So, Shelle, do YOU have any NYRs yet? No need to share them, just curious. I have a few, most of which should seem kind of obvious given everything that's happening around here. They revolve around the business mostly... how can I be a better instructor, better boss, more patient, more tolerant. I mean, I don't think these are areas where I specifically lack, but I think they all have room for improvement, especially the boss part. I've never been anyone's boss and yet, here I am. And 2022 is going to challenge me in that area a lot.
And tonight, it's “New Year, Know You 2.0: Living Unbound in 2022” and we're not just talking about being unbound from religion, but also from the things that keep us from being the people we could be if we stop listening to the voices in our heads that tell us we're unable or inferior, or that we can't accomplish anything without ecclesiastical aid. Toward the end I'll touch a little on the ways we can deal with some of the trials and traumas that religion heaps on us, too, but before we get into that...
Statues, Satanists, and a honkin' big tithe that the Mormons can kiss goodbye forever, it's CBB: The Set in Stone Edition
In early november of this year, the government of Oaxica, Mexico donated a statue to sit outside the United Nations in New York City. A unique fusion of eagle and jaguar, it symbolizes a guardian of security and peace. It's a beautiful and unusual sculpture, lots of colors; it's very eye-catching. It makes you want to take a picture of it, and you also want to have a picture of you standing beside it.
The Mexican ambassador to the UN stated in his message: “With the purpose of demonstrating to the UN that Mexico has a powerful culture that can send messages through our artisans, and like 76 years ago, Mexico continues to be a guardian of international peace and security”
Of course, anything good in the world is looked at by Evangelicals as a harbinger of doom. As Hemant Mehta from the Friendly Atheist substack says: “They noted that Revelation 13:2 describes the beast as “a leopard [with] feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion.” This is not that. Not even close. But when you’re the type of person who sees Jesus in grilled cheese, it’s not a stretch to see this statue as Satanic.”
And I might just point out that bear feet look awfully close to leopard feet and what is the difference between a leopard mouth and a lion mouth? Beats me!
But where do the Evangelicals see smoke? You'll get Pastor Greg Locke in there to try and throw gasoline on whatever fire is there to get attention. In a “sermon” to his congregation he declared that he would go to New York City, climb up on the statue, pretend to ride it, and have someone film him preaching from it. Because of course.
Here's a quote: “… I'm about to buy me some plane tickets to New York… ‘cause I’m going to the statue. And I'm gonna get me a live Facebook video… You got the wrong one, saying I won't! I’m gonna do it! God done told me I'm gonna do it! I'm going to New York City, U.S.A. I don't care what that masked up demon-possessed governor has to say about it. I'm going to climb up on leopard head, and I'm gonna preach to this nation that if we don't turn, and if we don't repent, God is about to level the whole thing, ladies and gentlemen! Because we're watching the Bible come to life! We ain't got time to play games and mess around! We got to get busy for the kingdom of God… Say it, folks! I'm about to pitch a fit, because the glory of God is rising in the nations!”
is that vandalism? It sounds like vandalism to me. But anyway, Locke talks a good game but he's notoriously bad with follow-through. Let's see if he does anything with this threat.
In other religions behaving badly news: the richest man in utah just quit the Mormon church.
Jeff T. Green, a tech mogul in Utah who is worth 5 billion dollars, has written and publicized his resignation letter to the Mormon church. Though he has not gone to church or tithed in over ten years, he decided to make it public just recently.
He also joined a program called “the Giving Pledge” where he promised to give away at least 90% of his wealth before he dies. That alone is pretty impressive since that's a good bit of money, but his resignation from the Mormon church is even more so, since he is leaving with over a dozen of his family members. The Mormons won't be able to claim him as 'one of theirs' either, so his name and his status is also walking away from them.
The Salt Lake Tribune has the text of his resignation letter:
“Although I have deep love for many Mormons and gratitude for many things that have come into my life through Mormonism, I have not considered myself a member for many years, and I’d like to make clear to you and others that I am not a member,” Green writes in a Dec. 20 letter to church President Russell M. Nelson. “While I left the Mormon church more than a decade ago — not believing, attending, or practicing — I have not officially requested the removal of my records, until now.”
