Part of the 10 Questions with an Atheist series.
This is a first in my 10 Questions with an Atheist series: a bona fide agnostic.
Who’s my agnostic? A prolific writer named Lorette C. Luzajic.
Lorette writes seven columns across the web, has published hundreds of poems and a few short stories, and freelances articles on just about any topic.
I first ran into Lorette at her Pillars of Faith series on Daniel Florien’s Unreasonable Faith blog.
I liked that she hadn’t completely defected from theism, so I asked her for an interview. She kindly accepted.
Without further delay…Lorette Luzajic.
1. How would you describe yourself: atheist, agnostic or skeptic? Explain.
Right now I guess agnostic and skeptic describe me best. I prefer to say I’m in the process of “converting to reason”. A phrase I came up with the other day kind of sums up where I’m at: I can’t be sure there is no God, but I’m becoming less and less certain that there is one.
2. When did you know you were an agnostic? Did it scare you or was it a non-issue?
Twenty years ago I broke away from the destructive chains of fundamentalist Christianity. For two decades I explored complementary faiths. I was drawn to very mystical things and continued to study the message of Christ, but not in church. A year and a half ago, I joined a very progressive, social-justice oriented church and was blessed by tremendous healing within an incredibly loving sanctuary. My teacher, the Rev. Brent Hawkes, is one of the most tremendous human beings in the world.
I am also blessed to have a Buddhist monk teacher and friend over the years who gives perspective to my ups and downs.
Through the years I also studied mythology and women’s history, and stopped believing ‘other people’s’ faith meant they were hell bound a long time ago. Faith is an expression of God, I believed, not a reason to kill other people because yours is the right expression. That was missing the point entirely in my mind.
But this losing my religion thing happened quickly and unexpectedly just after Obama’s inauguration. I had posted a few blogs, one for fun- Sexiest President Ever- and one about great ways to celebrate National Sanctity of Life day, nowhere near an abortion clinic.
In the latter I mentioned a dozen or so ways a person could champion life that were far more pressing and also illustrated the calamity we have on our hands with so many unwanted children or poor or orphaned children. To me it seems unmerciful to insist on bringing babies into the world when there are millions who need our immediate attention. I was careful to remain neutral on my own views about abortion, simply to illustrate other ways we should be directing our mercy. Life doesn’t end at birth! For example, there are hundreds of child brothels in the Philippines. Maybe the Pope can let the impoverished Catholics there use birth control for crying out loud.
My in box became flooded with the most idiotic, puerile, militant ‘evangelism’ about ‘babykiller Obama’ because he had lifted the ban on donating funds to third world health centres. Bush withheld because those centres “might” counsel abortion. And so millions did not get contraception or health care they needed. Obama was right to resume support of these agencies- this measure prevents pain and suffering and the orphaning of children. No Muslim or Catholic country hands out abortion like candy!
The “Christian” mail I got was racist, sick, sad, sorry, disgusting, and when I began to look around the web to see what these Christians were thinking, I couldn’t believe what I saw. Obama was accused of everything from being a Muslim terrorist to being black because he was b***-f***ing in doodoo, not to mention antichrist, death threats to ni**ers, and stuff that made Fred Phelps look like Mother Teresa.
At that moment, I suddenly wondered who brought the message forward from 2000 years ago that it ended up here? When I began reading more about the “great theologians” and messengers, all I found was murder, death, war, and the ground crumpled out from beneath me.
I couldn’t help it.
Our family worshipped John Calvin- we blamed the women burnings on Catholics in our house, but John Calvin himself was personally responsible for much of it. How could I trust any of these messengers?
The walls of Jericho came tumbling down, let me tell you. I had built- we all have- my house on the sand. I wrote a small book during the first blasts of the trumpet- nearly 10 thousand words of despair at all of Christianity.
Of course it is terrifying to lose your faith! People always think that scientists or others were ‘demon possessed’ or that atheists are trying to sell their evil religion.
