Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Christain & The Atheist: Discussing Religion with Steve Austin

You may have seen the tweets between Steve Austin and myself off and on over the last few months, --I think, time lines can be tricky for me-- but what you haven't seen within these discussions: hate, fear, or condemnation. He has his hand in many pots and started the #AskSteveAustin hashtag as well as his podcast, which can be found here.

He is one of the few individuals I, myself, find interesting. Fascinating at times if you'll allow me to be blunt. Religion is something many of my parts and I find to be an intriguing topic. As you may have heard... "Never discuss religion or politics with a friend." While this is sound advice I often fail because in simple terms, it's interesting.

Religion is a varied and diverse belief system many are passionate about. God --specifically the Christian god-- is a hot fire button for all whom believe in "his word." What I've personally encountered is pity when I attempt to explain my belief's on the subject. Why? I honestly can't fully explain it. From my perspective (the atheist) it seems those who follow some religious constructs or "faith" truly do believe my soul needs saving or I'm somehow not finding fulfillment. I assure you, I am.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth...

Steve and I had a candid conversation, via skype-- Can I get a hip-hip hooray for technology real quick?-- on varied religious high and low points...

We began our conversation with simple pleasantries and some chit chat that inevitably lead us into temptation. 😏 By this I mean, the topic of our conversation, religion. His religious beliefs, my lack of, and our mutual respect and compassion of each other's struggles through a life of trauma and our own individual journey's to recovery.

Religious Discussion with Steve Austin

Erika: Hey Steve, thanks for agreeing to this talk with me. I always find our tweet conversations interesting and even fascinating at times. You're not the norm, but the minority, my friend.

Steve: I enjoy them too and am glad you asked.

E: I wanted to start with a definition. I'm curious, as I am with most things, what your definition of a Preacher is? (We knew he would hate the term Preacher & he did not disappoint)

S: Hmm...Give me a second. Preacher? First of all, it's Pastor. Everyone is a preacher. All people are preaching something spreading information they believe in. A pastor though, is a shepherd. Gathering and leading his flock. A protector, guide and guard. A "watchful eye," not in the intrusive sense. A Friend and confidant. A pastor should want to empower the people, "You're the professional at living your life...but what about trying this?"

E: Well said, we knew you'd take issue with the terminology of Preacher AND am glad you did. Well said though, "hey I got your back." That is exactly what it should be. A watchful eye, but not intrusive and a shoulder to lean on. A church leader should be the first honest and open person you can rely on through all manners of struggles and get you additional help when needed.

S: Yes, Exactly. "Your faith should be strong enough," doesn't help. It's one way the church gets it wrong.

"Your faith should be strong enough..." -Steve Austin

E: That's something I've heard many times throughout childhood. I can't think of anyone in trouble that particular phrase has helped heal. Which leads us into my next question... How do you define faith?

S: That's not a simple answer. For me, faith used to equate to: Prayer, church, making my lists and checking them twice. If I'm a good boy but if not I'll burn in hell. Fear shame and guilt, but now faith is a stubborn belief. Beauty to be found in all things. I believe life and I are worth it.

E: Well said again, this is what makes sense to me. As you know, I do equate God(s) to Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. So that does go back to our previous discussion, your comment on "Making a list and checking it twice." One of my struggles, as a child within the church, was I often had questions...The biggest problem for me was the concept of randomly opening a book, selecting a few sentences and memorizing only those segments. When I had brought this up to my Sunday school "teacher" she was offended at my audacity and said, "I told you to memorize that one what are you doing?"
I attempted to explain to her that I had read it, but I couldn't just choose that and needed to know the context. She took this as disrespectful and proceeded to tell me, "well that doesn't really matter." Even as a young child I couldn't understand how if the word of God held so much weight with these people how then did those other words not matter?

S: Yes I remember and oh my. Yes! I've seen this and done this in Sunday school. It's an interesting point. There isn't any other book we pick up and randomly choose sentences from.

E: Exactly! One of the questions I ask people is if they've read the bible. Most say yes of course, every day...but that isn't my question. Have you read the entire bible, Genesis 1:1 - Revelations 22:21? This is what I find so interesting about religions of all sorts. It is a common thing to jump about sporadically and study only specific texts.

