You'd think "coming out" to my family would get rid of that feeling, wouldn't you? Well, guess what? Unless your family, friends and community let you be yourself, the feeling of being two different people doesn't go away. All this week I've dreamed about yelling at various people, just letting everything out. And people wonder why I'm so tired all the time.
I can't remember if I already posted this. I did a search for my name and it didn't turn up, so here goes:
Posted by Category: Miscellaneous Blog Entries, Throne of Thought
The following post was originally a letter to The Thinking Atheist. It expresses my frustration at not being able to be myself, of having to compartmentalize my life. It sucks SO much.
Dear Thinking Atheist,
I listened to your “Facepalm” podcast on YouTube and nearly every story resonated with me.
I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home and attended a fundamentalist Christian school and church. I was never allowed to have contact with anyone who believed differently. Disbelieving was not an option. Until I was in college it never occurred to me that there was any other way to live.
Ridding myself of Christian dogma has been a long, painful process. At one point my mother tried to have me committed to a mental institution, insisting I was possessed by a demon. It doesn’t get much weirder than that and yet it actually happened. Sometimes I can hardly believe it myself. I am so full of facepalm moments it’s a bloody wonder I don’t have a permanent hand-shaped depression gouged into my forehead.
I was a so-called “new atheist” before it was cool…wait, is it cool? No, I guess it isn’t. My bad. Anyway, I came out of the closet not long after the 2001 terrorist attacks. This was before the wave of atheist books so I braved the fallout completely alone. And what a fallout it was!
During the past couple of years I’ve grown weary of fighting. I used to have some “controversial” bumper stickers and a Darwin fish on my bumper. Local residents would road rage and tailgate me. I was never sure if it was just crazy people acting crazy or if it was some kind of reaction to the bumper stickers or Darwin fish. Then my car was vandalized twice.
On the eve of election 2004, someone stole my Kerry 2004 bumper sticker. I had anticipated this. All my bumper stickers were magnetic and had the words, “Thou shalt not steal” written on the back. Apparently, it was enough to make the bumper sticker thief quit in mid-theft—temporarily guilt-ridden—because only one sticker was missing.
Some time later, my car broke down and I had to park it in a church parking lot overnight: bad part of town for my poor atheist car. Of course, around here pretty much everywhere is a “bad part of town” for my poor atheist car. During the night the Darwin fish got up and walked away. Now, I know for a fact natural selection doesn’t work on inanimate objects. That fish undoubtedly had some help, most likely in the form of a religious nut ironically gifted with legs by his tetrapod ancestors.
I gave up and removed the remaining stickers. The tailgating incidents have stopped. Obviously, advertising beliefs via car in this area is a very bad idea. I’m not like Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. I can’t fight my family and my entire community. I’ve started keeping my beliefs to myself because it has become too exhausting and nerve-wracking to do otherwise.
Like the religious nuts, I now compartmentalize my life. My normal, everyday self is “Galadriel” (not my real alternate screen name). My evil twin is Atheist in FundyLand. (BTW, I’m still not sure I want to be associated with myself, so please don’t expose these two aliases together. Pick one and go with it. )
I’ve tried very hard to make Galadriel likeable and non-confrontational. Atheist in FundyLand says what Galadriel would rather not say and sometimes gets into arguments neither Galadriel nor Atheist in FundyLand wants to finish. Atheist in FundyLand started a blog at http://www.atheistinfundyland.com , but Galadriel isn’t sure she wants to deal with religious shit anymore. The blog has sat untended for quite some time now.
Meanwhile, Galadriel goes about her daily business, trying hard not to upset her family and the locals. The only problem is Galadriel loves fossils and natural history. Fundamentalists do not love fossils and natural history. Galadriel likes to make and wear fossilized shark-tooth necklaces. They are so striking—sorry, but they really are—people always ask about them. So, Galadriel, being passionate and full of knowledge, explains that the 2-inch megalodon shark tooth around her neck is approximately 5 million years old.
At this point, the eyes of the person who made the mistake of asking start to glaze over.