Charles and his peers were ripped apart spiritually by their new discoveries. Many of his peers committed suicide because of what they found. John Wesley, other theologians also had great doubt. Writer Lucy Maud Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables) was married to a preacher who spent his life having nervous breakdowns because he was terrified of going to hell. He was Christian, but couldn’t be sure under John Calvin’s predestination theory whether he was chosen or not.
Lee Strobel is far guiltier for his “Case For” series because he HAS an agenda, where the others didn’t, doubt or evidence against their structured belief came to them.
For example, Lee gives us the idea that Bart Ehrman the Bible historian has a grudge against faith and is setting out to disprove the Bible, and that one of his facts was wrong. The fact is, Bart is tremendously objective when presenting scholars’ viewpoints, and Lee would have to refute a few thousand facts before the scholar could be discredited.
But the further outside of it I get, the less emotional it will become. I’m reading with an open mind. I’ve never thought Hinduism, Islam, wicca, etc ‘were true’ – just varying histories and philosophies. Why was my cultural inheritance any different?
When I was young, all I read was Christian apologetics, and then I wasn’t reading about it much at all. Now I’m reading all the forbidden books- not just on atheism, but on archeology, science, evolution, Bible history, history, Sumer, Mesopotamia, early Christianity, Gnosticism, the Inquisition, the Burning Times, Catholic history, the Popes, the Reform, canonization, paganism and pagan history, pre-Biblical history (we’re not supposed to know there IS one!), who wrote the Bible, inerrancy etc.
Once the Bible was considered so dangerous to Christianity that the Church was its only interpreter and you could be burned at the stake for having your own copy. So I’m reading that, too, and not just the verses I grew up on. The whole thing.
3. Ever suffer persecution as an agnostic?
Not yet. It can’t be any worse than the sick things I’ve been called for being a thinking Christian. Never by atheists. Only by holier than thou Christians. Faggot lover, communist, leftie, ‘Alinsky acolyte’ (had to look that one up) and so on…what part of Jesus was a commie’ do these people not get?
4. What do you want to accomplish with your life?
Simply to experience life as fully as possible. To be kind to kind people and neutral to those who piss me off. To recycle. To read another six thousand books. To create another 500 paintings, and most importantly, to finish all of the writing projects in my head or that are partially done.
5. Who are your heroes? Why?
Farmers and workers who grow our food. These nameless people work endlessly for us to eat.
Sacha Baron Cohen-what a genius. He was able to expose the truth about human nature over and over again.
Madonna. Here’s a woman who doesn’t throw in the towel when someone calls her a slut. Who tries new things, even if they fail. Who thinks big. Who is not afraid of women being sexual and intelligent at any age. Who is a massive supporter of the arts.
Seriously, we don’t know what the world would be like without her. Feminism might have died, or been sexless. People might still be afraid to speak to/befriend/partner with people of other races and cultures, or gay people. Some still are. It takes a lot of courage to be so outspoken, to face constant criticism. Even the adulation must get exhausting.
In my more religious moments I wondered whether or not Madonna might actually be the lady ‘messiah.’ With her birth name and Catholicism, her inexplicable interest in Jewish mysticism, and her ability to influence the world to issues like women, voting, AIDS, world hunger, Africa, homophobia…
I wondered if she knew, or if fate was just happening. I thought God wouldn’t be sexist but waited until the world was ready, that he sent his incarnations at different times to change the world. But I’m not so religious anymore!
6. What would you like to accomplish with your blog?
Pillars of Faith was born out of my investigation into ‘the messengers’ of Christianity. I was shocked to find even the most holy were utterly twisted. I had had no idea Martin Luther said such sick things about Jews, for example.
I wasn’t taught in Sunday School that the early church fathers called women an open sewer and debated over whether or not we have a soul. People need to know this stuff, so they can assess whether the rest of the teachings are coming from a person who is ‘of God’ , to assess the motivations or authority of that person.
I was force fed the need to respect the teachings of Calvin, James Dobson, etc without really knowing the whole story or thinking for myself.
If Madonna is criticized for praying with faggots, shouldn’t those who burned them at the stake be brought to light? For all we hear today from jokers like Dobson about homo pedophiles, shouldn’t we know that John Knox was a senior when he married a 15 year old girl? Shouldn’t we know just what St. Augustine thought about women?
