Consent, Religion, and my issue with “waiting”

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Anyone who knows me or has read my blog should know by now that I was raised in a very conservative religious household. If you don’t, or even if you do, let me introduce myself:

I am a 28 year old female who’s been married twice, been with two men, and am still learning about my own sexuality and the idea of “firm and enthusiastic consent” is still new to me.

A little backstory: when I was growing up, there were 3 stages of Sex Ed in the school system: Elementary, Middle, and High. When the class was pulled from the main classroom in 4th grade to learn about sex, my parents signed off that I was not permitted to go, so I sat alone in an empty classroom clueless. The rest of the class came back giggling and with all these inside jokes and terminology that I did not understand. When I went home and asked my mom what sex was and how babies were made, I was handed a kid’s biology book and told to figure it out. I still remember to this day staring at a drawn picture of a naked male and female and asking myself “but how does the sperm get in there?? I don’t get it!”

By 7th grade, I entered mandatory Sex Ed class clueless of the basics. We had an anonymous question jar, and I would almost always put questions in, to which the teacher’s answers were never quite sufficient, because I missed Sex 101. When I asked, honestly, why kids giggled at the number “69” and the question was read, the class burst into laughter and the teacher just kind of shook her head with a smirk, let the class laugh, and went on to the next question. I don’t think I figured out what it was until my 20’s.

That was my education experience.

My religious experience was simple and direct: Wait til marriage.

Period. The end. That’s it. Sex is bad unless you are married. Oh, and by the way, don’t masturbate or touch yourself because the only person who’s supposed to make you feel good is your spouse. Little fuzzy on the oral/anal line but the unspoken assumption is that that’s wrong and vile too cause that’s not how God made biological sex to occur.

By the time I found someone to marry (who was Catholic, naturally) and got to Pre-marital counseling, all I was taught about sex at that point was the radical idea that a woman can initiate sex too, and you don’t have to both climax at the same time. Kind of shows you what most Christians think sex is supposed to be if that’s something that is taught in pre-marital….

So here’s the framework: Girl isn’t taught the basics of sex whatsoever other than pictures of STDs from school and what a sketched penis and vagina look like and knows that she can do this sex thing on her wedding night.

Where’s consent? Does she sign away consent completely when she gets married? She is swearing herself in “complete devotion and servitude to her husband,” so can she say no? She’s never taught she can, so she doesn’t. Besides, her body is now her husbands wholly and completely. Divorce isn’t an option, she is now his and as long as he doesn’t strike you (and even sometimes if he does, see Focus on the Family’s sermons on this) that’s all there’s to it.

So, again, where is consent in this framework? Can you see the problem?

I try, very hard, to listen to people who say waiting til marriage is a beautiful thing, but everything in my gut tells me that there is something very wrong with it. You’re telling two people they can’t even touch each other sexually until their wedding night and that they can never leave each other. What choice do they have? Without choices, is there really any consent to be given? Without the option to say “no” and leave, is there really consent?

My experience isn’t, by far, the norm in religious upbringings, but it is neither uncommon. There are gradients for sure. But personally? I can not see how the monogamous “waiting” perspective is anything but consensual.

Without choice and options, the idea of consent is a farce.

What would you do if….? [Ghosts, demons, and the supernatural]

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So two oddly connected events, what-call-you, occurred over the past few days. After the first, I woke with this blog topic in mind. After the second, I knew I had to.

The first was a dream that got me thinking. In my dream I was plagued by this creature/thing/person who would appear at random once a month, and stab me with a knife in the fleshy part of my right shoulder and promptly disappear. After this happened a few times, I started seeking help from any one and any where I could, eventually leading me to some sort of spiritual leader. The words “I don’t care what I have to do, I’ll do anything” or something of the extent was uttered.

Upon waking, I was immediately thoughtful about it and thought to myself: “Huh. As someone who doesn’t believe in the supernatural, what would it take for me to seek supernatural/spiritual help?”

