering from withdrawal.  I’d had such a sore throat that it hadn’t occurred to me to take my medication for several days.

For me, this was a wakeup call, telling me that my entire personality was being controlled by a drug.  I didn’t like the lack of control, and decided that I should wean myself off my drugs to see if I was better now without them.

It was a long, slow, process, entirely discouraged by the new psychiatrist that I’d just been referred to.  She gave me horror stories of people doing crazy things, like turning up outside Canadian Tire at 4am, demanding to be let in to buy home renovation supplies and plants.  I figured I could handle it.  I didn’t go back to her.

Instead, I told my closest friends, and asked them to look out for me.  They were all kind, and caring, letting me know they were there for me, no matter how crazy I got.

I’ve been off the medication for years now.  I’m not saying it was a smart move.  Some people will consider it irresponsible.  But I’d rather live with the demons that I create, and learn to control them, than have the drugs numb me.  I’ve been told by numerous doctors that I should be on back on the drugs.  They’ve offered milder ones as a compromise, but I’ve still refused.

Recently the demons seem to have bred.  I’ve been sinking deeper into my emotional duvet, not wanting to come out.  When the dark clouds start to roll in, there is little warning.  The odd rumble of thunder can mean nothing, and there will be blue skies again.  But when clouds descend it reminds me of the ‘Big storm’ we had in Peterborough, Ontario back in July 2004.  It was a day or so before my youngest daughter was born, and the storm circled the city all night, not being able to shift away, going round and round, bombarding us with bolts of lightning, and drenching us in torrential rain.  Every time we thought it was over, it came around again, until it felt as though it would never go, and the end of the world was upon us.

My dark days are similar.  They aren’t always just days, but sometimes weeks.  I see a glimmer of light, but it’s extinguished, and I plummet into darkness again.

For me, the depression usually manifests itself as a fear.  A fear of losing people, that they will dislike me, a fear that I’m a dreadful mother, or that I just fail in general.  I struggle to communicate properly with those who I think I’ve disappointed, or those who might dessert me.  While all the fears run through my head, I’m asking, “Where can I hide?”.  “Where can I go where no one can find me?”  I usually just get as far as a deep sleep, shutting down, blanking everything out, hoping it will all be gone when I wake.

On reflection, it seems like a test, a purging, or debridement.  I need to ensure that the people around me are going to support me.  It’s a horrible thing to do.  I know, because others have done it to me.  I’ve learnt to spot it, and not give up on those people.  I cry from the pain they inflict, and then I forgive them, as I hope others will do for me.  I don’t really want people gone – I want them to hug me.

I fully appreciate how hard it is for outsiders to understand.  I have a hard time describing it, and I feel as though I’ve only just touched the surface.  Nothing I can put in words can fully convey the emotions, and sometimes, lack of them.

In the absence of medication, I have sought help from a local Wellbeing clinic.  I’m not expecting answers.  I’m only hoping that, by talking to someone, it will release the pressure valve a little.  There are times when it all comes to a head and I’m lying alone at night with no-one to talk to.  Those are the nights which seem endless, as though the dawn will never come.  I’m hoping to learn a coping mechanism for that, so that I can at least not frighten people off with what must appear to be madness.

In the meantime there is wine, and there is running.  One is easy, the other takes a little more willpower!

I feel guilty when I admit that I have depression, as I’m aware that others have it so much harder than me, and I’m sure they have far greater cause to write about it than I do.  But I hope that maybe a better understanding will lead us all to having more blue skies than grey.  We are not easy to live with when the dark clouds surround us, but if you can stick with us during those times, we can look forward to the blue skies together.

My Boy

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My little boy becomes a teenager today.

He called me from school this week to say he’d forgotten his lunch money.  I cycled the 3km to his school to deliver it to him on my rickety old bike, and waited patiently by the gate.

Eventually he came sauntering towards me, too cool to speed up for his poor old mum who’d been standing in the cold wind.  It was like a movie where the person coming towards you never gets closer, but finally he arrived.

I teased him that he should give me a hug, in front of the other school kids, for my 6km round trip, but all I got was a, “Um, no!  Thanks, Mum.”

I waved him goodbye and turned back to my bike, then heard a, “Hey, Mum” behind me.  My darling boy, who is now taller than me, wrapped his arms around me and gave me a hug.

I hope the world doesn’t change him when he sets out into it, rather that it’s young men and women like him who will change the world.

The Vegan ‘Agenda’

I’m a bit grumpy this morning.  I’m never very far from being Evil Edna in the mornings, but today I was in an especially bad mood.  This was unfortunate for the poor chap who sent me my first tweet of the day.  He’s someone who I like, and had posed me a genuine question.  It was a question similar to those I’ve been asked many times before, but today it bothered me more than usual.

The question was this:

@PurpleMouse Have you seen this before? Much truth/not? pic.twitter.com/mXdP4Zmg0h

— himoverthere (@PomAnon) January 13, 2015

Firstly, I’d like to clarify that I call myself a vegan because I don’t eat meat or dairy products.  For accuracy, I prefer to call myself ‘a vegetarian with vegan tendencies’.  In other words, I avoid eating, wearing, or using anything that comes from animals, but I’m very aware that this isn’t a perfect system.

Most of the items listed in the diagram have vegan alternatives available.  The image assumes a level of ignorance in vegans, suggesting that we’ve not done our research.

I have crossed out the products that I don’t ever buy, those I have no cause to buy, and those for which I always seek a vegan alternative.  The remainder are items which I have little or no control over and would buy a vegan alternative if able.  If an alternative wasn’t available, I would make the best informed choice possible.

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As you can see, there are many items which I don’t have much control over.  Being constantly asked to justify using plastic or glass etc., as it may have derived from animals or used animal derivatives in the processing, is rather tiresome.

I do my utmost to avoid animal products.  People criticising me for not being able to carry this out perfectly are missing the point.  I don’t seek to change the world.  I’m very aware of my failings.  But if I am able to leave this planet having caused as little harm as possible to my fellow Earth dwellers, I will leave feeling relatively content.  This is my only objective.

