“To admit uncertainty is to admit to weakness, to powerlessness, and to believe in yourself despite both. It is a frailty, but in this frailty, there is a strength: the conviction to live in your own mind, and not in someone else’s.” – Tara Westover, Educated
My thoughts are never far from the important work of exposing religious abuse, but I’ve been a bit overwhelmed in my personal life…lacking time and focus to write. I sincerely thank all of my readers and supporters for your patience with me. I am still figuring out how to pursue this project with my new job, consulting for my old job, being newly remarried, and now having 5 kids in the house (some days)!
The past year has been the best of my life, hands down. It’s also been the most chaotic and life changing. I married for the 3rd (YES) time, switched to speaking Spanish in the home and with my husband, started a new job in affordable housing after working in international human rights for 16 years, and have added many more people to our little townhouse. It’s brought us more joy and fun than I can articulate, and also more stress and challenges than I know what to do with some days. But in review, I think being vulnerable and open brings the greatest opportunities and joys. I do not play life safe. I dive headfirst into the unknown…for better or worse.
I don’t want to be the same person today as I was on December 30, 2020, or who I’ll be on December 30 2022. I believe that if we are more intentional with the content we consume, we will be more challenged and continue to grow as people. It’s also the reason I don’t hesitate to expect my kids to learn and improve. It’s one of my greatest values, and the reason I read and watch things that might not immediately appeal to me or that I might even think sound threating to my worldview. For example, I’ve read/listened to some incredible books that deeply impacted me this year, including Letter to a Christian Nation which let me to the full - length End of Faith by Sam Harris and The Four Horsemen: The Conversation That Sparked an Atheist Revolution, as well as Something’s Not Right – Discovering the Hidden Tactics of Abuse and Freeing Yourself from Its power by Wade Mullen of a Christian perspective. I highly recommend them all, as well as all the films and documentaries I watched, giving more insight to the experience of black Americans like: The Hate You Give (MUST WATCH), 13th (EVEN MORE MUST WATCH) and Colin in Black and White.
The ability to not just listen, but really hear and empathize with another’s experience seems to be the most relevant aspect of humanity. And it’s the very one that so many reject, preferring their political party or religious talking points, rather than engaging others, person to person. It’s also the perspective that judges those who lose their faith thinking they just want to engage in all the “sinful” activity, rather than understanding that those who lose their faith are more likely grieving that all they believed to be true is not, and that they miss aspects of their community, but simultaneously feel obligated to be truthful in their non-belief…rather than pretend.
I already knew I was no longer a believer in Christianity before reading/listening to the work of Sam Harris and other well-known atheists’ authors/apologists. It seems to me that many believe the famous atheists of our time are drawing people away from Christianity. From what I have observed on private social media sites like Exvangelicals, atheists, etc. is that people like me are leaving after doing their own research and evaluating their life experiences in the church and with individuals. Put bluntly, Christians would be leaving their faith in large numbers WITHOUT the writings of leading atheists. For me, listening to books by these folks was more of a confirmation of what I already believed…enhanced with some snarky humor for which I’m a total sucker.
The book that most impacted me this year is Educated: a Memoir by Tara Westover. I can’t recommend it enough and also don’t want to give away any spoilers. Suffice to say, if you read this book, you will not be disappointed with the story or insight provided. Tara writes about her childhood in an isolationist Mormon community in Idaho. Her experience does not represent the average Mormon, but her religious experience is relatable, insightful, and powerful to those of any religious or non-religious background. That’s just how incredible her story is.
Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind. I had come to believe that the ability to evaluate many ideas, many histories, many points of view, was at the heart of what it means to self-create. If I yielded now, I would lose more than an argument. I would lose custody of my own mind. This was the price I was being asked to pay, I understood that now. What my father wanted to cast from me wasn’t a demon: it was me.
I think this quote will definitely resonate with those raised in controlling and abusive environments. Yet, her story and insight touches so much more of life. I’m deeply grateful to my fellow missionary kid friend who recommended this book to me. At first, I was a little confused as to why she would have recommend it. And then I couldn’t imagine putting it down.
I hope to be in touch more often from now on with updates, interviews, and efforts to hold religious abusers accountable. If you have suggestions, feedback, or a story to share, please do not hesitate to contact me.
My very best wishes!