A day or two later, I was sitting on my couch doing something or another, snuggled in my throw, and started calling for one of my 3 cats to come cuddle. I look around and start calling, until I look into my bedroom where I see 2, unmoving, glowing eyes. Of course I knew this was one of my 3 cats, but the way they were reflecting were just very eery. Especially since the cat was not coming when called.

Well, I start looking around for my other cats and eventually two of them show themselves. I look back, the eyes are still there looking directly at me. I point it out to my husband, he agreed that they looked very eerie and remarks “I swear to God if it’s not Eva (the 3rd cat) we’re leaving this apartment.” We’ve come to a mutual agreement beforehand that if any bizzare, Paranormal type shit happened in our apartment we wouldn’t go the way of all Horror movies, and just leave the fucking place. I give a shy laugh, but after that kind of remark press him to check it out. Ya know, just in case.

So he gets up, looks in the dining room and says “…Honey? Eva’s under the dining room table…” My heart stops. “Are you serious?” “…Yeah…” I tell him to go look in the room. He takes his time, turns on the light….

And there’s Eva! My mind skips a little bit and I start “then who’s under the…” until I hear him laugh.

Needless to say, I was pissed.

However, it still got me thinking.

My skeptical mind disbelieves in ghosts, goblins, demons, and all the sort. But my agnostic mind keeps me open to possibilities, and to trust my own sensory experiences put to the test of reasonable experimentation. So in this case, yeah, if he turned on and off the light, we poked around on the patio, and the eyes remained very clearly and distinctly without a sensible material cause? We would’ve most likely gotten the hell out of there. But alas, there was a rational cause for what appeared to be very creepy: my cat.

So, reader, have you ever experienced something that you thought creepy but found a rational explanation? How about something that you never did get a reason for and scared you?

Do you believe in the supernatural? If not, what would it take for you to believe it and take drastic action?

Penny for your Thoughts?

Utilizing a religious past/education for secular post-graduate pursuits

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As the doors into post-undergraduate education has opened, I’ve been forced to look back into my undergraduate studies for my “best writings” to inspire my applicant writing sample. There’s only one problem…

I went to a Christian college where most of my studies were in Bible. It was only the last year and a half that was spent mostly (3 out of 4 classes) in Philosophy. So looking back into essays I had e-mailed to Professors and thus remain in my storage, I find mostly topics in Christian apologetic and reconciling/criticizing extra-canonical materials.

Out of the 5 years spent in undergraduate education at this private college, it was only the last year of it that I was a full blown Atheist.

This has been leading to bouts of hopelessness and feeling as if years of my academic life were for naught. After all, what doctoral level programs would accept someone whose “best work” is a thesis for accepting the book of Enoch into the Christian cannon? Or for reconciling modern science with theism? (Towards the end, I was more an agnostic theist than anything, and tried to sneak doubts into vague “i’m playing devil’s advocate here” term papers to my very-much-so Christian professors.) Not likely in a highly esteemed secular university where philosophy of evolution, metaethics, and philosophy of language are the hot topics.

My extra-curricular activities included a year long internship as a youth minister, converting people to Christ in a church-funded tent set up in our local county fair, the occasional sermon shared boldly on the subway, and repenting for sexual thoughts over who I was dating.

I intended on concluding this post with some theories, or at least something thought-provoking, but alas I’m at a mental impasse and very discouraged. So a venting blog it is, with a little peer into the author’s past.

Ryan Bell’s de-conversion surprises no one

For those not familiar with the recent headliner, Ryan Bell started trending a year ago after starting a blogging and personal experiment project titled “A year without God” which you can find here. He trended again recently after the big reveal of the conclusion being “I don’t think there is a God.” More on that here.

Surprising? Not really, no matter how you spin it.

To the Atheist, naturally, we see a God-less reality as reality. Thus, giving test to the truth leads to seeing the truth. Many of us have religious pasts as well, so we’ve been down that road of “exploring.” Some of our conservative denominational backgrounds would go as far as to see the exploration and doubt as bad, so wouldn’t lend much cognitive advice past “pray on it,” “it’s a faith thing,” or “keep your eyes on Jesus.”