It’s unfair to point at vegans and accuse them of ‘not doing veganism properly’ because some animal products slip into our daily lives.  We are all guilty of harm in areas where we would rather our hands were clean.  It’s an unavoidable price to pay for living in a modern society, where we are unable to monitor every step of the consumer trail.  It’s an unreasonable expectation, but nevertheless, it is one we strive towards.  I think it unkind to take pleasure in the failings of those whose only goal is to limit the harm they cause to others.  What would people have us do?  Are we to say, “This map of a cow shows me that trying is a waste of time.  I can’t possibly meet all the standards that I would hope to live up to, so I will give up and not try at all”?  The image implies that unless we can achieve a perfect state of veganism, anything less than that is a waste of time and effort.  I wholeheartedly disagree.  Any step towards a goal is a step worth taking.

If people seek to mock my choices, that is out of my hands.  Much of the criticism of vegans, as with criticism of most ideas, is due to a lack of understanding.  Yes, there are vegans out there who like to get on their high horse or adopt a moral high-ground, but the vegans I know are simply trying to live their lives as peacefully as possible.  It seems to me that people criticise because they need justify their own reasons for eating animals and their bi-products.  I don’t try to prevent anyone’s freedom, and if deep down they feel the need to justify their actions, I don’t feel that I, or any other vegan, should be held accountable for that.

When I became a vegetarian, at the age of 13, I didn’t have any goal other than to not have another animal for my dinner. It was the vein in the belly pork which finally sealed it for me.

It wasn’t a sudden change, but a gradual progression.  I wasn’t striving for perfection.  At the beginning it was just a lack of meat in my diet.  As time went on, my mum advised me of other foods which contained animals, and I would avoid them. First gravy, then my grandmother’s heavenly suet pudding, jelly sweets, and a large number of biscuits.

I only decided to eliminate dairy about 5 years ago.  I put it down to years of breastfeeding, and empathising with how a cow must feel, as well as coming to the realisation that I didn’t actually need it.  It was more suffering that I felt I was contributing to, and I didn’t feel comfortable with it.

I’d been raised eating mostly offal, and have probably had far worse things on my plate than many of my meat eating friends.  I had a fascination with the body parts that I was eating, and would ask questions at the butchers.  It never bothered me until I made the connection that these were not just body parts, but parts of a body which was alive and kicking not long before.  Whenever we had lamb hearts for dinner we had one each.  That’s 4 lambs.

I don’t feel bad for having eaten them, you may be surprised to learn.  My mum was doing the very best that she could to keep us healthy while not having much money to go around.

There is a huge difference to me in eating meat for survival, and eating meat for pleasure.

Leo Tolstoy is quoted as saying,

“A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite.”

Again, it is entirely up to the individual, but to reiterate, I do object to people who eat meat for their appetite criticising me for using an animal product against my knowledge, and which I have little or no control over.

I don’t consider non-vegans to be immoral.  Of course I would prefer it if people ate less meat, or ideally, no meat at all. This always raises the question of, “If we all stopped eating meat, what would happen to all the animals?”  There’s a notion that there would be a mass, ongoing slaughter, which I can’t see happening.  As with any change in our culture, it would likely be very gradual, and fewer animals would be reared each year.  Producers would start to invest more in other farming, and the animals would be phased out.  Will we end up with extinct species?  Maybe.  But where is the pride in keeping a species in existence if it is only to contain it in unpleasant conditions, then have it slaughtered?

Now I await the comments about animal welfare inspectors, and how conditions aren’t all that bad.  The standards met are those of adequate living conditions.  Not good, or comfortable.  Just conditions which we deem acceptable for animals who are reared for our plates, and not ones which we would consider acceptable for our beloved pets.

Whether or not you wish to eat meat is up to the individual consumer, but I will not be made to feel as though I am in the wrong for deciding that it’s something I’d rather not partake in.

A good friend of mine questions me about my choices every now and then.  Having read the thread this morning, he asked, “Do you know how many head of cattle an average meat eater would eat in their life?”

I replied, “I imagine it’s not many if you were to combine all the meals into one.  But we don’t.  We kill one, eat a small part, kill another.  If you were to add up all the deaths which factored into your meals, it would be vastly higher than the number of whole cows eaten.  That’s why meat eaters and veggies can produce such different statistics.  It’s all propaganda, either way.”

I do believe this.  We tend to bend the figures to fit our agenda.  Usually the agenda is to convert, one way or another, but in my case my only ‘agenda’ is a personal one.

If my friend went veggie tomorrow, he is right that it would make very little impact.  You’d need a large number of people to go veggie at the same time to create an impact on the slaughter houses.  But I’m not personally creating that demand, and that’s what matters to me.

My friend then asked me, “Do you think humans are more important than animals?”

My response was, “I think it natural for us as a species to want to protect ourselves first.  That’s nature.  I would choose myself over an animal now because of my children.  If I were alone, I’d consider my life to be of no greater importance than an animal.  We are all simply trying to survive.  I don’t believe an animal should die for the sake of pleasuring my appetite, or for a handbag.  I find that crude.”

When in my twenties, I worked in a microbiology laboratory.  I went through litres of bulls’ blood every day, making up agar plates which would be used to culture and identify bacteria from patients’ swabs.  I’m very aware that, should I require a swab, chances are an animal product will be used in the testing process.  We will continue to use animal bi products as long as they are available.  If we all stopped eating meat, the bi products would be less readily available, and alternatives would be sought.  It’s not that vegans are continuing to create a demand, it’s that the animals are being eaten, so the cheap bi product is preferable to finding alternatives at the moment.

I know I am justifying my choices, even though I really don’t think I should need to.  I’m not insisting that others conform.  If I were insisting that everyone in my life were to be vegan, of course I should be called out to explain myself.  But it is a choice made by me, for myself only.