While most members “are good people trying to do right, I believe the church is actively and currently doing harm in the world. The church leadership is not honest about its history, its finances, and its advocacy,” he writes. “I believe the Mormon church has hindered global progress in women’s rights, civil rights and racial equality, and LGBTQ+ rights.”
His former faith “should be doing more to help the world and its members with its wealth,” Green writes. “Instead, I think the church has exploited its members and their need for hope to build temples, build shopping malls, and cattle ranches, fund Ensign Peak Advisors investment funds, and own mortgage-backed securities, rather than alleviating human suffering in or out of the church.”
And he's already begun putting his money where his mouth is. His first large donation was to Equality Utah, and designated half of the $600,000 donation to go to a scholarship program to help LGBTQ+ students in Utah, [including those who] may need or want to leave BYU.”
I'm interested to see what else he supports. At any rate he can only do better than the Mormon church, that's for sure.
The Satanic Temple in Illinois has always been involved in Christmastime in one way or another. In previous years, they have erected a “Snaketivity” display, a sculpture depicting a woman's hand holding an apple and a snake twining around it, with the phrase “knowledge is the greatest gift” engraved below it. This year, they've chosen to go a different way.
This year, while nativity scenes, menorahs and other symbols of the season fill the Capitol Rotunda, the Satanists contributed a swaddled, adorable “Baby Baphomet,” who was given all due pomp and circumstance with a ceremony and the following invocation:
Today we gather to welcome Satanic enlightenment into the Illinois Statehouse and into the heartland of the United States.
Welcome, young Baphomet, symbol of our rapidly growing Temple!
Welcome, thou shaky but rising Beast!
Welcome, thou cloven-hooved Liberator!
We invite you today to bring wisdom, justice, and rationality to these chambers.
The pursuit of knowledge.
And the separation of church and state.
These are the ideals America's Founding Rebels fought for. The Satanic Temple enshrines these values in our tenets, and carries the founders’ noble fight into the future!
Now you may ask, 'why do this', and the real answer is “why not?”
"The Capitol welcomes a diverse range of religions every year to display holiday statues during the holiday season, so we wanted to join in on that," Satanic Temple of Illinois Minister Adam said.
That's it. That's all the reason one needs. It's a display that hurts no one, and should start important discussions and infuriate all the right people. For instance...the Catholics were particularly bothered.
The Catholic Bishop John Paparoki opined that satanism “should have no place in this Capitol or any other place.”
Dude, they filed the official paperwork. Their display was approved. Not sure it's any of his business. Nathan Maddox, an attorney who advises the state on holiday displays, even wrote a letter for the State Journal-Register in which he defended the Satanic display:
I do not want to be able to tell someone their beliefs are offensive and may not be expressed in the Capitol building, nor do I want to live in a country where government officials have such power.
I suggest the good Bishop give a little more thought to his desire to live in a country where governments can rule on the legitimacy of religious beliefs. There are a number of such countries in the world and in many of them, Christianity is banned.
Still, many Catholic groups and MAGA cultists tried to drown out the publicity with protests and banners saying that “SATAN HAS NO RIGHTS!” and “begone satan, mary crushes the serpent!”
Or, “FREE SPEECH DOESN'T APPLY TO PEOPLE I DISAGREE WITH” which is more to the point.
Is there a point to making new year's resolutions? It depends... NYRs may seem a bit cliché but, in reality, they're actually a good idea when you approach them from the right perspective. Most approach them from the perspective of cliché and that's all they ever are. The notion of 2022 being “your year” is a prime example. That's why we need to think beyond nebulous concepts and get specific with ourselves about what we want our life to look like this time next year.
To make or not to make? THAT is the question... and Dr. Glenn Miller seems to have some sound opinions on this subject. He's just a blogger I found in the course of my research but I like his take on this. He starts out by outlining why NYRs are a good idea:
They set up personal challenges
They make us take inventory of our lives at this moment and identify points of necessary change
They signify that we see the flaws and want to do something about them
So why do people decide not to make them? Well...
