The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Bad Christianity, Worse Atheism

Posted on | March 4, 2015 | 174 Comments

“Especially important is the warning to avoid conversations with the demon. . . . He is a liar. The demon is a liar. He will lie to confuse us. But he will also mix lies with the truth to attack us. The attack is psychological, Damien, and powerful. So don’t listen to him. Remember that — do not listen.”
The Exorcist (1973)

“Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”
Romans 1:29-32 (KJV)

It bothers me only a little to admit that a lot of modern Christian writing is wretched and unhelpful when it comes to relationships. The Gospel of Niceness, as I call it, tends to produce a saccharine G-rated rhetoric that isn’t much help to people dealing with the unmitigated horrors of modern life. There are people out there traumatized by what they’ve lived through and terrified by the world around them, and the saccharine G-rated Gospel of Niceness does not speak in a language that all these hopelessly broken people can understand.

What happens, not surprisingly, is that these broken people reject Christianity because (a) the church isn’t talking to them in a language that helps, and (b) the sin-filled world talks to them in a language they understand, even if it doesn’t actually help. All of this is preamble to one of the most Satanic tales I’ve encountered during my research into radical feminism. (You have bought a copy of my book, right?) What happened was that I was searching for “heteronormativity” and found “When heteronormativity means there are no other options”:

When you’re growing up in conservative Christian purity culture, your relationship options are limited. True, there are a variety of beliefs on the rules for relationships; some communities reinforce courtship, others have very stringent rules about what is acceptable behavior at different stages of relationships. But within those muddy waters of relationship rules, purity culture has the same constant: save sex for your heterosexual marriage, and marry for life.
The ideal relationship is something you’re supposed to strive for. The image of a beautiful heterosexual couple, smiling and in love, telling their story of first romance, first kisses till death do they part, is a powerful one. That’s the success story. If you can find romance once, only “give your heart away” once, and for a lifetime, you have won the game.
And while this idealized image doesn’t have the same high standards in the rest of American culture, it still exists: heterosexual marriage, for life, is one of the marks of adulthood, of success and maturity. …
When I was a Christian, I was the kind of repressed queer person that didn’t allow myself any other options. . . .

Hmmm. Check the sidebar profile:

This blog has a generalized trigger warning for discussions of sexual, physical, mental, and spiritual abuse.
Tor is a queer apostate survivor of abuse.
Pronouns are “they/them”
They live in Oregon, and are currently working on a book about their experiences with abuse, Christianity, and their dealings with trauma.

“They” is actually a she, but this is a minor quibble, because up there on the top bar of her blog is “My Story,” and a thoroughly horrifying story it is. “Generalized trigger warning,” indeed. There is just no way the G-rated saccharine Gospel of Niceness can address Tor’s life experience.

She describes being raped at age 9 by her brother who was then 15. This brother subsequently was prosecuted for another sex crime (he is a registered sex offender) and, because of the hostility between Tor and her brother, Tor is alienated from her family, to say nothing of Tor’s queer apostasy. Here, go read this part of Tor’s story. (“Generalized trigger warning.”) You’re going to need something a whole lot stronger than the Gospel of Niceness to help somebody like Tor.

The passage from Paul’s epistle to the Romans quoted at the top of this post is part of a longer sequence that is most famous for verses 26-27, but I like the way it concludes in verses 29-32 because there, tucked away amid that grocery list of heinous evil is “disobedient to parents.” Sometimes I point that out to my kids, when I need to remind them that they are also Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.

The Gospel of Niceness too seldom reminds kids of that, as if kids are too stupid to look around them and notice the evil that other kids do. Or to look in the mirror and recognize that, yes, they are sinners, too. Because I was a notoriously bad kid — in the old days, before “self-esteem,” teachers didn’t mince words about bad kids like me — I was never under any illusion about my sinful condition. I was a natural-born “behavior problem” if ever there was one. Thank God they hadn’t come up with the diagnosis ADHD back then, or I’d have been doped up on Ritalin by age 4. As it was, paddling was the main form of “therapy” administered by the education system, and I know I thoroughly deserved every one.