I hope the chap who sent me the picture has forgiven me for my snappiness this morning.

There are no absolutes in choices such as these.  I prefer not to buy goods from sweat shops, but in a non-perfect world this is not 100% achievable.  I prefer to buy Fair Trade foods where available, but is it always possible?  No.

None of us should be asked to justify the things we do in the hope of contributing to a better world.  I know I will leave big, muddy footprints on this planet when I leave, no matter what I do.  I can only choose to avoid the dirtiest puddles where possible.

The Dawkins Backlash

I don’t gush over Dawkins or Hitchens, but I don’t understand the backlash against them either.

Yes, we can think for ourselves, but for many of us, having our opinions validated by people who were able to put forward far better arguments in a more eloquent fashion helped us to feel brave enough to speak up ourselves.

Many of us had family or social pressures which prevented us from voicing our opinions initially.

It’s not that we can’t think for ourselves.  It’s that some of us aren’t as well practiced at putting forward those thoughts.

I’m grateful to anyone who validated my initial misgivings about religion, and gave me the confidence to speak out.  They allowed me to not be afraid to challenge a system which I’d been raised to respect without question, and occasionally fear.

I thank the big names like Hitchens, Dawkins, and Gervais, but also tweeters like @MrOzAtheist who gave personal support to myself and others who were stumbling around looking for answers.

The Atheist Tweeter

Are we done with atheist accounts on Twitter?

It seems that many of us have reached the point where we will happily scroll through atheist material on our timelines, skip the obvious and repetitive memes, and scoff at people declaring that God is a myth for the 500th time.

But we need to think back about two years when many of those people who now scoff were still finding their feet, feeding off each other for more thoughts on atheism, and hungry for theists to debate.

The majority of us are uncomfortable with mocking religious people, although most of us have done it at some point.  Not something to be proud of.  Many of us were once religious and find it hard to fathom how others can remain so.  But unless people use their religion to excuse poor behaviour, as a shield to hide behind when being a bigot, or to impose their personal hatred onto others, we should probably let them get on with it quietly.

When new atheist blogs are published, there are people who will say, “Yeah, yeah.  Heard it all before”, but that’s because they’ve been around atheism for a while.  They are firm in their non belief.  But theism, indoctrination, and abuse of religious power didn’t stop when those people became atheists.  There are still people in doubt who are questioning their beliefs and need that little ray of light to help them see things more clearly.

When I first fumbled around on Twitter two years ago, I was already an atheist but I wasn’t able to put my thoughts into a cohesive package to explain it to anyone who questioned me.  It was helpful to be able to discuss my thoughts with others, to firm up my arguments, and to learn how to approach the subject calmly and respectfully.

Atheism on Twitter was very different two years ago.  For many it bound them together, and there seemed to be several groups who bonded over this singular thing they had in common.

Obviously our beliefs, or lack of them, are just a small part of who we are.  Therefore forming friendships based on that alone is not going to create very strong ties.  Many have shaken off the notion of being associated with atheism, while some continue to embrace it.  Both are fine, but we shouldn’t dismiss those who still feel the need to be outspoken.

There are also people who feel alone in their community because they don’t believe.  There are some who are beginning to question what they’ve been told as fact, but don’t know who to ask.

For this reason I still support those who continue to be a voice for atheism.  If we don’t need it ourselves anymore, fine.  Just scroll, ignore the blogs and podcasts, or unfollow.  But we shouldn’t rubbish them or tell them it’s time to put away the soap box.  To some out there this is all fresh and new, and they are only just beginning to find their voice.  Let’s not deny them the support which was once so valuable to us.

The Roman Catholic Church – A force for good?

I’ve heard many arguments claiming that the Roman Catholic Church is a force for good.

Points in their favour are charity work, forgiveness, support, morals.

These are not exclusive traits to those of faith.

90% of my friends are atheists.

All of my friends are charitable, forgiving, supportive, and have excellent morals.

I’m happy for my religious friends to feel that they are guided by a god. I sincerely hope that without their god they would not become uncharitable, unforgiving, unsupportive, and immoral.

I am certain that they wouldn’t, because it’s clear to me that we do not need a god, or his spokespeople, to lead good lives.

The Catholic Church, or indeed any other religion, is not a force for good. It merely reinforces it in some, but they would probably reach those same humanistic conclusions without it.

Farewell To Peterborough

I’m a moaner. It’s what I do best. You’ll never please me. I will always find fault. I can’t help it. I’m British.

I would, however, like to write a positive blog at a time in my life when I feel quite negative.

You see, I’ve been living in Peterborough, Canada for 13 years. I didn’t come here under my own volition. I was dead set against it, but relented for reasons I won’t go into – because I’m trying to be positive.

After 13 years we are returning to the UK. It’s not something wanted, but due to a series of events, we felt it the best course of action. I won’t go into them – because I’m trying to be positive.

So, here I am, saying “Farewell” to Peterborough and the Kawartha area of Ontario.
It’s been strange, I’ll admit, but I was just getting used to the Canadian peculiarities and the way of life here.

This year I embraced the snow. I would walk to work in sub-zero temperatures, and if I spotted patch of virgin snow I’d drop my bag and run over to make a snow angel. To me, this was bliss. There would not be another person in sight. The snow muffled the earth and everything around me was held in silence. I’d look up at the snow laden trees around me, and the peaceful sky. The air would be so cold that it burnt my face and nostrils, but I welcomed it and the way it refreshed me. I could have laid there all day.

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On one occasion I nearly did lie there all day, as I forgot to remove my backpack, so excited was I to hurl myself into the crisp and twinkling snow. My backpack became firmly wedged, and I soon realised that I was stuck. I gathered my thoughts and decided that it would be best to push my hands down into the 2 foot deep snow, but it occurred to me that I couldn’t do this while holding my iPhone in one hand and my gloves in the other. Which one should I sacrifice to the snow? I didn’t want cold gloves, but I also didn’t want to kill my phone. I tried to roll, but this achieved nothing, other than to sink further in. I looked around. Did I want someone to help me? No. That would be embarrassing. I didn’t want a passer-by to glance in between the trees and see a woman, who was old enough to know better, thrashing around in the snow like an upturned turtle.