S: It's a very good point. I've never picked up To Kill a Mockingbird and skipped to the end!

E: Haha! Nope, who would? That leads into so many further questions! Because I'm curious, what is your favorite bible passage? Most pastors/church leaders etcetera have at least a top 3...

S: Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus is talking to the people and it basically says, "Come to me and I'll show you how to recover your life." Studying the red letters is what I take from the bible. Jesus' words during two years of ministry school is what I focused on. A Presbyterian, John Piper has said..."Even in your repentance your feet are dangling over the fires of hell." I struggled with this because where is the hope and love? Even in my repentance I'm damned to dangling feet over hell?

E: I'm not familiar with him, but yep. That sounds about what I was taught and the many ways I was continuously threatened with god and the church. Within the Christan religion there were so many inconsistent things I read, saw and was taught that it never fit properly in my mind, even as a young child. I know you're aware of the DID, but I'm not sure what all you know or don't...

S: I know about this much... (Skype remember? He squished his fingers together indicating a very small amount)

E: I figured as much, no worries. Many people don't realize how common dissociative disorders are. If child abuse is a massive epidemic, the corresponding disorders that follow those traumas, often continued and repetitive but in varying degrees and type, then dissociation and DID, specifically, while unfortunate, is not as "rare" as some think or claim.

Romans 13:4  For he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.  (This is a favorite Verse to one of my parts)

That being said, one reason we know many religions well, in addition to it being interesting... W-E-A-P-O-N. The Bible became a powerful weapon of protection. Using the words against those who meant me harm for any number of nonsensical reasons under the guise of "spare the rod, spoil the child." As well as considering me "demon possessed." My parts can sound very different than I do, this is especially true when I was a child. They have different habits and mannerisms and while "Speaking in tongues" is a perfectly normal and accepted thing within the church, I was possessed by demons and my soul needed saving.

Not discussed during our call, but one of my relatives believed herself to be a spiritual warrior who could rid homes of evil. Somehow I was the one who needed "help", but not actual help just to read more and to not lean on my own understanding. Blind faith can kill. Faith is good, even religion has merit, yes I'm an atheist, but I don't think someone's beliefs or lack of defines them as an individual. Provided they aren't causing harm. Buddhism for example, is a very interesting religion in that respect.

"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it..."
-Buddhist Principle of Belief

S: (visibly upset) I am truly sorry. Right, though? Someone being "slain in the spirit" is perfectly normal?

"Compassion comes in, but the church misses it. Religion has become the 'god." -Steve Austin

E: I do honestly appreciate that, but this is the problem. Like you said earlier, the church gets it wrong. Expanding on that, people get it wrong. I don't find there to be some massive amount of evil all around; just awful people, some needing professional help or prison and others who need actual help and not prayer. Prayer to me is hope spoken aloud or in one's mind. It's good it brings people comfort, that's what I find is what the main goal of religion, should be, but often isn't.

As I said, you're one of the more interesting people I've stumbled across on Twitter... You're honestly devout despite some of your struggles. Can you talk to me a bit about some of those recent tweets regarding your own current struggles with faith?

S: That goes back to a recent post on my blog. The Hardest Question I ever asked myself... Ed Bacon author of 8 Habits of Love had said to replace the word God in the bible with the word 'love' and replace Satan/evil with the word 'fear.' I look up to this man and during a discussion with my hands sweaty and shaking in front of many of my conservative friends I asked him the hardest question. The geography of the bible is an interesting thing. This discussion was life affirming and comforting for me.

E: Definitely sounds like it was! I'll link your blog so everyone can find out more about this.

So, I respect your inalienable right to religious freedom, but why is it many devout can't or won't talk to me? Why do these conversations come down to my lack of understanding and the over all 'pitty' for me and my soul? -Long winded I know, sorry!

S: This goes back to religion as a weapon. LGBTQ or DID, black or white all people... If there isn't space at God's table as you are, it doesn't hold water. Which is wrong. That is no longer the unconditional love of God, but becomes expectations. Love is not conditional, it either is love or it is not.