They set up personal challenges
They make us take inventory of our lives at this moment and identify points of necessary change
They signify that we see the flaws and want to do something about them
All the things that make them good ideas are also the things that repel people. They don't want the responsibility that comes along with them and I get that. As a species, we are very resistant to change. We like our comfort zones. We don't like to do personal assessments, but here's the thing: without them we never get anywhere. NYRs are actually a good psychological tool to push us forward when planned and executed properly. With that, let's look at why they tend to fail.
Why NYRs fail
Most resolutions fail for several key reasons:
Your goals are unrealistic (I resolve to buy one scratch ticket a week until I hit win for life)
You make too many resolutions that put too many demands on your time, emotions, etc. (I'm going to stop thinking about my ex and move on once and for all)
You get overwhelmed and give up
You have no real plan (I'm going to go to the gym every single day – great! Now where's the time going to come from??)
Your reasons for making those resolutions aren't well-defined or are based in some of those clichés we mentioned. That covers most of the basic ones that people gravitate toward like:
Losing weight / dieting
Finding the love of your life
Finding a better job
Making more time for yourself, your hobbies, etc.
Saving more $ for retirement
The above have made multiple lists of top NYRs that people make and all of them, without a plan, are recipes for failure.
The problem with them is that, at face value, they lack any real substance and people almost never devise a workable plan to accomplish any of them. They'll buy a gym membership and not go. They'll dust off their OK Cupid profiles but never make an effort to meet someone. They'll keep hitting the alarm in the morning and going to a job they hate... you get the idea. We WILL revisit a couple of these as we go, but I want us to gravitate away from nebulous or clichéd resolutions and focus on those that have a bit more substance and clarity built in.
Here's where it starts:
Really examine the question: “Who am I?” ...and even as I typed that I was like, “what was that about NYRs being too cliché?” And yes, the concept might seem a little bit so, but it actually is foundational to most resolutions, particularly the ones that actually lead somewhere. Who am I now and who do I want to be a year from now? It's a question that can actually lead to some very productive brainstorming.
As I typed that I also started thinking of the essay the kids were supposed to write in The Breakfast Club. At 50 years old, I now understand just how impossible it would have been for teenagers to answer that question, let alone come up with a thousand words' worth. Why? Because I'm not sure I've figured it out yet more than three of their lifetimes later. What I do know is that I have a clearer picture in my head of who I am now than I did while I was busy decreasing so Christ could increase. That I know for sure.
I also know that the answer to that question changes and evolves over time. I'm not the same person I was when we started this show. So many changes have happened that the answer to “who am I?” from 2019 is pretty much irrelevant at the end of 2021. In 2019 I worked at a marijuana dispensary. In 2021 I own a driving school. In 2019 I saw what I was doing as a valuable community service, de-stigmatizing and educating people about the benefits of medical marijuana. At the end of 2021 I'm not sure how medically beneficial it really is and I think what I'm doing now is a far greater and more sustainable community service than selling pre-rolls to rude old men. And while I still think weed should be legal and accessible, I find it liberating to be able to talk to students about its effects on the body from experience and educate them to the dangers of driving high. Prior to 2016 it was all scripted.
So since it's difficult at any age to just answer the “who am I” question off the cuff, here are some steps that I think will help all of us un-blur the lines and make some good resolutions for 2022.
1. Take a self-image inventory – would you say that you have a good self-image? It's important to be honest here. You weren't taught this as an evangelical. You were taught that you were basically garbage – a hopeless sinner in need of a savior. It's OK to have issues in this area so even if it turns out to be negative at first, lay it all out on the table (at least mentally) and start sorting through the details. If you already have a good self-image (or at least one that is better than when you were an evangelical), great. You're very lucky and also probably very committed to shaking off the weight your faith heaped on you. Knowing what “free indeed really means can be very liberating.