Many people, even scholars like my dad don’t even know some of the stuff behind the scenes. Some of the things he didn’t even believe, even when I showed it to him, like the garbage about stoning rebellious children. The answer is always “those aren’t real Christians” and that’s why there are two gazillion branches of Christianity. And always were!
The early church also had many interpretations. I only knew these things peripherally before my deconversion experience began. It’s ironic that I’ve never read the Bible this much, and it’s a much fuller experience when I read it now with an open mind. I thought I had been.
The column is also a branch of my larger oeuvre, called Fascinating People. This is my ‘life’s work,’ started last year- to research and write essay length biographies of anyone and everybody. We don’t have time to read a full bio about every person, but should get to know the interesting figures in history and today.
This column branched into several for various magazines- Fascinating Writers for Book Slut, and two others. In a way, this is the Fascinating Christians branch, but for Daniel Florien’s Unreasonable Faith, I wanted them to be shorter and snappier.
7. What’s your favorite part about being an agnostic?
So far? The reading.
8. Are there any Christian concepts that you respect?
Yes, absolutely. I’m a writer and poet, so I may always retain my cultural inheritance of being Christian in a symbolic or metaphorical way. The stories of Jesus are profound. I believe in feeding the poor.
The Old Testament stories aren’t ones I avoid anymore. I studied mythology a lot before, so I already knew that many of them are rewritten over and over all over the world, that they are taken from pagan literature.
The writing of Sumer was all psalms, lamentations…mythology was full of war gods, plagues, floods- we used the stories to explain natural phenomenon, as well as to edify the soul. But even when you are a non-literalist Christian, you aren’t supposed to believe these stories didn’t happen the way they happened.
I believe everything that Jesus said. This new Calvinism, this reconstructionist and dominionist and tribulation theology- this stuff is the antichrist, not Obama or liberalism or even secularism.
These philosophies focus on hating sinners and heathens and blaming the criminal and the poor on their lack of blessing from God, instead of on the devastating effects of our greed and consumerism.
But Jesus made it very clear who he was. I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat. I was sick, I was a prisoner, I was thirsty. Jesus was the poor! He was poor! He didn’t drive around in a Benz dripping in flashy watches, owning six horse ranches, yelling out his hatred for homosexuals and heathens. He said if you want to be perfect, sell what you have, give to the poor, and follow me.
So don’t tell me that I’M the one who picks and chooses my verses, people.
9. Does it irritate you when Christians try to share their faith with you?
No, but I have withdrawn from my church and my parents’ church so that as this process evolves for me, I won’t be swayed by emotion.
At my church, I feel the presence of God and at my Dad’s, I feel abject loathing for the idiocy of Christians. And I don’t want these emotions to affect my reading.
Engaging in conversation is welcome. My dad and I have been talking about it a lot, and it’s great for me because for the first time I’ve been strong enough to stand up for true morality- and tell him, sex is not sin, being born gay is not sin, being female is not sin, sin is genocide, torturing heretics, war, killing heathens, coming over and robbing land that already belonged to people, thinking black people weren’t human, wife beating, not hiring people because they are gay or Hindu or whatever, ‘converting’ from gay and marrying some poor woman just to look Christian, lying, etc. Anyone who says ‘savage’ heathens were cannibals or made human sacrifices need only read the Old Testament and the history of the Church to see that human barbarism is universal, and we should be moving forward, away from it, not backwards.
10. Were you ever a Christian? Would you go back?
I couldn’t go back to what I was as a child, no way. I understand now that if I were born into a devout Hindu family I would have been a devout Hindu. If I had been born into a casual Catholic family, I would likely have been a casual Catholic. We are taught what to be. I’m not sure if I my conversion to reason process will leave me metaphorically Christian for the joy of my cultural inheritance, because right now I feel I must make a stand far, far apart from the representatives of this faith. It’s hard to give up the spirituality that has defined you, but ironically, “Christians” are making it morally imperative for me to do so.
Lorette, thank you so much for sharing and holding nothing back. So…any questions or comments out there?