Category Archives: atheism

I Believe

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I Believe

I’ve shared my labels in Part One and my journey in Part Two.

Today is the final in my atheist series and it’s purpose is to paint a clear picture of what I believe.  My goal is not to offend or to begin arguments (I’ve already heard plenty of them) but to state where my journey of questioning has brought me.  Most of you will disagree and that’s quite alright with me.  This is my truth.  I don’t expect it to be yours.

*For this post (all posts really) when I refer to religion I’m also referring to a relationship with God or JC.  Too often people will dismiss what I am saying by stating, “I’m not religious.  I don’t believe in religion.  What I have is different.  I have a relationship with God.  Not religion”.  I used to use this same reasoning.  Therefore religion=any following or relationship with God.

I Believe…

1.  Religion is a powerful tool often used to control the masses.

2.  Religion stifles free thought.

3.  Religion can cause and leave very deep wounds.

4.  People need religion because they need to believe that there is more than this life.  They need religion because religion provides them with something they are unable to provide for themselves.  It could be community, accountability, grace, protection, an afterlife, any multitude of things.

5.  The idea of hell is both cruel and absurd.

6.  Heaven is fantasy.

7.  This life is the only life we are gifted in experiencing.  For some of us we had the luck of the draw and found ourselves living in very comfortable conditions.  For others life is quite more burdensome.  Either way it’s pretty remarkable to have life at all.

8.  Evangelism is the ultimate ego trip.  It’s the belief that you have the ONLY way to God and that you 100% KNOW it to be true.

9.  Nothing can be fully known.

10.  Science and reason provide a more accurate measure of truth than faith and feelings.

11.  Global warming is a valid concern.

12.  Evolution did occur and continues to occur.  Creation should not be taught as science.

13.  All life has value. ALL

14.  Religion, power, and money are the most divisive tools used to excuse war and the slaughtering of lives.  This is one of those areas in which anger surfaces for me.  I don’t believe in your religion or in their religion yet I will suffer at the hands of those who want to fight over religion.

15.  Religion and politics do not mix.  Religious beliefs should not be used to form public policies.

16.  We should have freedom of religion and freedom from religion.  We all should have the right to believe what we choose to believe but we should not have the right to impose that belief on others.  I should not be subjected to prayer before a school day or public meeting.  I should not have to swear on a Bible in court.  Just as you should not be subjected to prayers or religious rituals of another belief system before you start your day at work or at your child’s public school graduation.

17.  God does not exist.  But if he does exist (because there’s always that chance), he does not exist in the sense that we believe him to.  If he does exist, my choice to deny his existence will not ultimately matter.

18.  If God does exist and he chooses to send me to a fiery hell for all eternity simply because I couldn’t find enough evidence to support his existence then he’s a tyrant and somebody I wouldn’t choose to worship anyhow.

19.  Prayer does help heal people.  Not because god is sitting up there granting wishes to some people and denying them to others but because prayer causes us to focus on what our bodies need.  It’s calming.  Just like meditation.  Just like hugging.  Just like positive thinking.  Prayer is also just as equally harmful.  It’s harmful because instead of finding resolutions to problems or actively helping persons in need we rely on god to do it for us.  Prayer is an excuse for inactivity.  It’s easier to say “I’ll pray for you” than to physically lend a hand to those who need help.  Again this topic requires an entire post!

20.  A borderless world is ideal.  Borders cause separation and division.

21.  When we become aware of this life being our only life then life becomes more beautiful.  Each day a gift.  We stop living for life after death and instead live for this life.  Right here.  Right now.  We start to value the smallest of things and respect every decision we make.  We understand the importance of making green choices, of growing our own foods, of educating ourselves on the importance of sustainable living, of choosing our battles wisely, of loving the least of us, and so many other issues that affect the health of our planet and the future of our species.

22.  A woman has a right to choose.  You can read about my opinion here and here.

23.  People should be able to marry whomever they like.  Boys should be able to marry boys.  Girls should be able to marry girls.  And a man or woman should be able to have multiple spouses if that works for them (assuming they are all adults when the decision is made).  Just because it doesn’t work for you does not mean it should not be a viable option for someone else. And those families should be able to adopt children.  I guarantee you many of those families are healthier and more capable of raising children than many heterosexual couples and singles who simply have the ability to get knocked up.

24.  In individual freedom and a person’s ability to make the right choices for their life (without government interference) but at times government is needed to change the policies on freedoms that are causing more harm than good.  For example…gun control.  At what point do we say enough is enough?!?  But that’s another post.