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I lay still for a while, conserving energy, but also wondering who might find my cold, lifeless body. I hoped a dog wouldn’t pee on me.

After much deliberation, I concluded that I needn’t save either the phone or my gloves, but could actually do both by putting them all in one hand. It’s these strokes of genius that have got me where I am today.

I plunged my naked hand down into the snow to push myself up. I thought for a moment that it was going to get swallowed up completely. In the time that it took to push down far enough to offer me leverage, I lost all feeling in my hand. When the feeling returned, it started to burn. While looking around to make sure no-one had witnessed this embarrassing event, I howled from the pain and thrust my lifeless hand into a glove, dripping wet. Unable to hold my iPhone, I pushed that into my pocket, unaware that my pocket was now full of snow.  My phone was not happy.

I continued on my way to work, contemplating the extreme temperatures in these parts, and chiding myself for complaining. I was protected by a full length snow coat, multicoloured snow pants and heavy duty snow boots. I was on my way to a warm office where I could make a cup of coffee, sit in comfy chair and eat chocolate all day.

There are many in our community who have none these luxuries. The previous day I’d walked to work with my friend who runs the local warming room. The people that rely on him and his volunteers and donations have nothing. We all see people around town who are asking for money. They aren’t only there in the summer. They are out in all weathers, in temperatures that could kill them.

I’ve heard people responding to their pleas with anger, telling them that if they wanted money they’d have to earn it. I kick myself for not punching these people in the soft and danglies, or at least giving them a piece of my mind. I’d like to ask them if they really consider it a choice. Do they really believe that they, and all those they love, are immune to the bite of poverty? Would they swap for a day, even an hour? If this life is so easy and wonderful, why don’t they join them?

So here’s the positive… Peterborough is so fortunate that we have people like my friend who strives to do good for others. We are fortunate that funding for such a project has been approved by our city, even though there is a very long way to go in order to raise the full amount required. These people are our neighbours, people like you and me, struggling to get through this life as best they can, having not been dealt the same cards as we have. You know their faces, Peterborough. You walk past them every day. If you are uncomfortable giving money in the street, please at least consider donating to The Warming Room, so that while you are cozy in your bed at night, you will know that people who would otherwise have spent a frozen night under the stars will also have some comfort. If everyone in Peterborough gave 50c, my friend will reach the target required. It’s a small price to pay when people’s lives are at stake.

You are a wonderful city, Peterborough. Since I arrived, you have thrived, although I take no credit for this.

As I leave, and have only a few requests of you.

1. Support the Warming  Room project.

2. Consider pedestrianizing the downtown area. You’ll love it!

3. Support my friend in her new business. She’s opening soon and I can’t be there – By The Bridge on Water Street. You’ll love her just as much as I do.

4. Be a community. Keep doing what you do best.

5. Appreciate the beauty around you. Go for walks. Embrace this life.

I’ve met some truly amazing people in my time here. Warm, friendly, caring people. Thank you.

I have also, of course, met some complete numpties, but I won’t go into that – I’m trying to be positive.

Dogs and Poo – Peterborough, we have a problem

 

Firstly, I’d like to point out how clean I found the Canadian streets when we first moved here in 2001. Our home country of England was strewn with poo. I rarely saw people approaching me in the street, as my head was constantly lowered, dodging poo of various sizes and consistencies.

Visits to my sister in Somerset were particularly challenging. It usually required a leap from the car to a clear space on the pavement, taking care not to lose your balance. We were watching a children’s news programme once, where they began discussing the growing problem of dog poo in England, and there it was – “Dogshit Avenue”. My sister’s street.

Upon arrival in Canada, our first impressions were that the pavements were clean, the roads were clear, and the people were friendly. We even mentioned the lack of dog poo as one the reasons for people to visit us.

Sadly, over the years we became less excited about this, as poo started creeping onto the pavement. Well, not literally, of course. It was being deposited.

Several times I spotted people allowing their animals to crouch on my lawn, and had to race outside to chase them away. These were the times when I lamented over the lack of fences and hedges in Canada. People seem to be quite happy to share their lawns with dogs, small children on bikes, and drunks. Not this Brit. It’s my lawn. I (my husband) mow and maintain it.

The fact that I’m disgruntled by dogs pooing on my lawn should, I believe, be acceptable. What I don’t understand is when people are disgruntled at my disgruntlement. One morning I rushed out of my house barely dressed when I spotted a large black dog hunched over on my front lawn. I approached the owners with unusual gusto for someone riddled with anxiety, and asked them if they would mind not allowing their dog to do that on my lawn. The lady holding the lead seemed shocked by my request, and replied, “We were going to pick it up!” Heckles raised, I went into full pissed off mode and responded, “You MAY have been going to pick it up, but there will still be residual poo on my lawn. Other dogs will smell that and want to leave their own mark, perhaps with less conscientious owners.” This clearly annoyed them, as they explained that their dogs had to “go somewhere, and you can’t make them wait!” “On the contrary”, I replied. “I had a greyhound and he never peed or pooed on anyone’s lawn, or against their hedges. He would wait until he got to an appropriate place, in the same way as you do. You train yourself not to go in the middle of town, your dog can do the same. You also don’t know that your dog won’t have the shits, and then you won’t be able to pick it up! Besides, it’s MY lawn, and if I don’t want your dog on it, you really shouldn’t question it!”

They trotted off, vigorously swinging their bag of poo. They still pass my house each morning. It may be my imagination, but they appear to stiffen as they walk by.

You may gather from this that I’m not a dog lover, even that perhaps I’m a dog hater. This is not the case. As previously stated, my husband and I once shared our home with a large, soppy, socially awkward greyhound.

