theism & (in)validation

content notes: vague abuse allusions, worth/esteem issues, victim-blaming, scrambled emotional gunk, God talk and religion talk, skippable, skippable, skippable

I was reminded, today, of the… usefulness, psychologically, of distancing yourself from your own encouragement — of merging third-person-view-of-self with the things you need to hear, or, thinking of the people who love you and refueling on that when you can’t manage to love yourself directly, or, holding yourself at arm’s length and speaking to yourself As If You Were Someone Else to make sure that you’ll be able to hear yourself.  The tool of dodging first-person to enable self-care.  It’s surprisingly effective.

(enter can of worms)

So what do I make of my cheat code?

How do I look at my relationship with God without sneering to myself, “oh how convenient“?

— as if I could separate my ideas about God from the soil they grew in, as if I haven’t always grit my teeth at every dismissive implication that benevolent-Christian-theism is just imaginative emotional neediness, a lack of mental fortitude, a lazy grab at validation, just a comfort blanket, excuse/cop-out/delusion for the purpose of covert self-reassurance you can’t give yourself.  I can barely separate the mindset from some rugged individualistic pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps condemnation of need and assistance, and the emotion vs. reason binary, and If You Were Just Strong Enough You Wouldn’t Need That Anymore.

— as if I haven’t always bristled at well-meaning nontheists citing the comfort blanket effect as their reason for tolerance.  I know they mean well, I know they mean well, I know they mean well.  But I’m just as sick of “that’s not something I believe in but I don’t mind that you use it to make yourself feel better; I don’t judge :)” because yyyeeow is that patronizing, why don’t you pat me on the head and give me a lollipop while you’re at it.  I don’t want theism excused on the basis of comfort.  My theology is not a pair of fluffy socks for the cold days, it’s not an accessory, it’s not separable off into some isolable just-emotions corner that simply can’t be helped.  It means too much for there to be any relief in hearing it means nothing to you.  If you’re not interested fighting me on it, fine, whatever, but that’s no way to call a truce.  If you’re going to see me as wrong, see me as wrong, as– as– the trope is “Worthy Opponent,” you know the one?

— as if these haven’t influenced the way I shy from and hold the emotional-/-spiritual aspect of my religion at arm’s length, regarding it with suspicion & self-monitoring & self-monitoring & self-monitoring because the thoughts you can justify but the “emotions” (separate? distinguishable? how do you pry those apart every time) you can’t, you can’t just let yourself use theism as a wellspring of emotional resolution.  You can’t use that shortcut too often or else that will prove its invalidity (I’m reminded of the Simpson’s joke: “if you’re happy and you know it, that’s a sin.” ha. ha.).

— as if this self-monitoring & self-criticism of my own emotionality hasn’t always been a continual thread; for as long as I can remember, I’ve had trouble with flat affect, with forgetting to make facial expressions at all or what ones to use (when)(how)(does this look natural please tell me I blend in), knowing I’m giving the wrong reactions to something but not knowing how to perform the right ones, feeling too much or too little at the wrong time and feeling guilty for it because this should be natural… The weird, doublethink, of struggling to learn to Perform “natural.”  Not to mention, what I was reminded of today, of my childhood baggage with the question “Are you having fun?” (lol what a loser, right? (there it is again, wrong reaction, wrong way to feel, wrong, wrong, condemn yourself for hurting, blame yourself for what’s beyond your control)).

Whew.  That’s just a sample of backstory.

And even thinking about trying to get further into it & write about this subject brings up its own host of issues because what do I want from you, right?  This is the trouble with a mixed audience.  How am I going to shoot down everything without telling you what the appropriate way to handle this is?  I don’t know, myself.  A part of me’s just ornery enough to want to say “lol I don’t know, you figure it out.”  But at the same time, I love y’all and don’t want to treat you like that or throw you into some unworkable etiquette conundrum.  So what do I do, then, knowing what kind of demographics are most likely to read this?  Do I just swallow it and be quiet rather than getting into it?

Do I just

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8 responses to “theism & (in)validation

  • Siggy

    I’m not sure anything I can say would be helpful, but I feel like I empathize even though I’m not sure what I’m empathizing with. I tried writing out why I feel that way, and then decided it didn’t sound remotely similar to what you said.

    FWIW when atheists talk about letting religious people have their comfort, the most common counter-argument is, “but isn’t that kind of patronizing?”

  • epochryphal

    resonances:
    “how convenient”
    self-monitoring and monitoring and monitoring
    using it proves it’s a crutch it’s a fake it’s an addiction it’s a fantasy it’s invalid
    bootstraps (funnily enough, though, i associate bootstraps with my fundie dad who would argue atheists are the one’s coddling themselves with their beliefs)
    this should be natural i shouldn’t have to think about this

    i think it only hasn’t been bugging because i 1. did the Conscious Decision Of Beliefs thing and 2. then stopped engaging w it basically. it comes up a lot more now that i’m doing stuff w it…and i’m trying to believe that counters the crutch/fake argument

  • Arrela

    I’m just going to quote yourself back at you because “My theology is not a pair of fluffy socks for the cold days, it’s not an accessory, it’s not separable off into some isolable just-emotions corner that simply can’t be helped. It means too much for there to be any relief in hearing it means nothing to you. If you’re not interested fighting me on it, fine, whatever, but that’s no way to call a truce. If you’re going to see me as wrong, see me as wrong, as– as– the trope is “Worthy Opponent,” you know the one?” Aaaaaahhhhhh. Yes.

    Also I am constantly worried about “do I just believe in this because it gives me comfort, I don’t think I do, but it does give me comfort, that means it’s intellectually lazy oh no I am just doing this for my own short term benefit” Which makes me feel guilty, both for “proving atheists right” and, almost more fundamentally, for not truly letting God be a power for change in me or whatever, idk, it’s confusing.

    Short version: Please talk more about all of this, if you can, because I really really want to read it.

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