25.  We’ve gone backwards in educating our children.  As a society we’ve not only stolen their ability to think for themselves or outside the box but we’ve reduced them to test scores and tightly sealed the box we put them in.  Our children have become a measurement, a standard to be met.  Education is about performance not about forming well-rounded, thoughtful, and educated adults.  This method of education encourages children to find ways to meet that standard.  To appear like they are performing. It reduces them to measures like cheating.  But why not cheat…

26.  Our society values wealth, positions of power, and status above all else.  Even above compassion, empathy, and integrity.

27.  The best education is to travel the world.  When we leave the comfort of our bubble we are quick to discover that we are rich beyond measure, those who we think of as enemies are in fact not much different than us, and the experiences of seeing new cultures and different values teaches us to live the life that is our most genuine life.

28.  Religion does not own the monopoly on morality.  Morality is a human component in the fabric of societies that value what appears to be good and right.  Being religious does not make one morally superior.

29.  There is no good and bad.  Right and wrong.  These words are subjective.  I do believe that all of our choices have consequences.  Some positive.  Some negative.  But that does not reduce our choices to good or bad.

30.  The world is not black and white.  Life is not black and white.  Therefore thinking is a requirement to living life.

31.  We should continually challenge our absolutes.  We should consistently educate ourselves, question our beliefs, and seek knowledge.

32.  Empathy is king.

33.  Our voices should be heard.  Silence signifies agreement.

34.  Belief in god is taught.  Children are not in a position to take any religious stance.  My children are not atheists any more than another child is a christian.  Children are merely products of what they are told to believe.  My children are taught to ask questions, to research for answers, and to live the life that makes the most sense to them.  They know that I will love and support them no matter what.  There are no requirements to be met in order to receive that love.

35.  I believe all these things and so much more.  I believe I still have areas to grow, that I sometimes contradict myself, that I have more to learn, that I can be more than I am.  I believe that my questioning leaves room for me to change my mind, change my stance, and change my opinions.  Change is not negative.  On the contrary.  Change is positive.  Change allows for perspective.  Perspective grows empathy.  Empathy allows me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes without judgement.  And that is education!

I hope that each of you will challenge your status quo.  Do one thing this week that makes you uncomfortable.  Ask a question and seek an answer.  Have an open mind and see where that mind travels.  Start your journey…the one that leads you to your truth, your set of beliefs and your genuine self.

Journey on, friends.  Journey on.

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My Journey to Atheism (Nutshell Version)

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Yesterday I told you I was an atheist and a secular humanist.

For Part Two of the atheist series, I want to dive in and explore the journey that brought me to the point I am now.

In an eensy-weensy nutshell:

33 years I was a committed follower of Christ.  Born and raised in a christian home.  My parents were leaders in our small church.  My dad teaching our Awana club and my mom the church piano player.  I attended a teeny tiny christian school on the same campus as my church for the entirety of my education years (with a quick and limited transfer to public for 5th grade where I heard about the Big Bang Theory *gasp*).

Not that one:

List of The Big Bang Theory episodes (season 1)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This One!

The 6 Stages in the Universe

The 6 Stages in the Universe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was baptized by choice and said the salvation prayer more times than I can count.  I followed the rules and rarely questioned.  I never drank, never smoked, never had premarital sex (clarify: premarital intercourse).  My summers consisted of church and church camps.  We were consistent sunday morning, sunday evening, and wednesday night attendees.  My circle of friends never (or rarely) consisted of any one outside the faith.  We all believed the same things and walked the same straight line.  Mostly.  The most rebellious thing for me…I kissed a lot of boys and found myself attracted to boys I wasn’t supposed to like, those who were a little rebellious or outside my faith.  There was the mormon, the camp leader, the jailed wiccan, the cute waiter, the arrogant twin, the heavy weed smoker, the boys I met at golf n stuff and hopped in their car to wherever, the foreigners I met on the beach, all the ones I don’t remember, and then the one I was supposed to love, the school chaplain.  The golden boy that all mothers wish their daughter would date.  He was my first love.  My first real heartbreak.  And, finally, at the ripe old age of 15 I started dating my husband!  These years were filled with natural desires conflicted with shame.  And that shame still surfaces today.