Prior to this, we always had dogs when I was a child. When I was 7, my dad brought home a young collie/springer spaniel cross named Robbie. He was a gentle animal, very affectionate, and protective. If we lay on the floor beside him, he’d place a paw on us and snuggle in. We’d play for hours, and go on long walks together.

Then, one morning when I was 9 years old, I came downstairs, gave him his biscuit and kissed him on the head. It’s what I did every morning. Today however, he reacted. I only remember finding myself on the floor with him on top, his teeth in my face. I vaguely recall kicking upwards, and more than likely caught him in very delicate area as he was moving away quickly when my mum came running in.

He’d not caused any lasting damage, thankfully. He’d torn through my top lip and ripped the skin inside my nose. It looked messy, and children at school avoided me for a while, but my face soon healed. My heart took longer to heal. As soon as we returned from the hospital, my mum took Robbie to the vets and had him put down. She simply couldn’t risk it happening again. I blamed myself, and cried for weeks.

Years later we pieced together what had probably happened. A short time before Robbie attacked me, my mum was walking him past a field when he slipped under the fence and ran among the sheep. He was stopped by a ram which butted him and sent him running back to my mum. The theory seems to be that this would have upset Robbie’s pecking order, and he therefore felt the need assert his authority over me.

We’ve had dogs since, but I’m now very wary of dogs off a lead, and do not enjoy being approached by them.

This is another problem that Peterborough has. Obviously it could be worldwide, but my experience is only a local one.

Too often I have walked through the trails in Peterborough and been confronted by dogs off the lead. When I’m brave I will question the owners, asking why they believe the signs stating that dogs should be kept on a lead do not apply to them.

One woman had her large, fat dog off the lead, and left him miles behind, blocking the footbridge that I needed to cross. I stood, terrified, for a few moments hoping that she’d turn around. Eventually I called after her and asked that she put him on a lead. She responded abruptly, telling me that her dog wouldn’t hurt me and refused to move him out of the way. He moved to one side, and I scooted around him as quickly as I could, catching up with the woman to give her a piece of my mind. While asking her what made her dog more special than the others he started to approach me getting his dirty, snotty nose on my clean work clothes. The woman said I was horrible, that her poor dog had cancer and would never hurt me. I pointed out that this had no bearing on my fear of her dog, that when my heart is racing and I’m looking around for an escape route, I’m not considering the possibility that her dog has cancer. This also, I pointed out, may make him more uncomfortable, scared and more likely to turn. As in society in general, having an illness does not exempt one from rules and regulations.

You may, like the woman, believe me to be cruel and heartless, but every time a see a strange, unleashed dog coming towards me, I’m 9 years old again, pinned to the floor and terrified.

Hardly a day went by when my path wasn’t crossed by an unleashed dog. I called the Humane Society several times, asking that someone be there at 0830 one morning to enforce the policy. I never saw anyone. They stopped returning my calls. One day I encountered 5 different dog owners in the space of 10 minutes, all expecting me to be happy that their dogs were roaming free, and eyeing me curiously when I went out of my way to avoid them.

I’m sad that this problem is not being taken seriously. I stopped jogging on the path, because the freedom of the dogs was more important than my genuine and, I feel, understandable fear. I sincerely hope that it won’t take a child being mauled before people wake up and address this issue.

I hope you can see that I’m not a dog hater. Under the correct circumstances, I’m happy to pet a dog. I’ve been accused of being a hypocrite because I’m a vegan, but don’t accept dogs with open arms. Apparently the two don’t go together. I personally find it more hypocritical when someone tells me that they are an animal lover, but continues to eat meat. That, I’m afraid, is a pet lover, not an animal lover. I love all animals equally, but just as I no longer want a dog in my home, I would not want a pig, cow or monkey. They are all animals, I respect them all.

So, rounding up my waffle, I’d like to make a few requests to the people of Peterborough, and dog walkers in general.

1. Please put your dogs on a lead. There are dog parks where they can run freely, but when on the cycle paths, please be respectful of other people, consider their possible fears and the reasons behind them.
2. Please do not allow your dogs to use people’s gardens as a bathroom. Children play on the grass, and you can’t tell what you may leave behind. Same applies to school playing fields.
3. When your dog is on a long lead, please pull it in when walking past someone. Not everyone wants to pet your dog, and we don’t always want to be sniffed at. If we want to pet your dog, we will indicate as such.
4. If possible, please use a dark bag to pick up your dog’s poo. Nothing induces the gag reflexes after breakfast like walking behind someone who’s swinging a clear plastic bag full of steaming faeces. In fairness, though, it’s preferable to watching the one chap scoop up his dog’s poo with a cream cheese container!

I’m preparing to hit the ‘post’ button, and bracing myself for the abuse from dog lovers. But, please, let’s be friends. Let’s gang up together against the cat lovers – they are the REALLY crazy ones….

Human Kindness

There are times when we wish we could go back and alter our perception of people, apologise for judging them, even though they would have been oblivious to it at the time.

One such occasion for me was when I was a student at Wolverhampton University.

I was living with my boyfriend in a village near Kidderminster. Each day he’d drive me 15 minutes to a bus station in Stourbridge where I would wait for the bus to Wolverhampton, and he’d be there again for my return journey in the evening.

I’d not been one to socialize much before university but I soon discovered the delights of the uni bar, and the nightclubs were a real eye opener.

Our lectures on a Wednesday didn’t finish until 8pm, so we’d head to the bar after for a few beers, and I’d catch the bus home at 10pm.

One of these nights I lost track of time so had to run to catch the last bus. I knew my boyfriend would be waiting for me at the bus station in Stourbridge, but in the days before cell phones I had no way of letting him know that I was going to be late. I just hoped he wouldn’t worry and would realize what had happened.

I waved my pass at the bus driver and took my seat, willing the bus to move faster, and cursing every stop.

We were about ¾ of the way into the journey when the bus pulled over, and all the lights came full on. The driver called out something, but I didn’t catch it, so stayed in my seat waiting for the journey to resume.