Regardless of which way your self-image inventory leans, you can, and should be able to pull off this next one...
2. Figure out at least five things you like about you. Be honest. It's OK to like yourself and have a healthy sense of pride. If you can't, that's OK. You spent a lot of time being reminded that you're inferior. It's time to start replacing those messages with ones that build you up from the inside out.
3. Find five things you like about your life. If you can pull of the last one, this one should be easy...
4. Now let the other side have the floor – what are some of the things you DISLIKE about you or your life? It's OK to have those, too, and exploring them is important.
Now ask yourself WHY you don't like those things – are you a victim of distorted thinking? Religion can do that to you. Here's how:
These are all examples of cognitive distortions and as I was reading through it I could find parallels to my faith experiences in almost all of them.
Polarized or black-and-white thinking
Over-generalization – You convince yourself you can't be a good Christian because you keep committing the same so-called sins. That kind of thinking can extend into your post-religious life in a number of ways.
Catastrophizing – Fixation on the worst case scenario – for the evangelical this can attach itself to things like fear of loved ones going to hell. In post-religious life terms it can keep us closeted from certain people about our non-religious views.
Taking everything personally / getting OFFENDED by everything
Mental filtering – removing all positives from the equation and only seeing the negatives.
Emotional reasoning – letting your emotions run a train on things that should be left to your intellect to manage
Labeling – in evangelical terms, this amounts to being judgmental
5. Ask your significant other (or others) to describe you in their words, preferably in writing.
6. Set some achievable goals – yes, kinda like resolutions, but more realistic
Explore the impact your religion had on you – be careful, though. Don't fall into a big hole of self-deprecation or regret. Rather, confront the things that it did to you, breathe a sigh of relief that that's not your life anymore, and take a minute to just be grateful that somehow, some way, you got out. And the REST of your life is yours to do with what you wish. With no fear of hell. With only yourself to answer to for your moral choices. With only you to determine what even IS moral in the first place.
7. Develop your strengths or learn a new skill
8. Create a plan for self-growth
9. Step away from social media sometimes – leave your phone at home and take a walk
10. Figure out your love language – some say there are five, others seven. They tend to overlap:
Acts of Service
Words of Affirmation
Expression of Affection and Love
11. Think about YOU once in a while – take care of yourself first
12. Do stuff you enjoy
13. Make some new friends - Get some people around you who can affirm the things about you that you like, the good in how you live your life, and how nice it is being able to just be you (and accept others for who they are, NOT on the basis of what they believe)
14. Remember that you are unique. - individuality is not something that is encouraged in evangelicalism
15. Remember how far you have come – downplaying personal accomplishments is also big in evangelical thought. Don't buy it. Learning how to think differently than they do is major. Getting out and staying out is major. Think about how you used to think then and how you think now. It can be a little embarrassing to think about some of the things we used to believe, ways we used to think, things we used to say... but the fact that it's a little cringeworthy is just proof that you've learned to think better. Give yourself credit where it's due.
16. Learn. That's it. Just... learn and resolve to never stop. You've always wanted to learn how to play chess? Do it. Or any game for that matter, especially ones that require a little thought. Got a subject you wish you knew more about? Start learning it. Do it independently or take a class. Develop a new skill. Keep your brain in learn mode no matter what. Evangelicalism teaches your brain to be lazy. It wants to work. Give it work to do.
17. Plot out a clear direction for your life that revolves around what you want. It's no longer necessary to pray, consult with your deity, or run anything by your pastor. If you're married or have other people in your life that will be affected by the decisions you make, let them in on your plans but, honestly, what path of self-betterment involves hurting the people we love?
Once you have all of that sussed out, making actual, sustainable, and positive resolutions can be a bit easier. Not easy, just easier. Change and self-discipline are never easy. I'm not going to suggest specific resolutions for you to make because, well, you have to figure them out on your own. To paraphrase a wise princess from a galaxy far, far away: you have to follow your own path; no one can choose it for you, but I would like to take a minute and see if I can help steer your thoughts on this in a direction that leads to making some good decisions.