To the Christian, the lure of the devil is sweet. Once you taste the fruit, it can be hard to turn back. This is why they push so hard to train their children to walk the path of righteousness. Furthermore, there are plenty a Bible verse that can be used here:

[they are those who] have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. Hebrews 6:5-6

But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father in heaven. Matthew 10:33

Then you have the theory behind my former blog post: believing is seeing, seeing is believing. Both were at play here. He gave Atheism a fair try, so he believed it for a year. This lead to seeing it as true, as he had to, to be fair to the experiment, believe it to be true for the year. Self-fulfilling. Works the same for many things: believe you’re fat, you’ll see yourself as fat. Wake up in the morning, look yourself in the mirror ever morning and call yourself stupid and I can assure you you will begin to believe it.

This begs the challenge:

Would an Atheist convert to Christianity/Judaism/Islamd/Ba’hai/Hinduism/etc if gone through the same experiment of a year trial?

Not quite the same, granted. Not all religions have a “believe and you’re in” clause. Judaism, for example, has (ironically) a year trial period where you study under a Rabbi before being allowed and given the option to officially convert. Also, traditionally, when asking a Rabbi to convert to Judaism, he will deny you 3 times to prove your ardor and sincerity before taking one under his discipleship.

But regardless, would it yield the same result?

What do you think? Think *someone* should try it out? What would make it different than a religious person giving doubt a run, or is it the same concept?

Seeing and Believing

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The problem with memes, phrases, sayings, and even quotes is that they are not as necessarily true as they are treated. They may rhyme, and have a “ring of truth” yet they are not, without a proper context, true.

The example I’ve had rolling around in my head are these:

  1. Believing is seeing.
  2. Seeing is believing.

Both seem to be used equally as much with different people groups. Often concerning religion, or Santa Claus, and usually in the form of “you/I won’t ____  it until you ____ it.” I’d like to point out the faults in each, and the truths in each, to show that they are not ultimately and totally true in themselves.

If I see it, then I will believe it.

Foregoing the extreme nihilistic skeptic, this is often true of individuals. Hard to believe concepts often require tangible proof. Examples: “Your wife bought you a 1969 Mustang. It’s in your driveway,” or “you just won the lottery,” or even “I have a green ball in my right hand.” For some, it seems detrimental to the psyche to believe them without evidence. The disappointment and reversible of that high dopamine response to you getting extremely excited is something we tend to try to avoid. So, we don’t believe things like “we just won the lottery,” sometimes, even after we see the numbers. It’s  just too big and unbelievable.

However, is this a healthy stance to take on all matters?

Of course not.

Issues such as eating disorders and other self-esteem related conditions are an easy example. How do you show someone they are not fat, when they see fat in the mirror? More on this after the next issue:

You have to believe it, to see it.

Often the catch line of many kid’s holiday movies, the crochety old grown ups just can’t see Santa anymore because they lost their ability to believe and imagine. But is it true?

Well, yeah.

We see this evidenced most with negativity. If you believe the world is full of evil, than you are more likely to see more evil things. If you believe in demons, you’re most likely to see that sleep paralysis (a somewhat common parasomnia) as demons holding you down and crawling over your body, or movement in shadows more often. If to you, the world is going to hell then…. well, you’ll likely see hell where ever you look.

But if we attach this mantra to the above examples of the lottery winning and the mustang, it’s clear that believing you won will not make it true.

Or will it?

This is where my concluding thought comes into play: it’s all in the perspective. In a way, perspective is the starting biases of a person’s psyche, the beliefs. A nihilistic skeptic, based on it’s core beliefs, will not believe anything no matter what the “proof.” A biologist may need to see something under a microscope before believing. A Christian may not be willing to accept that Jesus may not be the prophesied messiah no matter what textual criticism comes his/her way.

Applying both mantras to the above, both are true. The Christian, if spent some time believing God/Jesus does not exist, will most likely see it and thus continue to believe it (ex. Ryan Bell). They feed in to each other.