The Virginity Hit

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I married Adam when I was 20 and he was 19.  We were still both walking that straight and narrow purity line of christianity so in order for us to remain faithful to our beliefs we needed to get married so we could have sex.  Seriously.  This is a key component to why we married!  It’s almost laughable now.  Okay, it’s downright funny (and stupid)!  I wouldn’t recommend getting married at 20, waiting to have sex, or letting religion teach you about your sexuality but that’s a post I’ve already written.

During the first 13 years of our marriage we carried on what we were taught.  We attended church each Sunday.  We went to weekly Bible studies.  We prayed and did devotions, taught marriage classes in our church, voted republican, shunned science (and I have a science degree…again, crazy laughable), tithed our 10%, spanked our child, taught christian based parenting classes, feared what we didn’t know (homosexuals, democrats, feminists, eastern medicine, meditation and yoga, yada yada).  We were the model christian couple and, yet, we were both suffering with shame and small doubts.  Silently and alone.

Belief + Doubt

Belief + Doubt (Photo credit: jpellgen)

For us doubt began to trump faith.  Long story short, Adam started questioning and through education, experience, and reason he came to a place where he could no longer put his faith in god, his time and money in church, or remain in the beliefs he had held without question for so much of his life.  Adam’s leap to find answers and make room for questioning eventually encouraged me to allow myself to seek answers to the questions I had buried or excused away.  I devoured every morsel of fact and reason I could find only to become an atheist faster than Adam, surprising both of us.

Finding our truth did not mean the road was easy.  All you have to do is look back at my earlier posts and see what leaving religion was like.  It rocked our world, our marriage, our lifestyle, our friendships, our family, our sense of self.  It rocked our entire beings until we were so completely broken and angry.  Angry at ourselves for never questioning.  Angry for the way we had parented our oldest.  Angry at others for selling us lies.  Angry at religion for it’s use of shame and manipulation.  Angry at others for defending a belief that they blindly follow.  So much anger.  Anger is an important fuel to bring people to new levels of awareness but it is exhausting.

It’s only been recent that anger has subsided.  It still surfaces when I focus on atrocities and nonsense that can come from the religious.  It still surfaces when people question my morality, pray for my soul, or tell me that my children will never know peace.  And it still has a rightful place in this continued journey.  Anger is just no longer necessary for me to survive.  It was then but it’s not now.

That brings us to today.  Today our families (most of the members) are still highly religious.  My dad and stepmom are missionaries.  My mom is a pastor’s assistant.  Adam’s mom remains committed to her beliefs in god and a bigoted prophet.  But we are different and we are confident about where this journey has brought us.  Honestly, life has never felt more genuine.  More peaceful.  More accepting. Even with the amount of judgement and rejection we have and continue to experience.

Today we are,without a doubt, atheists.  Full fledged non-believing atheists.  We value the amount of studying and vulnerability we

The New Atheists @ Creepy Library

The New Atheists @ Creepy Library (Photo credit: ~C4Chaos)

experienced to reach this point.  And today we are better human beings raising more aware and socially conscious children.  We give ourselves more grace and the shame that religion so strongly forced upon us is slowly dissipating.  We take pride in our atheism and our non-belief.  We take pride in our secular values and the life that we are living.  And, honestly, after being on both sides of the fence I wish that every person could experience a life that is good without god (secular humanism).  I, personally, think that the world would be a better place without the fantasy of the supernatural and the fantasy of an afterlife.  I wish every person would find answers to their doubts, ask the important questions, give their religion a hefty once-over, and find the strength to walk away from something that feels really comfortable if and when reason trumps faith.

Journey On.

Tomorrow (or the day after…I’m non-commital these days with four kids on summer break to chase around) part 3 in the series.

Paint Me Positive

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Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.                                                                                                                                          ~Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre~

If I were to tell you that I’m an atheist some of you may choose to stop reading right now.  Some of you might cringe and have second thoughts about what kind of person I am.  Some of you will pray for me.  Some of you will get angry.  Some will feel sad or sorry for me.  Some will feel indifferent.  And a select few will send me cyber high fives.

If I were to tell you that I’m a secular humanist your feelings toward me are not as likely to be so strongly opinionated as they were when I applied the atheist label.  Many of you may have not even heard of people referring to themselves as secular humanists so there’s not a negative reaction.  Secular humanist sounds friendly.  Someone harmless.  Someone with different values than yours but values nonetheless.

Atheist=negativity/danger/red flags                                  Secular Humanist= friendly/safe/question mark

am an atheist.

But before you write me off….

I am also a secular humanist.

Atheist Bus Campaign Launch

(Photo credit: Girl with a one-track mind)

What is it about the word atheist that frightens people so deeply?  Why is it the standard perception that atheists are threatening enemies?