Everyone else left the bus and I was sat there alone. Again, the bus driver called out, but this time directed only at me. He told me, rather aggressively, to leave the bus. This was the last stop. The last bus of the night goes no further.

So, I was alone, aged 19, in an unknown town at chucking out time. I stood on the pavement and watched the bus pull away. I had no money, so couldn’t even try to phone the bus station in Stourbridge, not that anyone was likely to answer.

I’d never been in a situation like this before. I’d not ever had to learn to look after myself. I was from a small town in Somerset where everywhere was within walking distance and all faces were friendly.

Here everyone was staring at me. I wasn’t familiar with this town at all. I didn’t even know where I was. I knew I was about a 15 minute drive from Stourbridge, but how would I get there? I imagined my boyfriend waiting at the bus station in his little black Fiat Uno, wondering where I’d got to. Would he give up and drive home to get money to make a phone call to my friends? We had no phone in our home so I couldn’t even ask to use a pub phone to leave a message.

When I saw a policewoman standing outside a pub my heart leapt. I ran over and explained my predicament. I told her that my bus didn’t go all the way home, that I had no means of getting there, that my boyfriend was waiting to pick me up but I had no way of reaching him. In my naivety I’d imagined that she could radio back to her station, and have them call the Stourbridge cops, so they could relay a message to my boyfriend. It seemed reasonable to me. The alternative was for me to spend a night in a strange town, on a bench. The worst case scenarios had already run through my head so I believed she would save the day.

Unfortunately, her response was, “Get a taxi”.

She walked away and I ran after her. I wasn’t a drunk, I wasn’t aggressive. Why had she dismissed me and not even listened. I asked her, “How will I get a taxi? I’ve no money!”

But it wasn’t her problem, and she left.

I stood there on the pavement and wept. When I pulled myself together I looked up and noticed the group of about 10 young men walking towards me. I started to casually walk away, trying to look nonchalant, but in my mind planning my next move. Before I knew it one of the men had run ahead in front of me to block my path. I was about to run out into the road when he spoke, “Excuse me, we overheard you talking to the policewoman. Did you say you were stuck here?”

My initial thought was that they were trying to trick me, but I confirmed that I was indeed stuck

“Me and my mates had a whip around. We don’t know how much is here, but we think it should be enough to get you home”

And with that he took my hand and emptied a pile of pound coins and fifty pences into it.

I looked at this young man, completely bewildered. I’d judged him and his friends so poorly, and yet they were showing kindness to a total stranger. I didn’t have any words except, “Thank you”.

With calls of, “Take care, Miss”, and “Keep the change!” they disappeared down the road.

The fear I felt was completely dispelled, and I was left crying with relief.

If I had a time machine that would be my destination. The fact that I never thanked them all individually, or was able to repay them, has been something I’ve often found myself thinking about.

Those chaps may have never thought about it again, but I wish I knew who they were. They restored my faith in human kindness, and are a constant reminder to me that we shouldn’t judge people by appearances. It also reminds me that the people who we think we should be able to count on are sometimes the ones that will let us down and turn their backs on us.

But I will be forever grateful to those young men, and I’m only sad that I will never be able to tell them.

A Response to ‘Weaning God From My Life’

 

This is a response to a previous post of mine, ‘Weaning God From My Life’.  I was overwhelmed by the reaction, and unable to reply to all comments in person.  Instead, I hope to address some of the main points raised, primarily those of theists.

I was grateful for all responses, especially those of believers, who despite disagreeing with me were, for the most part, kind and polite.  Obviously, we will never agree, and if any of you read these comments, I hope you will know that they are meant with great respect to you, even if I cannot respect your religion.

I would like to point out that any spelling or grammar errors in the quotes are not mine.  I do have enough of my own, so I’m not going to be held responsible for errors made by others too!

 

Separation of God from Religion

A position frequently taken in the responses to me was that god and religion were separate. For example, the first such response was,

“I personally feel that religion is driving people away from God more than God is driving people away from religion”

Also,

“Personally I hate religion but I love God.”

I don’t see that the two are separate at all.  If we didn’t have the bible, we’d have no knowledge of god, but we are led to believe that it’s god’s word in the bible.  It’s almost a chicken and egg situation.  Without god and the bible, there would be no believers and, therefore, no religion.  If there were no religion, we’d not be exposed to this book that god supposedly had a hand in putting together.  I’m bewildered as to how people can separate the two.

“I’m sorry you’ve had difficulty with the reality of religion. Church is not meant to be what it was to your family. I would also venture to say that most religions see Jesus as an idea”

Firstly, I see no reality in religion.  There is nothing to suggest to me that it isn’t all completely made up.  Secondly, “Jesus as an idea” sounds great, but those of us who don’t believe in Jesus, or at least don’t believe him to be the son of god, have ideas too.  Those ideas are usually based around humanist values.  We have a deep rooted sense of right and wrong.  For a person to have to follow another in order to be told what is right and wrong, is a sad indication of that person’s default morality.

Here’s another of the same ilk,

“Do not look to religion, sweet sister, look to the Father.” “He stands patiently with His arms open for you!” “He is NOT religion”

Well, thanks for thinking I’m sweet, poppet.  But again, I don’t understand how there can be one without the other.  You wouldn’t know about your “Father” if it weren’t for religion.  He’d have fizzled out centuries ago.  The two are entwined.

In a similar vein, I had this,

“It makes me sad to see what people have made Christianity.  It isn’t supposed to be about rules and regulations, but about a relationship filled with love and understanding”

I appreciate that sentiment, but Christianity was based on Christ.  Christ based his teachings on the Old Testament, which is full of rules and regulations, thankfully most of them ignored by modern day Christians anyway.  I don’t believe we need Christianity to be filled with love and understanding.  Most of my personal relationships are built on that.  Most Christians I know declare that their faith is built on love, but when you chip away at the surface, often underneath there is fear & shame.