Anyway, I was reading another post of Tor’s called “The demon of demon paranoia,” in which she scornfully dismisses a pastor:

I define my childhood religion as a bit of Baptist legalism, mixed with Penecostal Holy Spiritism, a smattering of evangelical culture, all under the belief that God is some kind of magical genie who directs and takes care of every little thing we do.
When we moved up to the area we live now, we started attending a nearby Foursquare church. The pastor was an arrogant, hard preacher . . .
His biggest hang up was demons. I first heard of Frank Peretti’s book This Present Darkness from him, and he considered the book Biblical. He had pamphlets on the demonic in the church office; he spoke out against the evils of Halloween and trick-or-treating. My mom already had some fear of demons being everywhere, had already stopped letting my brothers go trick-or-treating the year I was two, and she very easily was sucked into this pastor’s paranoia.

Evil is real, Tor. You might not like the way this “arrogant, hard preacher” dwelled on the subject of demons, but certainly you cannot deny that evil is real. And ask yourself this: Considering what you went through in your childhood, was your mother’s “fear of demons being everywhere” irrational? Was it not the case that there was evil in your home? And isn’t it possible that, providentially, God sent this preacher to your community to warn about demons that were actually there?

People laugh at me for believing in the reality of evil, but I’ve seen evil with my own eyes. Sure, maybe you don’t believe that evil is supernatural. Maybe you can explain all the evil in the world according to “science so called,” but am I the only one who notices that certain biblical prophecies about the proliferation of evil seem to be coming true in the 21st century? There are no accidents, Tor. It wasn’t an accident that I found your blog, and read your description of your condition:

You know what? I am a sexual abuse victim. Of course things suck. Of course everything is hard, and nothing is right.  . . .
But you know what? I don’t owe the world my healing. I don’t owe it to anyone to make them feel better about what happened to me. . . .
I’m fucked up. I’m self-destructive, I’m fearful . . .On the days when God still gets back into my head I look at how perfectly everything lined up for my destruction and think God wants me to die. I’m fucked up to a level I don’t even talk about. I have coping mechanisms I have never heard anyone ever talk about. And maybe they’re like me; too shameful to talk about. Or maybe it’s me; alone in this sea of oh my god how fucked up am I.

No, you’re not alone, but God doesn’t want you to die, either. While it would be presumptuous for me to claim to know what God wants for your life, the fact that you wrote that in 2011 and are still alive today tells me that you are alive for a reason. There are no accidents, Tor. Whom God would destroy, no man can save; whom God would save, no man can destroy. Therefore, your existence — even as a self-declared “queer apostate” — must serve some purpose in the divine plan, if only to wake up those Christians who think the Gospel of Niceness is sufficient to help someone who is “fucked up to a level I don’t even talk about.”

When you notice the trackback to your blog and read what I’ve written, you’ll probably hate me, Tor, and that’s OK. But let me ask you, what do you think the odds were that (a) I’d be crazy enough to write a book on radical feminism, (b) that this research would lead me to your blog by searching for “heteronormativity” and (c) rather than dismissing you as just another crazy feminist, I’d actually take time to read your story and recognize your unique value? The odds against this sequence of events have got to be a million-to-one, but it happened.

There are no accidents, God exists and, yes, evil is very real. Here’s the end of your post about demons:

I still am afraid of mirrors (mostly when it’s dark), I still see silhouettes when my sleep schedule gets too erratic. I still have nights where I’m awake for hours with the most horrible sense of my own guilt, afraid that demons have taken hold of me, and God hates me, and I am the worst sinner in the world. Fear pervades my life, I live under the weight of nightmares, flashbacks, and body memories, and a constant sense of foreboding, all because of this. Those are my “demons” now.

Let me repeat something I wrote in January:

Satan is the Father of Lies (John 8:43-45). Satan is the false accuser (Revelation 12:9-11). Satan constantly tells us lies about ourselves and lies about God. If you listen to that satanic voice, you will drive yourself crazy, because the lies are contradictory. Satan will tell you whatever you want to believe, whatever it takes to destroy you. Satan will tell you that your sins are so wicked that God cannot possibly love you. Then Satan will tell you there is no such thing as sin. Satan will tell you that good is evil, and evil is good, and that you should do evil because that will make you happier than doing good. Most of all, Satan tells us to reject God’s law, to instead make our own judgment of right and wrong.
This was the original lie of history: “Ye shall be as gods!”