In a recent study (found here) a good percentage of Americans said they would not approve of their child marrying an atheist.  They would not vote for an atheist.  Atheists are more disliked than Muslims.  Atheists do not have American values.  Atheists are as untrustworthy as criminal rapists.

On and on and on the prejudiced opinions go.

I can’t blame people for feeling the way they do.  Not because these popular opinions are based on knowledge or fact but because prior to becoming an atheist I was a life long christian with these same views.  I held strong, fear based opinions about a group of people I had very little knowledge about.  In my bubble of a world, atheists were not children of God therefore they were not to be trusted.  In fact they were enemies of God sadly manipulated by Satan to influence our society with evil things like science, feminism, removal of prayer, and self sufficiency.  I’m not mocking or belittling when I state these things.  This is simply what I was taught.  What I believed.  What I practiced.  So I understand the majority in these studies.  Completely.  But I have awareness now.  Real life experience. The prejudiced opinions are just that, prejudiced.  Atheists are a pretty rad group of people.  Kind, giving, educated, motivated, involved, peaceful individuals.  Of course there are some rotten apples in the bunch but they don’t define the group as a whole.  Just like Westboro doesn’t define the entire lot of christians.

brassfielddiatribe.jpgThe media does a great job of giving atheists a bum rap too.  How can any decent person form an unbiased opinion when the media is hell bent on presenting atheists with a negative slant?  It’s difficult to filter through all the negative attention to find the positive.  People in positions of public education (media, pastors, politicians, etc) are often selling negative smut to their viewers.  A perfect example is a recent sermon (view pic on left) given by a minister in Oklahoma.  That pastor made it his mission to paint atheists in a very negative light claiming that no atheists could be found in the relief efforts of the Oklahoma City tornado.  He was willing to paint that picture even if that meant he had to lie.  We call that “lying for Jesus”.    His fact-lacking, falsified sermon was quickly and formally refuted but the seed of negativity had already been planted.  The foundation for hate already laid.

So I don’t blame people for their negative perspective.  It’s what they’re fed.  It’s what they’re taught to believe.

But we can change that.

P1050256I think the best thing atheists can do is first and foremost come out of the closet.  No more hiding.  If you are an atheist playing the religious game solely for the benefit of your friends and family it’s time to own your truth.  Those of us who come out in religious communities will likely suffer loss, heartache, judgement and persecution but the more of us that speak up, the more our society can see that their views and opinions are misguided.  We love, we serve, we donate, we’re trustworthy, we make great parents and we are kind neighbors.  Just like them.
Personal relationships are the quickest and most effective way to break down barriers.  So I encourage you to help change the negative societal stigma by speaking your truth and finding pride in your atheism.

You see many of us atheists are secular humanists.  We are serving our communities and bettering humanity just like the religious.  We’re just doing it without the God mandate.  So if calling me an atheist freaks you out and subjects me to negative space in your mind, you can always refer to me as a secular humanist.  It’s all good.

Check in tomorrow for Part Two.

Shades of Grey-The Popular One

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*Warning!  Spoiler Alert!* & R-rating

Today’s blog is a twofer.  Two for one.  Enjoy!

When I began this blog back in early 2011 I had originally named it Shades of Grey.  The title was very fitting considering I had left christianity after coming to the realization that the world is indeed not black and white.  I began to get a very firm grasp on the fact that there are varying shades of grey in nearly every aspect of this thing we like to call life.  And when we get stuck thinking that there is simply black and white/right and wrong we alienate ourselves, we fail to grow, and we go to war against those who believe our black should be white or our white should be black.  I started Shades of Grey to challenge those around me (myself included) to stop spouting off rote answers to life’s big dilemmas and instead masticate on these things and discover the whys of our beliefs, prejudices and practices.  Does society tell me to think this way?  Does my god or religion demand it?  Is there proof that concretely discredits what I am choosing to believe?  Do my beliefs make any logical sense? Am I willing to become uncomfortable and try changing the blacks and whites in my life?  This is what I was challenging.  Examining the different shades of grey between black and white has helped me to push myself, sometimes in really uncomfortable ways, to evolve.

I began this blog before the global sensation of Fifty Shades of Grey was an international maniacal craze.  Now that nearly every woman and man with Wifi or a bookstore nearby knows Fifty Shades I have found that it is time to switch my blog name from Shades of Grey to Thinking With Vitality.  This will save all the poor, unsuspecting folks who have accidentally stumbled across my blog by googling words like sex, naked, and christian grey.  If only I had pictures of Christian Grey naked while having sex!  Even I might be addicted to that blog 😉  But, I don’t.