The mind is a powerful thing, and this “seeing,” is in its own sense, a subjective word. We only see through our own two eyes, and the mind can only interpret what is observes through its programming.

In conclusion, they’re both true. Use them to your own, individual, personal benefit. Is believing the world is going to hell helping you? Is your doubt and skepticism preventing you from seeing that maybe your perspective on what “fat” is isn’t entirely true/helpful to you?

Penny for your Thoughts? Which side do you side with more often, believing or seeing? Which do you think comes first?

Morning Starts

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As I was having my cup of coffee before going of to work, I took the time to sit and flit through Facebook. The first I stopped to focus on was a page with short videos of Black Friday madness. A few videos in, I asked myself “I bet there are some holiday spirit-y things that happen on Black Friday….” and I know they do. Even from watching the crazy Walmart raids, you can see the people who are the peacemakers. Not yelling, pushing, patiently waiting behind the grab and run crowd for the next palette to come by.

When I sat in the car and flitted through the radio station, Pharrel’s “Happy” came on, and I don’t know many who can hear that and just not sense the happiness. I asked myself, “what if this was what I chose to start my day on?” I stayed in my head for most of my shift, and I ended up fully enjoying my day.

I’m one of those who do not own a TV service. I fully believe in staying away from the negativity spread through news. But it seems that the tendrils of negative focusing spans further.

What is it of us to have to share bad events as if they are something worth sharing? “Hey, did you see that video of that lady who got trampled on Black Friday?”  Sure, some things like catastrophes and horrors need to be known and discussed. But is there little great goodness to share in our feeds and conversation? Or is it that we don’t pay attention to it? We rubber-neck past a car accident, but don’t have eyes to see the man helping the elderly across a street.

I got to thinking (I think a lot, I know), when I was a Christian I did these things we call “Devotions.” The moment you get up, you grab your Bible, say a prayer to bless the day and ask that the Spirit speak through what is read, then read a scripture with the intention of finding something to continue the day upon. Honestly, what a healthy way to start the day! It provides structure to the day, a positive meditative start, and a willful conscious decision to continue the day in the same thoughtful stage.

Besides the religion itself, the practice is quite beneficial. Why not do the same with whatever one considers worth meditating on?

My thoughts for the day. A Penny for Yours? What do you think of daily “Devotional” time? Do you try to surround yourself with a positive, or at least “real,” perspectives? How?

Labels, Lifestyles, and the Like

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While on the road to self-actualization and introspection, one will quickly find stories of finding an identity within a community under a word.

Spritual, pantheist, asexual, gay, bi, dom, femme, male, teacher, mother, Christian, Atheist, joker, trans, black, crazy cat lady, republican, bipolar………………..

The amount of words we use to identify ourselves are immensely vast and varying in type and category.

They serve a purpose. Community, fellowship, rapid ability to identify with another. But does it serve to help, or hurt the individual?

Oftentimes, it helps. For a while. They research, ask around, and eventually find self-meaning. Immediately a feeling of “finally!” comes, and joy in finding people to relate and connect with.

The problem comes when you are known as that, and not as you. If the bond is created because of the shared affiliation, when change comes, and it will as life would have it, the community once shared and feeling of belonging falls. A depressed state often follows.

Some labels we do not choose. Our race and our gender are easy examples. These two can be harmful as genitalia do not define gender identification, and race is not often helpful (a black English, a white African, etc).

None of these thoughts are ultimate, as I’m sure they vary. My thoughts, presently, are that in the least labeling leads to decreased introspection. By accepting “I am this”, although it may be true, it can hinder how the individual actualizes that identity. We all know of the varying denominations of Christianity, yet they are all under that umbrella. Digging deeper, within the denomination, almost every individual has at least 1 theological point they differ on. So do we keep creating names? Everyone fleshes out themselves in their own, extremely unique way.

But, I’m curious. Personally, I see the benefits and frustrations with accepting a lifestyle identity or label, but I also see the impossibility of it.

What are your thoughts?

