Origins

I was born into a not really practicing Irish Catholic family. My grandmother is very religious. I went to CCD, had an Advent wreath and made the sacraments in time with all my peers. At no point was it ever explained to me who Jesus was or why I should love him. No one participating in my religious education ever had the vaguest interest in answering my questions about Jesus, Catholicism and the Bible. It pretty much just reinforced that it wasn’t something I would ever feel connected to.

When I growing up, my great aunt showed me how to read tarot cards. It was something several women in our family had done. She told me about crystals and herbs and our spiritual connection to the earth. She lent me books about the old Irish religion (Celtic paganism) and showed me how she incorporated some of these beliefs into her life. This felt real to me. This was the connection I had never had with Catholicism.

I grew into a teenager and read more about Paganism and met other people who believed in the same things. The major tenet of Paganism is to do no harm. It is one of the few world religions to accommodate the validity of multiple belief systems. Paganism does not purport to be the only true religion. It purports to be a religion that shares the world with other religions. It preaches good works and that the universe will punish or reward you according to your actions.

A very common misconception about Paganism is that it is Satanism, which it is not. There is no Satan in pagan religions. We do not sacrifice animals.  We do not eat children.  We are just regular people.

I had a really hurtful conversation today about Halloween. I explained the origins of Halloween from Samhain, the Irish end of the year festival. I explained that it had nothing to do with the devil. I was really not expecting the response that all gods other than the Christian God are guises of the devil, which implies that all of us who worship them are worshipping the devil.

Here’s the thing: I’m getting really tired of people judging me because I’m not Christian. I’m not Christian. I’m probably never going to be. Not everyone in the world is Christian. I am okay with not being Christian.

I have MANY close Christian friends. Many. I have no problem with their being Christian. They are respectful of my choice in religion. I participate in the important religious events of their lives. Sometimes we discuss the differences between our beliefs. We can agree to disagree. Neither of us feels superior to the other. Many of my friends post religious quotes or parables online and offer prayers when I am struggling. I have no problem with these things, and think prayer offers are kind and helpful. Crossfaith friendships are a thing. I have many.

This conversation in particular really upset me because of the events of this week. I stood out front of the entire mast cell community and wrote a public statement that has been read over 1000 times since first being posted. I answer hundreds of questions every week from everyone who asks me. I am actively putting together new initiatives to raise awareness and foster patient and provider education about our diseases. Two hours before this interaction, I was giving a presentation on mast cell disease to 40 researchers to spread awareness about our conditions. So when I’m doing all those things to improve the quality of our collective lives, it’s no big deal that I’m a devil worshipper? Just the rest of the time? Are you kidding me?

This post is not about Christianity. It’s about the fact that judgment is ugly and hurtful. I do not believe in helping a select group of people. I believe in offering the same help to everyone equally. But this is getting hard to live with. I shouldn’t be crying on my couch because someone who I help without question is judging me for my spiritual beliefs. And in the larger context of today, I have realized that this sort of thing is a lot more prevalent in my life than I was allowing myself to realize. My willingness to accept people just the way they are looks a lot like tolerance for this sort of thing and that’s my mistake.

I am a good person. I treat people fairly. I help people as much as I can, sometimes to the point of not getting enough sleep or talking to people in the ER in the middle of the night or reading obscure papers in bed with one eye open so I can find the answer someone needs. I am flawed, but I try hard to improve the lives of those around me. And I don’t judge people for their religious beliefs. Not even a little.

I accept your right to worship however you like and don’t make presumptions about the existential consequences of your religious choices. I am just looking for the same respect. You either accept me or you don’t. I am tired of overextending myself to help people who turn around and judge me in this way. It is unbelievably hurtful. I am not easily upset and I am not easily shaken, but this has got me questioning a lot of things.

I’m going to make myself scarce for a bit outside of my own MastAttack forum on Facebook (feel free to join if you haven’t) because frankly my recent experiences with social media are proving to be bad for my health. I feel like I haven’t written about the science of mast cell disease in ages so I’m going to return to doing that for a while.

As always, I’m here if you have questions. I just ask that you leave me alone if you think I’m a bad/ mislead/ confused person because I choose not to follow your faith. I think I deserve that much. No one needs to feel this way.

11 Responses

  1. Wendy October 22, 2014 / 6:27 pm

    Lisa, its hard but don’t let these people get to you. I know exactly how you feel, I am a christian and I live in Utah which is 90% Mormon and many look at us like we are so beneath them. We should not judge each other its not our place to judge. I for one am so glad you are around because I get the best masto info from you. I would be lost with out it. When we suffer from a very rare disease we should support each other not tear each other down.

  2. Celeste October 22, 2014 / 6:39 pm

    Thank you for sharing this particular topic. You have said what I have wanted to say a long time ago but I have been afraid of being judged for not being a Christian.