I don't expect there to be evils or demons lurking around every corner or hiding in the bushes.

Ephesians 6:12 - For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places].

There was quite a bit of our call that he found upsetting, and that to me, is not a bad thing, but good. Confusing at times, but a good emotion to experience. As he and I have discussed in length several times at this point, blind faith is the problem. It may surprise you but 'atheist' is not a dirty word nor is 'Christianity.' This discussion we were able to have only drove that home to me and I think for Steve as well. At one point he did mention a story that enlightened him..

S: I was at a gas station when another car pulled up. At this time in my life I was, "Mr. God" who loves everybody. A republican, white male, in Birmingham Alabama. A man got out of the driver's side and who--I first assumed--was a women in the passenger seat said, "I need to get back home!" She was upset, but after I heard her voice I now realized that was a man. His deep voice gave him away.

I would have once assumed him to be "a cross dresser," but I knew they were a gay couple. In Birmingham. This sticks out to me because I was wearing a shirt that said "Real Men Worship God" with a bible verse reference, it was from the book of John but I can't recall which specifically. When the driver had asked me if I could spare $5 to help get them back home, I told him let me finish pumping and then I'll bring the pump to your car. He thanked me and had asked about my shirt.

What you had said earlier about knowing the bible and picking and choosing which verses we study and discounting the importance of the ones before and after made me think of this. Like the good little Christian I was years before...I would have taken this opportunity to witness to them and show them Jesus. When he had asked me about my shirt though, I did not know the bible verse, but I did have my bible app on my phone and looked it up. Summed up the verse refers to who you are and how you live is true worship.

These men brought that to me. It's been this sorta get to know people before judging them. Don't worry about someone else until you really know them because we all matter.

"If what I believe doesn't help humanity
then who gives a shit?" - Steve Austin

E: That's great to hear you had that moment and it meant something to you. I'm certain it meant something to that couple. You helped them when they needed it and likely, hadn't expected it. Thanks again for chatting with us today! I'll let you get back to your family now.

S: Yes it was another great conversation. Talk soon.

For me, the ten commandments are something I often used in defense against my abusers. Knowing our enemy was a key component to survival. Unfortunate, perhaps, but I learned the bible and we studied it quite well. Which pleased those put upon me to due me additional harm on top of the "people" whom had initially caused the DID. My life was truly the perfect storm and religion was at the eye of that chaos.

John 14:15 - If ye love me, keep my commandments.

All of this being said, I don't hate god. That isn't even logical. I don't believe in god, so how can I hate this deity? I don't even hate the people who've harmed me throughout my life, they're simply no longer of any consequence. We focus on my life now, the answers I finally have, connecting with people and continuing to find my own version of "normal."

As you know..."Normal is Illusion. What is Normal for the Spider is Chaos for the Fly."

Peace & Be Well!🌀
Revelations 22:21 The Grace of the Lord be with all. Amen. -ESV

Revelations 22:21 The Grace of the Lord Jesus be with all God's People. -NIV

Revelations 22:21 May the Grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's Holy People. - NLT

The Bible in all of it's varied publications is an interesting read, with certainty, but which of these versions of the very last verse do you follow?


  1. This was really interesting to me. I'm spiritual, but was brought up Christian, and after realising religion was not for me at about 15, for various reasons, I have struggled to manage my emotions (mostly anger) around Christianity.
    For me, I have to not believe in a God, because if I did I would hate them. I hope there is a greater power, something after, but I can't believe that they have enough power to stop the evil in the world and choose not to.
    For me, it comes down to this "If God is all powerful, then he cannot be all good. And if he is all good, he cannot be all powerful." And I refuse to believe in, or respect, something who chooses not to be all good.
    I live my religion-free life trying to be good, to support real human beings who I know exist, trying to spread love and preach understanding & tolerance. If God exists and he wants me to give a sh1t about him, he's going to have to do the same!
    (sorry for the rant!)

    1. Please, no need to apologize ever. You have a strong view point & always appreciate people's comments.
      That being said, I do understand where you're coming from in a way. Well put.