The above comment is harmless enough.  What I find more disturbing is the disassociation of religion from wrong-doing carried out in its name. For example,

“Religion didn’t make God and God didn’t make religion.  True, man commit acts of atrocities in the name of God and religion, I would be a fool not to admit that.”  “It just means that man has perverted the name of God and His worship.”

No, ‘man’ has not perverted it, he has taken it literally.  It is the people who cherry pick from the bible that have perverted word of god, and I’m actually grateful for that.  If everyone were to take it literally, we’d still be living in the dark ages, and I would be stoned to death for even writing this.  We can’t shy away from the fact that if we were to do all things in “the name of God and His worship”, we would be committing the atrocities that this lady speaks of on a daily basis.

I’m not sure this following analogy stands up…

“I would not take god out of my life, only that church!  If you go to a restaurant and get a bad meal, you don’t stop eating out.” “I always remind myself that people will always let me down but God never will.”

That’s probably because people are real and have faults.  It’s impossible for a fictional being to let you down.  I assume that people who say this have a relatively comfortable life.  I’m not sure that people living in poverty, or with incurable diseases, would have the same level of gratitude.

“God is not impressed with religion.  He is not the creator of religion.  God just wants a personal relationship with you.”  “And as far as not believing in God… How can you even reason that?  Where do you think you got the ability to reason and to make logical thoughts?  If there were no God, how did the first humans become able to reason?  You may have had a bad experience with RELIGION but try giving God a chance.”

If I had any doubt that people deeply entrenched in religion can be deluded, this would clear it up for me.  God may not be impressed with religion, but I’m heartily impressed that this person knows how god feels about it.  Maybe while discovering this information, and finding out that god wants a personal relationship with me, people like this could ask a few other questions along the lines of, “Why are children starving to death, why, if you want us to believe do you hide away doing bugger all, and why are you so fucking useless?”

How can I reason that there is no god?!  Because there is no evidence.  Where did we get the ability to reason and make logical thoughts?  The same place believers got the ability to make illogical ones – our highly evolved brains.  God’s had enough chances. He’s failed.

 

 

“Knowing” God or Jesus

I hate to say this, but talking in this way only makes me feel as though a person is deluded, and I can only feel sorry for them. Comments such as,

“I began to see Jesus as a person and friend.”
Or
“I found knowing Jesus very helpful.”
And
“I love to trust the real living Jesus. Never failed me.”

I’m sure they are sincere.  But the first thing I want to say to such comments is, “You do realise he’s dead?”  To form friendships with dead people would normally raise an eyebrow.  I understand the draw.  He seemed like a nice chap, did some cool tricks, and had interesting stuff to say.  He’s the kind of person that would enhance any dinner party.  But so would a multitude of dead people.  If I declared I had a personal relationship with Einstein, or suggested that Hitchens walked beside me daily, I’d be gently ushered into the doctor’s office.

Somehow, though, society accepts relationships with Jesus.  Rather than ask these people if they have any other symptoms, we are more inclined to smile and say, “That’s nice”.

“I never saw you once say that you felt a connection with God.”
And,
“I noticed you didn’t seem to have a relationship with you God. We’ll at least an intimate relationship with him.”

I only have an intimate relationship with my husband. That’s enough.

“I learned that God just doesn’t sit on a throne and judge us.  He loves us.  We’re his kids and he forgives ALL our sins.  Think of God as someone whole loves you and will fight to the death to protect you.”

I don’t see much evidence of him fighting to the death to protect us.  He could, quite easily, as he’s meant to be eternal.  He could die a million times over, but either he chooses not to and doesn’t want to save his dying people, or he doesn’t exist.  My money is on the latter.

I do enjoy how some can merge fact and fiction to produce a new version of events to please all:

“Yes, I believe that the God of the Universe, the One Who orchestrated the Big Bang, finds it in His heart to love me – individually”

It’s also a nice touch that he can take time to love someone individually.  Forgive my scepticism, but as always I’ll assume that they don’t live in a slum somewhere in India, living off rotting food from a landfill.

“I noted that you want very much for your children to know you loved them unconditionally. That is exactly how God loves you – unconditionally. How else can it be that He should die for me?”

My answer to comments such at the above one would be, “No he doesn’t, there are definitely conditions, and no he didn’t die for you.  He sent his son, and he needn’t have.  By the way, it’s made up.”

I had many telling me that god gave unconditional love, which is simply not true.  There are many conditions that apply.  Any of the following will, according to the bible, condemn a person to an eternity in hell:

• Homosexual activity
• Adultery
• Not being circumcised
• Use of birth control
• Speaking god’s name in vain

There are many more, some verging on the ridiculous, such as having long hair on man.  Anyone who says that god loves unconditionally needs to re-examine their own holy text.

One person even said to me,

“I am scared that if I even so much as think of leaving God, he would somehow punish me again…”

This saddened me, as I experienced this feeling of punishment myself.  A god that loved unconditionally would not punish, but guide.  The idea of being punished for not loving someone is abusive.  If we want to be loved, we should love others and hope for it to be reciprocated, not try to force it or threaten eternal torment.

 

 

Forgetting That I Don’t Believe

“God forgives.  You can let go of every sin you have made, ask for forgiveness and he will forget about it.”
“Please pray more.”
“I hope God wins you back over.”
“I challenge you to take a step back and get to know Jesus as He wants you to.  He will never leave you or forsake you.  He loves you and wants to comfort you in your pain. I am praying for you.”

While I’m sure this is meant in kindness, I had to laugh.  These people have completely missed the point.  I’m an atheist.  I don’t believe in god.  Therefore I don’t care if he forgives me or not.  I have no interest in what he thinks of my ‘sins’.  You may as well tell me that I’ve been banned from writing a letter to Father Christmas this year.  It means nothing.

 

 

Religion and My Children

Of course this is a very delicate subject for some.  Even some of my atheist friends think I should expose my children for balance. At one time I did.  I sent them to a Catholic School.  This was primarily because my husband found work in the Catholic School Board, which is another story.  My children have since been removed and are now in the public school system.  I may write about that another time.