Perhaps, if you will, what are your identities and how do you personally flesh them out that not necessarily everyone under the umbrella term do?

Parroting

http://YouTube.com/jpmqMW5ilFQ

Hope that works, embedding youtubes into my posts from my tablet doesn’t work too well. If not, search “Kanon Tipton is baby preacher reborn again”.

If you’re too lazy, quick I usually am : it’s a 3 min clip of a 4-year old boy preaching and speaking in tongues on a church pulpit.

That people truly believe this is an ” anointing of the holy ghost” is mind-numbing.

I recall as a young person, I recall children as young as 3 going up to the stage of our church to kneel and pray. Pastor would admonish us to not see it as cute, but as a sincere show of faith by the children and an moving by God upon their little souls.

This is absurd. The children are following what their parents and church family is doing. They dance during songs because that’s what they see, they raise their hands and shout because…. Everyone is doing it!

As they get older, it continues for a while. As a pre-teen, there was a year in Bible camp that I stood up and “prophesied” in chapel. I can’t recall what it was, but it was the usual vague nonsense. The pastors confirmed to the rest that this was a word from God, and the attention I got from my peers was affirming and pretty awesome as I was never a popular kid.

It’s quiet easy yo do. Just follow the pattern. When has a Pastor or “prophet” ever been original? Tongues all sound the same, just baby babble. Intonations and inflections follow similar patterns. Just follow the flow.

But hey, then again, we’re all just very complex machines anyway, right? Built with hardware and grown with uploaded software. What makes religion any different or unique?

But, what are your thoughts?

Supernatural quirks

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We all have the, I’m sure. Little things we do that have supernatural backgrounds. We do them because of our culture, or perhaps just because everyone else does and old habits die hard.

Me, I finally shook the “god” part but just can’t seem to find an alternative for “bless you!” after a sneeze. It just seems rude, no matter what the origin.

Others don’t make as a much sense. Did you know black cats are still the hardest to find homes? I like to boast at times of wanting to brave and wave in the face of the supernatural. Just for curiosities sake. Live exorcism? Yes please!

For the sake of being brief, I’ll list me own absurd quirks and see what everyone can add, or comment:

– I don’t pick up a penny when it’s face down.
– I throw salt over my should when spilled.
– You could not pay me to do Bloody Mary in a mirror.
– Same with a Ouji board, can’t be in the same house with one.
– My husband had a dream when he was little of Pennywise the Clown saying if he ever slept in his parents room, he’d kill him. I plan on burning that part of the house when/if it’s left to us and never sleeping in that area of land.

Silly. I know. Fear based, yes. I do proudly own a black cat though. Mom calls him my familiar. 😉

What about you? Do you truly believe yours crossing? Think they’re silly? Have any alternatives or opposite a to action new quirks?

Thoughts?

Little people

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My post isn’t about drugs or sex. Yeah, it weirds me out that young people do it but that’s mainly because I lived a good Christian life until I got married at 21 and wondered what the hell I’ve been doing with my life.

No. If there’s any one thing I am passionate about and want to leave a ripple of change towards its in our little people’s minds.

Ironically, I don’t want to be in under a collegiate studies. But it it so ironic? I see the problem starting with our next generations mentors. The grown ups. We simple aren’t investing enough in the next generation of our nation.

Yes, that’s mainly America. We have to enforce laws such as “don’t smoke in the car with your baby” cause people are dumb enough to so so. Then we make things like common core or sexual freedom at a young age from their parents because….. Well, shit they’re having sex that young anyway. Parents will only fuck things up because too many can’t allow the teenage stage to be what it is.

Worst yet, the young adults I seek to teach have to go into immense amounts of debt to learn.

Don’t even get me started on the privileges we allow in the name of religion. I wasn’t allowed to have sex ed growing up because of it. When I asked mom what sex is, she handed me a kids biology book which told me nothing. Boy oh boy did that marriage night suck.

I could rant on, but I’ll digress.

What are your qualms with education (and where do you hail from)?
If you have kids, your rearing preferences?

Thoughts on all?