Carcharocles megalodon was a giant shark from the Eocene and Pleistocene epochs that actively hunted and ate whales. Instead of learning more about the shark or the necklace (which I made), the questioner insists the Earth is only ten thousand years old. I try to explain the various kinds of radiometric dating, specifically that of the radioactive isotope of potassium, which decays into argon. The half life of radioactive potassium is long enough to accurately date earth’s rich past of volcanic eruptions and the fossils buried above and below these eruptions.
The questioner tells me scientists have learned the carbon in potassium decays at a much faster rate than previously thought. (Facepalm)
The carbon in potassium? Carbon and potassium are elements. I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure the atomic weights of each pretty much rule out the possibility of potassium decaying into carbon or vice versa.
(Yes, I borrowed from another blog entry. Sue me.)
These creationists act like I should feel blessed to learn the truth. One went on to explain that gravity is an electromagnetic force and that Earth’s gravity used to be much less than today. That’s why the dinosaurs could walk around without remaining submerged in water. (WTF does Earth’s gravity have to do with evolution????)
Galadriel tries to move on with her life. She really does. She is tired of fighting it out with the creationists and religious nuts. So instead of engaging, Galadriel runs. And she wonders whether, in order to maintain peace in her heart, Atheist in FundyLand must die. Even if Atheist in FundyLand becomes a memory, the fossils Galadriel loves remain. She wears them every day. They’ve become her trademark. There will always be a fossil around her neck and there will always be some hapless creationist who asks about it. What should Galadriel do?
Galadriel…or Atheist in FundyLand?
Primate teeth, huh? I'm not sure how available those are. I read about a new find in Uganda: a 20-million-year-old ape. I didn't know the ape lineage went back that far, although it makes sense. 10 million years ago there were a lot more ape species than there are now.
I doubt there are real teeth of our ancestors available, considering how rare they are. Maybe casts are available.
I was just thinking it would be a closer relative...rather than a reptile or fish. I doubt I could afford such a thing anyway. Unless it was a cast, like you mentioned. Even then, museum gift shops can be ridiculously PRICEY...ha. I'm picturing it sold at Natural History Museums but somebody could start an interesting jewelry line....start-up capitalist venture, anyone??
Actually, I have such a fossil jewelry store (Internet only). It's a new venture and I'm still getting my feet wet. "Galadriel" owns that store. Atheist in FundyLand occasionally pops out and tells young-Earth creationists they are batshit crazy. I did that to a fundy geology / fossil store owner. Luckily I was able to go back in her store and pretend I didn't say, "People who can't change their minds scare me."
So far I've offered fossilized shark teeth, ammonites and mastodon ivory. People seem to like megalodon-tooth and great-white-tooth necklaces the best so far. All shark teeth are fossilized, so don't worry about extant species. The youngest fossils I have are 3 million years old or so.
Right now I'm working on the CUTEST baby megalodon tooth. It's only about an inch long. The tooth is black and I'm complementing it with turquoise bone hairpipes, black glass pony beads and pewter spacers. It looks especially cute after working with a few rather large meg teeth (for jewelry).
If anyone is sincerely interested, I can PM the store URL. I don't want to be associated with myself just yet. ;)
BTW, I do custom work. So far that's been my forte. I'm making a custom hatband for a guy right now. I just finished two custom megalodon-tooth necklaces.
I'm a rock collector too!
(My bumper sticker says: What Schools Need is a Moment of Science.)
Who can argue with THAT?
Evolvefish.com has some great selections that may be a bit more 'muted' in their messages than the Darwin Fish. Comical ones too. The subtle approach is okay.
Perhaps a little flippancy in an answer could help you out.
"The religious community may only be 10K years old, but the world outside is far older."
It's difficult to live in such an environment, and sometimes the consequences may seem to outweigh one's convictions to do so. My family survived for a time amidst some seriously oppressive religionists, and we're okay. I suggest Galadriel maintain, and be known for her steadfastness in conviction.
...and post here occasionally to let us know how things are going. Make the best of lemons and bananas. -- a smoothie!