Besides the fact that all the wrong people were shopping my blog it was simply time for a change.  I’m not as angry now as when I first came out as an atheist.  Life is brighter.  I’m not in a constant state of pissed offness (although I still get there and still have plenty to say!).  Therefore my page should reflect that.  You’ll notice the colors are more vibrant.  The bio has changed.  There will be more positive posts mixed in.  But the platform is the same.  You’ll read about religion, politics, family, adoption, women’s rights, crazy events, sexuality, acceptance and posts that are simply reflections of my general interests.

The challenge is the same: think, test yourself, quit being complacent and possibly consider moving forward in a whole new direction.

Part Two:

While I am semi on topic with shades of grey I figure let’s make this entry a two-for-one.  Two topics with the same name.  One blog.  It’s your lucky day!  Fifty Shades of Grey book thoughts are coming up here in section two so do NOT continue if you are concerned about spoilers or are sensitive to topics of sexuality.

Yes, I’ve happily read the Fifty Shades trilogy and even passed it along to friends and family. If you are a woman or a man who has not benefited in the bedroom from this steamy series I would suggest you at least give it a peek or two.  I mean it’s unrealistic sex on every other page of each book.  With all of that sex it’s hard to avoid a little “kinky fuckery”.  There’s a little something for every one.  There are fast cars, bad guys, good guys, jealousy, helicopter crashes, money, ties, whips, braids and handcuffs.  Oh and did I mention there is sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, sex, and more sex?

Fifty Shades Quotes

My girlfriends and I have discussed this series in length.  Some friends so completely bummed with the realization that when they were finished reading, Christian Grey would no longer be a part of their nightly escape.  Some friends found the series to be a very bad idea for relationships because it left them wanting more from their boyfriends/husbands.  I, on the other hand, found the books as a great tool to try out some new and exciting…..ummmmmm…..things.  And, of course, my husband was more than willing to comply with my new discoveries.  I happen to be of the belief that Christian and Ana will always be with me even after the books have long left my shelf.  Simply because the fantasy of their story pushes and challenges the realm of my own sexuality.
The books had very little depth.  The characters were not a clear improvement from the teenage Twilight vampires and werewolves (which I devoured too!).  Hmmmm, what does that say about me?  I like things of little depth?  Ha!  Sorry, I digress…the story line may be even less developed than Twilight.  There are flaws.  For example, the extent of Christian’s possessiveness of Anastasia.  But it’s not a story of depth that we are seeking when we pick up these books.  It’s fantasy that we are after.  And fantasy you will get.  I mean who realistically holds a full time job, hits the gym enough to be in perfect shape, hunts down crazy people, attends galas and balls, has time for extended family, travels and still manages to have sex multiple times a day with back to back orgasms?  That is fantasy.  Fiction.  According the the dictionary it is “An unrealistic or improbable supposition”.  And the last bit of fantasy is so blech and unrealistic.  I’ll just tell you the author completely blew all the euphorics I had while reading when she wrote a pregnancy and baby in to the third book.  That immediately popped my utopian bubble!  Again, I digress…


While the books are subsurface entertainment I think they serve an important societal value.  These books have opened the door for women to openly speak about their sexual fantasies and desires in a way that men have long had the shameless privilege.  We are saying that our sexuality matters too!  We do this by purchasing Fifty Shades of Grey, engaging in progressive conversations, allowing ourselves the freedom to fantasize, implementing some of the more fantastical sexual situations of the book in our own bedrooms (or elevators if you prefer), voting for what man fulfills the Christian fantasy for us on the big screen, and anticipating with great excitement the day when Girls Night Out will involve women in droves filling up theaters getting a little lusty and carnivorous over Christian Grey, releasing that part of our sexual freedom that we have stifled for far too long.  Shades of Grey along with female pleasure toys being sold in drugstores and films like Hysteria are setting the stage for a revolution of female sexuality.  I happen to think that’s a very positive step in the right direction.

Men, it’s the season of gift giving, and if you want to gift yourself and gift your significant other with one purchase buy this series.  Let your girl get turned on reading, maybe even read some of it with her and be there when she’s ready to release some of that pent up energy.  You’ll both benefit! If you are not short on cash or space or adventure, hell, build your woman a red room of pain!
Ladies, buy it for your girlfriends.  Talk about it.  Laugh about it.  Be free and accepting in your discussions.  Share gritty, personal details and begin appreciating that we, too, are sexual beings with needs, wants, and fanciful desires.  Let the revolution begin.