Satan hasn’t changed at all. It’s still the same old lies — the demonic voice of the false accuser who wants to destroy us.

You survived, Tor. You survived for a reason. The voice in your head telling you that God hates you? Don’t listen to that voice.



174 Responses to “Bad Christianity, Worse Atheism”

  1. Quartermaster
    March 6th, 2015 @ 3:15 pm

    That’s no retreat, but I don’t much more than your ignorant retort.

  2. DeadMessenger
    March 6th, 2015 @ 3:32 pm

    Please, share your age and the nature of your vast amount of counseling experience, won’t you?

    And I take exception to your scare quotes around the word Christian, and your characterization of someone who truly cares offering “supervision”.

    When Jesus was here the first time, He healed people, fed people, cast demons out of people and taught people, and the majority of those people never became Christian. “For God so loved the world” means that God loves everyone in the world, not just the saints. Even though we are all weak in the flesh, true Christians strive to do the same, even though sometimes it’s hard.

    So, for example, even though you insult and degrade me by mischaracterizing my motivations (and experience), I also still love you. Jesus was also insulted and degraded by the people He loved, so why should I expect less?

  3. NeoWayland
    March 6th, 2015 @ 3:48 pm

    The label is a higher authority gambit. It’s meant to silence people who don’t agree with you because, after all, who would question Christianity?

    You’ve missed it. It’s not Christianity that I question here.

  4. NeoWayland
    March 6th, 2015 @ 4:07 pm

    You should take exception, what you’re suggesting is very unChristian. Also very inhuman.

    “Soul surgery.” Fahhh. Might as well drill a hole in her temple to let the demons out.

    I’ll tell you what I told that “demon hunter” eight months ago. You need to check your bearings.

  5. Quartermaster
    March 6th, 2015 @ 4:23 pm

    Sorry, but have neither the knowledge nor the philosophical basis on which to make such a statement. You make the mistake of thinking I’m retreating behind something when I’m not. I’m simply refusing to engage a man who has a self-inflicted ignorance and is trying to play with things he knows nothing about. You really have no idea what you are questioning, that you think you do is your conceit.

  6. K-Bob
    March 6th, 2015 @ 5:41 pm

    You did not mull it over.

    Clearly one chooses to take offense. One also chooses to call some things impositions and others welcome distractions.

    Mull it over some more.

  7. NeoWayland
    March 6th, 2015 @ 6:37 pm

    One of the problems of assuming an absolute truth is that it blinds you to other possibilities.

    I’ve made no secret that I do not consider the Bible to be the ultimate truth, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t studied it.

    Since I haven’t made the Bible the center of my life, I don’t use the same assumptions that you do. And I’m pretty sure that worries you. Not that it should, but it does.

    You’re so determined to struggle nobly against dark forces that you can’t see what is casting the shadow.

  8. NeoWayland
    March 6th, 2015 @ 6:42 pm

    I didn’t need to mull it over.

    Did it occur to you that I just responded to a question? That’s the only reason we’re even discussing this.

    Is evangelical Christianity an imposition? Yes. Does it worry or offend me? No.

    Are Christians offended because I pointed out the obvious? Yes.

    What am I going to do about it? Adapt and work around it.

  9. Quartermaster
    March 6th, 2015 @ 7:28 pm

    You refusal to accept the fact that ARE absolute truths is a serious weakness in you. It is one of the things that make you such a clown and keeps you from understanding people that realize there are such absolute truths.

    I know exactly what is casting the shadows. The person that refuses to see what is casting it you. I know the source of evil and there are people who post here who have known the source intimately. Such things result in you not being taken seriously.

    Have you ever noticed that past a certain point I’m the only one who responds to your nonsense? You’ve chosen to reject the font of truth. You should not be surprised that anyone who accepted it will take you wiith a massive truckload of salt.