I received this comment regarding my children,

“I fight very hard to make sure my children have the right to pray in school, and read their bible in school. I have seen to many miracles happen not to believe in God, and I am curious believing in God doesn’t cause any harm, only good could come from it so why would you discourage your children from believing.”

I feel as though I should have responded to this lady personally, but I was a little distressed by this, to be honest, and at the time I was unsure how to word it kindly.

Firstly, I feel sorry for these children.  While their friends may be running around, learning about interesting new ideas, and enjoying life, these children are having to use their spare time reading incredibly dull, restricting text.  I’m assuming that they are only being permitted to read the bible and pray in their spare time, as if that were not the case, I’d have questions to ask the school board.

Maybe believing in god on its own doesn’t cause harm.  However, our beliefs guide our actions.  We act according to our beliefs, and actions that have resulted out of belief in god have caused great harm.  The harm caused to me and my family was minimal. Miniscule compared to harm caused by religion worldwide.  Stoning to death, honour killing, abuse of women, removal of children from unmarried mothers, persecution of homosexuals…  The list goes on and on.  I have no qualms in keeping religion out of the lives of my children.  I advise them of religions that are practiced around the world, and they are free to form their own opinions.  It would be naïve of me not to agree that my atheism will have affected their belief or non belief, but as atheism is what we are born with,  I will not feel guilty about that.  I am not going to lie to them and sugar coat the facts of life and death.  They are intelligent people, and they deserve to face the world armed with facts, not fairy tales.

A similar comment was,

“I understand, and obviously you won’t introduce them to it, obviously you’ll warn them to go into the kind of church you went to. But when they’re slightly older I don’t think you should take away their free will the way your parents took yours.”

I have no intention of taking away their free will.  They are encouraged to think for themselves, and to question everything I tell them.  I want my children to think, to discover, and to be in awe of the world.  Religion would be detrimental to this.

 

 

Waffle

Many of the responses, I have to say, were long, and evading the point.  People who seem to be on the brink of leaving religion, but go all around the gas works with an explanation as to why they still have ‘faith’.  The beginning of their responses gave me hope that they were leading to something interesting, but like novices on a bungee jump, they’d pull back in at the last moment, and cling to what makes them feel safe & secure.

Strangely though, one of these made me feel as though they were encouraging my stance, even though they were too scared to take the leap themselves.  This fear is something I’m all too familiar with, having teetered on the edge of atheism a few times before taking the plunge.

After discussing the hypocrisy of the church, and the good in people without faith, one person went on to say,

“There’s no difference between a Christian or a non-believer except the former knows he/she sins.”  “Those with faith see their sin and, as a consequence become much more burdened by it. Which is why Jesus carried our sins.”

The obvious point here is that non-believers do know when they’ve done wrong – we simply don’t refer to it as ‘sinning’.  I’d turn this around and suggest that non-believers are more likely to be burdened by such errors as we don’t believe they will be magically removed from our conscience, allowing us a clean slate to do it again.  We live with it.  We deal with it.  We apologise to those we have hurt, rather than through proxy of a chap behind a grid, then up to the imaginary man in the sky, who will waiver the wrong-doing so we don’t have to face the person we hurt.  This practise does nothing to help soothe the person affected, and only eases the conscience of the church goer.

I put this next comment under ‘Waffle’, although it could have sat happily in a couple of other categories…

“God is in your heart and his church your mind and body.”  “No one should rule your life for you are the captain of your ship.”

My first reaction was of discomfort.  I’m not sure I want god in my heart, and my mind and body are a little rickety to be anyone’s church.  Comfortable seating, though, I’d like to imagine.  But, yuck.

The second sentence contradicts the first.  How can I be captain of my own ship when god is roaming about in it, using my body and mind as his church?  I’m sorry, but it’s waffle.

The person that sent me the comment below seemed to be speaking from a view point of only wanting to see the good in religion. Good people that are caught up in it do usually see it that way.  I find it naïve, but who am I to judge that?  I was once in that position myself.  I hope they learn to question it themselves.

“God is most compassionate. He provides for His creations even though most of mankind don’t believe in Him.”

The god that most of us are familiar with does not seem especially compassionate.

“It’s amazing how the enemy uses past hurts and struggles to condemn us and says it’s God who does not love us. If he did not, why was Jesus sent?”

Sending your son to die for the perceived sins of others, sins that you knew those people would commit, seems nothing short of twisted.  This is not the kind of ‘love’ that I am familiar with, nor the kind that I wish to experience.

Another contradiction was this:

“Because of our free will we are responsible for our decisions, not the church or religion just us, that’s why we should always ask God for direction.”

So we have free will, but should ask god how to use it?!

The following was actually one of my favourites, even though it was the only one that I felt contained any real judgement or malice.

“You have lived a rebellious and immoral life one being adultery. It is way past time but you need to take responsibility and not blame the church, dad, or mom. Time to get right with yourself and God.”

Personally, I don’t think my life has been a rebellious one.  That would have been so much more fun.  I made a mistake when I was low.  Yes, I do take responsibility for it.  Nobody made me do it.  But circumstances in my life had been built around beliefs I’d had, which led me to unhappiness.

I don’t believe I need to make it right with ‘god’.  The only person I needed to make it right with was my husband, and he was so much more forgiving than anyone else who knew about it.

This may not be a popular opinion, but I’ll give it anyway.  I don’t think I’m an immoral person.  For a brief time in my life I felt that I loved another person.  Love is not something that can be prevented.  None of us can help the biological urges which drive us. Yes, we can choose how we act on them, and I regret hurting the person who loves me most in the world.  But I’m not a murderer, unlike god.  I’m not an inciter of hatred, unlike god.  I don’t demand worship from others under the threat of torture, unlike god.

In short, I’d ask anyone who considers my actions to be immoral to look more closely at their holy book, and the deity they worship, then tell me which of us they believe to have caused the most harm in this world.