Laters Baby.

 

Photo credits:
Color palette: www.Printeresting.com
Tim Minchin quote: www.thepositiveatheist.com
Actors for Christian Grey: www.buzzsugar.com
Christian Grey quote: www.50shadesquotes.tumblr.com
Couple reading: www.sheknows.com

Hiding Hurts

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Once a quarter three of my friends from grade school get together to celebrate one of our birthdays.  Last night was my turn to be celebrated and yet I felt a heavy burden of anxiety heading to dinner with these girls.  It’s not that I don’t love them because I love them deeply.  And it wasn’t that I don’t feel loved by them because I’ve seen them in action when one of us has taken a hard hit…each woman steps up and does what she can to lessen the other’s burden.  So I know that if I ever needed them they would be here in a heartbeat.  And it’s not that I fear the conversation would lack because it rarely ever has.

For the duration of the drive to dinner I turned off the radio and just listened to my anxiety.  What is the cause, is it legitimate or imagined, and what can I do to remedy it?  
The truth is I fear the uncomfortableness of me being an atheist and them being christian.  I fear that they feel uncomfortable around me and I know that I often feel uncomfortable around them.  I know they are doing their best to adjust and not offend and I also am doing my best to not ruffle any feathers. For example: prayer before meals is a standard practice that takes place.  It used to involve holding hands and thanking God for our food, our blessings, and one another.  Now there is this elephant in the room when the meals arrive.  I see the moment when hands are reached for and quickly pulled back, probably out of respect for me.  I choose to simply bow my head and let them have their prayer, out of respect to them.  But there’s a small air of uncomfortableness in those moments.  It’s a multitude of little moments like that which makes me feel a small need to hide.  Hiding is something I hated about myself and others in christianity.  Atheism provided me a freedom of constant acceptance and truth about myself and I vowed to stop hiding.  Yet here I am conversating with myself the need to stay hidden.  

“If I say this will I offend X?
Oh, shit, I just swore and probably put someone off.
Amy, think through each word before you say it.  Don’t allow any foul language to slip out.
Amy, don’t ask those questions, that’s part of her life she doesn’t like to share.
I probably shouldn’t mention X, Y, Z because they might think worse of me.
How do I engage when I disagree with what’s being said?  Better to say nothing.
Amy, your opinion does not matter.  Shhhhhh.
Should I or should I not order a drink?  Can I order a second?
And the self talk, self preservation, hiding debate goes on and on and on.”

 About 20 minutes in to the dinner I started settling in to the familiarity of these women.  The beauty of these friendships.  The security that although we may disagree on some very vital issues these are life long friends not easily dismissed by a few foul words, a liberal stance, or the free-spirited person I have become.  The desire to just be me became more important than what one may or may not think of me.  Because hiding is disingenuine and I’m anything but disingenuous, I decided to share.  Be open. Did I still intentionally hide some things…absolutely.  It’s a constant battle for me to decide what to filter and what thoughts to let spill freely.  I know it’s best not to engage in politics or religion( at least not at quarterly dinners).  But I was able to share about dressing up in Vegas for my husband, having a sexy photo shoot, having a family member who is gay and my excitement for him, my struggles with my boys, and honestly sharing funny stories that we can all laugh at even if some are at my expense.  I ordered the drink that I wanted and even mentioned that I wish I believed in hell for those people who truly truly deserve a fiery eternity.

What started as fear and anxiety turned in to a beautiful night of friendship, laughter, and love.  I truly value these girls and as I further down this road of non-belief I become more and more comfortable seeing beyond their religious beliefs and see all the many things we still have in common.  I hope that one day I’ll feel brave enough to share my opinions even as they counter the others.  Our opposite opinions can be seen as a way to challenge each other to grow and think outside our boxes.  That’s the model of true friendship (I believe).  Challenge yet accept the differences.  
So I’ll end on this.   Hiding hurts.  None of us should feel that we need to hide ANY area of our life.  There is nothing shameful in the choices we make.  I hope that I will continue down this road of exposure and that in return these girls and others in my life will feel that they are safe to share with me as well.  I hope they will see that hiding only hurts and we are there to help each other grow but the only way to do that is through absolute vulnerability.  I trust them.  I am safe.  And they are safe with me.