So as you ponder whether or not you're going to make any NYRs this year, think about this...
Post-religious life can be difficult at times. We have a tendency to look back a lot, just like we discussed a few weeks ago. For 2022, I want to issue this challenge: resolve to look forward. Better yet, resolve to look inward as well. I said it last year, but it still holds true: get to know you better. Because that doesn't take a week or a month or a year. It takes a lifetime. And it isn't always easy to see what lies ahead when you're fixated on the rearview mirror. Ask yourself what kinds of things you want to accomplish. What can you reasonably expect of yourself in 2022?
If you don't like your job, look for a new one. Or look for training in an area you think you would be happy or even make an impact.
If you don't like your body, first figure out why. Some reasons are legit, others not so much. But if you know that your body is unhealthy, help it get healthy this year. I know from experience that dropping the burden of an entire extra person in weight in and of itself is a sure-fire way to feel better inside and out. But at the same time, work on that self-image. You are worth loving regardless of your size and shape. You are worth knowing, you are worth wanting, and you are somebody's taste regardless of what your body looks like. Find someone – or a group of people – that can affirm these things for you on multiple levels. Get comfortable with the idea of being good enough. Because you are.
If changes are necessary for health and wellness reasons, make them, but make them for you, not so you can be accepted by others. The latter really doesn't work that well most of the time. Make them because you want to live longer or experience things that might be difficult without making a few changes. For me, it was riding roller coasters. I wanted to fit on them and I wanted to ride every single one I could. It was good motivation because I got there. What's your thing? What reward can you see being worth the effort?
Now let's bring it around to a few things that relate directly to the subject of this show with a few parting thoughts...
If you're having trouble leaving your religious life in the past, get some help. Hop on seculartherapy.org and find a licensed secular counselor who can help you navigate the feelings. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has some good resources, too. I get that this is difficult and that it can be so for a variety of reasons but let me give you some advice on just two for right now...
If it's because you have a grudge... let me tell ya: I have a few. But over time they've kinda downgraded to low-grade peeves. Don't let that life or the people who were part of it hang out in your head longer than they deserve. And, spoiler alert, they don't deserve to be there at all. They don't deserve to be allowed the foothold they have on your thoughts.
Remember first that everything they said and did was the result of learned behaviors. They are the product of a corrupt system so keep the focus of your anger where it belongs: on the system that made them the way they are. It's perfectly OK to be angry at that. This whole show is the product of righteous anger at that.
If it's because you miss the social aspects... there's better stuff going on out there. Again, resolve to finding people and communities that share your views or at very least have an inclusive attitude toward people regardless of what they believe. If we're talking about your own family and not being accepted by them because you dared to grow a brain when it came to your religion, I hear ya. I really do. But the sad truth is that they are flat out not going to change and they may never accept you if you don't agree with them, go back to church, or renounce your “sins.” Your only options are to live your life on your terms and on the basis of what you know is right and what isn't, or spend the rest of your life role playing in front of people. I don't know about you, but the idea of living a lie, even part-time, does not appeal to me...
And when the anger and the frustration and the regret over the time wasted, the toll it took on your emotions, the lies, the deceptions, or whatever creep in, because they will, try to shift the focus off of how things impacted you and onto what this religion does to so many people, what it does every day to our country and our world, what it does to families, how it debases and degrades women at every turn, how it lords power over and then abandons the weakest, poorest, and least capable among us and then has the audacity to label its adherents' behavior as “pro life”...
Think about these things, and do something about it. Vote and participate in government even at the local level. Be vocal in debates and have your counter-apologetic at the ready. Teach these people a thing or two about being instant in season. Be the voice of reason in arguments, especially social media, and be the responsible one in the conversation who provides proof of the things you say. It throws them so far off when you do...
I'm sure there are a few good resolutions to be found in there somewhere and I think that making them and keeping them will lead to a 2022 that sees you happier, more focused, more aware of who you are, and, yes, closer than ever to not just getting, but staying unbound.