  10. Quartermaster
    March 6th, 2015 @ 7:30 pm

    Your refusal to accept the fact that ARE absolute truths is a serious
    weakness in you. It is one of the things that make you such a clown and
    keeps you from understanding people that realize there are such absolute

    I know exactly what is casting the shadows. The person
    that refuses to see what is casting it you. I know the source of evil
    and there are people who post here who have known the source intimately.
    Such things result in you not being taken seriously.

    Have you
    ever noticed that past a certain point I’m the only one who responds to
    your nonsense? You’ve chosen to reject the font of truth. You should not
    be surprised that anyone who accepted it will take you wiith a massive
    truckload of salt.

  11. K-Bob
    March 6th, 2015 @ 7:37 pm

    Nothing is an imposition by simply existing. That’s what you failed to understand from failing to mull it over.

    You CHOOSE to make something into an imposition. You do not get to choose that for others.

  12. DeadMessenger
    March 6th, 2015 @ 8:15 pm

    You have no idea what is Christian and not Christian. Doesn’t matter, though, you just like to argue for the sake of arguing. You don’t even need a point to argue, let alone a valid one.

    Interesting, too, how you mock the idea of demons, when that was the topic of McCain’s blog post. Why don’t you mock him, Neo? He’s a hell of a lot more erudite than I am. Let’s see how he responds to you, and what QM correctly identified as your “self inflicted idiocy”.

    Although, I suppose that I’m the idiot for even trying to have a discussion with someone as spiritually bankrupt as you are. Won’t make that mistake again.

  13. DeadMessenger
    March 6th, 2015 @ 10:17 pm

    Yes, exactly.

  14. DeadMessenger
    March 6th, 2015 @ 10:27 pm

    Absolutely brilliant comment. I’m sure your testimony is welcome encouragement to others similarly afflicted.

  15. NeoWayland
    March 7th, 2015 @ 8:14 am

    That’s okay, it’s a hard lesson to learn and an even harder one to accept. Most don’t get it the first time around.

    I’m fairly sure you’ll get it eventually.

  16. NeoWayland
    March 7th, 2015 @ 8:27 am

    I didn’t mock the idea of demons.

    Let’s pretend for a bit that I used to be a mining engineer. That means I know about placing explosives to open up a shaft and how to keep the mine from collapsing. Suppose I ran across a group of people without that experience. Now they thought they had a good idea about digging a basement under an existing house with some “C-4” they mixed up themselves. They don’t own the house, but they’re convinced the owner will thank them later because “it needed to be done.”

    Would it be ethical to keep quiet?

  17. NeoWayland
    March 7th, 2015 @ 8:36 am

    “Nothing is an imposition by simply existing.”


    I prefer “live and let live” as a good neighbor policy. But that is not what many evangelical Christians do. They impose.

    Case in point, this thread. It was meant to rouse the spiritual warriors. Even though as RSM later said, the lady(?) was no longer in the same place mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.

  18. Quartermaster
    March 7th, 2015 @ 9:21 am

    Heh! I’ve already learned the hardest lesson to learn, and it isn’t the one you think it is. You’ll learn it later, when it’s too late.

  19. NeoWayland
    March 7th, 2015 @ 10:17 am

    I didn’t say “the hardest,” I said “a hard lesson.”

    When you do find it, it’s going to shake up your world view quite a bit.

  20. Quartermaster
    March 7th, 2015 @ 11:33 am

    I said what I meant. As a result, your worldview matters not a whit. When you learn that same lesson you will realize just how much of a fool you have been, but it will be too late.

  21. NeoWayland
    March 7th, 2015 @ 1:52 pm

    And there come the passive-agressive threats again.

  22. Quartermaster
    March 7th, 2015 @ 4:50 pm

    And you once more prove you have no idea what passive-aggressive means.

  23. K-Bob
    March 7th, 2015 @ 10:28 pm

    You are continuing to fail basic logic. No one forced you to participate. By your reasoning, you are the imposition, since obviously most of us have no problems with Christians.

    Bottom line, you can not avoid the fact that you make the choice to be imposed upon. No one else can make it for you, and you certainly can’t make it for me or anyone else.

  24. NeoWayland
    March 8th, 2015 @ 8:21 am

    I made the choice, but Tor didn’t.