I’m Not An Atheist

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Many people jump to the conclusion that I am an atheist because I am not religious anymore and can be very critical of organized religion. However, I am not an atheist. I do often listen to atheist podcasts and read atheist books, but I also sometimes listen to and read material from spiritual or religious sources (even the crazy ones, although I listen to them more for amusement). I find myself overall agreeing more with secular thought, but I do feel that differing points of view are essential for having a realistic, down-to-earth view of life.

If I had to choose a label for myself spiritually, it would be agnostic. I’m not really sure what the hell is going on. I’m not a deist, because I’m not positive that there is a greater being or consciousness, although I hope there is to an extent. I don’t believe in the specific gods of any earthly religions, but I wouldn’t mind if there were some wiser (and hopefully caring) beings, or at least some sort of a meaning to all that is.

Because of the state of the world and the suffering, abuse, and slaughter of the innocent, I find it hard to believe in an “all good” being in power, unless that being gave us a choice about being here and what we would face. If earth were some kind of “school” where we choose the lessons we want to learn or the experiences we want to have, then I could see how the powers that be could still be moral and have values. Otherwise, their absence and inaction in the face of so much injustice and pain speaks volumes.

I do not believe in “original sin”. I do not believe in a God who must spill innocent blood in order to be able to forgive someone else for doing something wrong (seriously, how is that even ok???) I do not believe in a being that has such a huge ego all they want is to be worshiped for all eternity (too Donald Trumpish for my taste). I do not believe that there is necessarily an afterlife or heaven/hell, but if there is I would not be shocked or upset unless there was some kind of tyrant running things. If there is some sort of being in charge of it all, I simply hope that they are just and kind, but not cruel or punitive.

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Unpopular Opinion: Assisted Suicide Should Be Allowed for Any Competent Adult

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This post may contain the most unpopular opinion I will likely ever share on my blog. Let me say first off, as a survivor of my sister’s suicide, I know exactly how much it hurts to lose someone close that way and wouldn’t wish it on anyone. However, maybe it is just the libertarian streak in me, but I do think euthanasia should be legal for adults.

When people normally talk about euthanasia, it is regarding those with terminal illnesses. I definitely support the right to peacefully end your life in your own time with those cases. But I also support the right of any fully grown, mature human being to make the decision to not exist anymore if that is what they truly want. There are places in the world that allow euthanasia for severe mental illness, but I would take it even further than that. I don’t think anyone has the right to force another sentient human being to remain alive if they honestly, genuinely don’t want to be here.

Even with my sister, I would not force her to come back to life if I could. She was absolutely miserable. She was in constant mental, physical, and emotional pain. Her life was a wreck due to the aftereffects of severe abuse and treatment resistant mental illness. She tried multiple times to kill herself, and had she survived the last attempt, I have no doubt she would have kept trying, even though I tried my best to encourage her to find reasons to live.

I don’t think that human beings should have to resort to dangerous, violent and potentially severely disabling attempts to end their lives when there are simple, effective ways to end their suffering permanently if they wish to do so. I have been a witness to seeing two of my cats put down peacefully. I can only hope I die so easily and painlessly.

I also don’t think that assisted suicide would be abused as much as people think it would be. When you realize it is the absolute end, with no chance of survival, many balk if they really do not wish to die. Even in documentaries I have watched about euthanasia for mental illness, many people end up backing out during the waiting process because they obviously are not actually ready to die.  I do think there should be some limits set in place, such as age limits, lengthy screening processes (this is certainly something that shouldn’t be rushed into), and mental competency tests to make sure the person is completely aware of the permanent consequences of what they are asking for. It also shouldn’t be something people can decide for other people. You shouldn’t have the right to euthanize your granny or anyone else against their will.

I share this today because it is my personal belief, not because I am suicidal. I actually am not. I have never attempted suicide and do not believe I would do so unless circumstances became such that living was unbearable. It is not something I would take lightly and if I ever did commit suicide, I would likely plan it out precisely and would take into account any suffering it would cause others and would try to minimize that as much as possible. I certainly hope my life never comes to that point, but if it did, I feel like only I have the right to decide if I want to continue to exist or not.

Fundamentally Alone, but Craving Understanding

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The past week or so has been rough on me mentally. I’ve had way too many weepy days where I would cry for seemingly no good reason. Several times I had anxiety/frustration meltdowns. You could argue about whether they were “autistic meltdowns” or “bipolar meltdowns”, but at the end of the day, does the label really matter? What matters is the suffering and finding a way to get through it.

I’ve been upset partially because I feel misunderstood by everyone, including my therapist. Mental health professionals in my experience are generally kind, caring people who truly try to understand, but I think some things can’t truly be understood unless experienced personally. Unless someone has experienced the same level of trauma throughout their childhood and adulthood, been blessed and cursed with Asperger’s and Bipolar, been dealt the same personality and experiences, and developed the same chronic physical conditions, they probably can’t relate exactly to my plight….anymore than I can relate exactly to theirs.

In the end it often feels like we are all fundamentally alone in our experience of the world, even though we desperately want to feel connected and understood. Fortunately, we can connect with others through some aspects of our experience, so perhaps that is what needs to be focused on. It is easy to feel completely separate and different from everyone else. At a base level, it is true for all of us, but that doesn’t mean we should quit trying to reach out. And so, I continue to write and seek out common ground with others, both online and in person. Quite frankly, I’m not sure what else to do.

Belief in Hell Dies Hard

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Recently I read an excellent poetry book entitled “Shit House Rat“, written by Daniel Crocker (a fellow bipolar writer). The poetry in this collection is brutally honest, gritty, and humorous, and even engages some of our favorite characters from Sesame Street in a way that is unique and really outlines the harsh reality of adult life “on the street” .

One poem that especially triggered some thought on my part is one called “A Dream of Siblings”, in which the poet has a dream about his deceased brother being trapped in a sort of hell. Like me, the author no longer believes in a literal hell, at least not of the Christian theological kind, but as the following lines from the poem show, he still struggles to let go of that old belief in a fiery pit of torture:

“Even though I gave up
believing in this shit
years ago, I still wonder

Maybe I never gave up believing

Maybe, once having faith, no one
ever gives up believing

Even if the things we believe in
are horrifying.”

Illusions

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If I could have one wish, I would wish more than anything that we as humanity could let go of our illusions –

religious illusions
political illusions
personal illusions

so that we could take a cold, hard look at reality as it actually is, and work together to solve our real problems at the core. Of course, I would have to start with myself, being willing to let go of any illusions I still hold, illusions I am blind to. In fact, I have found that it is almost impossible for any of us to recognize our own illusions until we have come to a place where we are willing to let them go.

*Art by Maranda Russell

Time Flies

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“Time flies” is an expression we often hear, and there may be some truth to it, especially when it comes to “time flies when you’re having fun”. I’ve noticed time doesn’t fly nearly as much if you are depressed or in pain, which is unfortunate, since that is the time it would be best for time to pass swiftly. Just another little unfair quirk of reality. However, I am thankful for the times that do run as swift as a flooded river, because the memories of those good times help get me through the days when time crawls by like a wounded caterpillar. In appreciation of those good times, I created the above little mixed media collage ACEO artwork and thought I would share it with all of you.

Two Haiku for You

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I have found myself
at a loss for words, but here
they come anyhow…

All the lighthouses!
All the lighthouses!
Yet there’s no light to be found.
Pointless monuments!

(Yes, I know the second one is irregular form, but I felt it sounded better with the first line repeated, so I broke the rules!)