  3. Katie M October 22, 2014 / 7:23 pm

    I can totally relate to this as a non-Christian having lived most of my life in Texas and as a bar owner. I think it’s the “they are what’s ruining this country” mentality that drove me nuts, but this could apply to some liberal places as well. I always thought it be nice to live in a more secular environment like the northeast or CA, but then after moving to MN, I feel at home. It’s not necessarily a secular place, but the majority of the people are just so down to earth and reasonable. Religion is more like a personal thing than a soapbox.

  4. Amy E. October 22, 2014 / 8:41 pm

    I like the new format, btw. Nice Job, everyone, on that!

  5. Donna Devejian Fleischmann October 22, 2014 / 9:58 pm

    Lisa, I will never understand how anyone who considers them self to be a good Christian could behave in a hurtful way toward any human being. What you have experienced is actually the complete antithesis of true Christianity. I am genuinely sorry that you have been hurt like this. Please know that you are highly respected and appreciated for being the caring, thoughtful, and giving person that you are. You are a shining beacon of light. Thank you!

  6. Kathleen October 23, 2014 / 4:32 am

    Lisa, It makes absolutely no difference to me what anyone practices or believes as long as they don’t feel superior to others and that certainly isn’t you! I have friends of all beliefs and none. Their actions, not what they choose to call themselves, define who they are and make them the wonderful, caring and unique people that they are. You do so much for so many here, despite your busy life and health battles. You need to take care of YOU first.

  7. Amy E. October 23, 2014 / 7:01 am

    Jesus hurt the SanHedrons (but they were the jews where very very religious). He wasn’t always sweet and loving feeling. He actually threw tables down in the temples angry with the believers who were making HIS sanctuary a place to make money and no longer sacred. He was a peacemaker and can “to bring the sword” (the bible says). Yup. I know. Sounds weird. But you see how far his attempt is to clean HIS church first. While plenty of sinfuls religions were walking around and about the outside of the temple, HE was desiring to clean HIS temple up.
    On this note…. I don’t want to pacify another person, so as to be ignorant further, in an effort to be “loving” in a syruppy-sweet sort of way that doesn’t involve the tough and the kind love intermingled. Because love is both tough and kind…. Love is both hard and perseveringly patient. Marriage is such an example of what real loving one another is like. IT has arguments and hard time; but it also has those very wonderfully intimate times as well. So on this note, I’d like to get a bit heady here.
    I’d like to discern between proper judgements (we make them everyday, just as much as it takes a judgement to ban anyone from this site) and improper judgements(the eternal types)….not someone discussing the difference between religions and maybe not even those who say “well that’s far outside of what the scripture says”; but the type where we say, “you MUST not be a believer”. There was another Christian on the Natalie Grant site that said that those haters were not “believers”. It was wrong. I remember saying to her “why don’t we leave the eternal judgements for the actual Judge himself”.
    Of course I think the way that the Lord has shown me is the only way. I do believe in hell. I do believe ppl can and will go there. Now, I’m not the one to say who is and who isn’t; but actually what I’m saying is pretty hurtful,….if I stand back and think about it. I’m saying that there is a right eternity and a wrong one. That’s pretty darn judgmental. It is. However, if I’m pluralistic to say that’s it’s not so, then I’m probably not standing for much of even Christianity, because Jesus even looks at Simon Peter and says “get behind me Satan”, to Peter – THE Peter. Rock of the church.
    It’s one of the reasons that some ppl hate Christianity in general: There are judgements (from God) in them. And some ppl don’t want any judgement. I can understand it and yet, I disagree with the view that God doesn’t judge others. It hurts for me to be judged by God, but I believe that is the way to actual Truth. Firm Decisions. Reality.

    Call me crazy. I won’t call you a devil worshiper. I know that Pagan worship is not about Devil worship, however much that I believe all non-Christian worship is wrong.

    I’m a sinner and without Christ’s MERCY, I believe that I am headed to hell as much as any *actual* devil worshiper. I’m NO better. The same actually. BUT with Christ’s payment, I’m forgiven. Fully. It’s a huge dichotomy… fully sinner and fully covered by blood. Even pagan religions of *some* countries understand blood to be efficacious in SOME sort of way. Some may call God “the great DEER” and know the blood of the deer to cover the wrongs. The Christian may go them and say Jesus is the Great Deer. His blood makes our State of being sinners covered. Not taken away, but instead paid for. Reconciled. Covered.

    All this is to say that there are *types* of judgement. The bible says “judge not, that you be not judged…for the judgement that you judge with, you will also be judged by”. Some ppl read this to mean, do not judge at all. Well, I think we have to make judgements all day long and find that it’s hard to make this interpretation, personally. I also think GOD will judge eternally. It actually puts the fear of God in me to be cautious how I judge. On the one hand, we may take the liberty to say “but I’m one of HIS” or “I’m forgiven”…. I think that’s a potentially disrespectful line to walk. I see Christians doing it all the time. I don’t think it’s the proper view of how much he CAN judge, nor how MUCH he’s done to reconcile those who believe. Christians ought to have a respectful fear-of-God in us… or maybe we aren’t what WE say we are. IF we make a judgement, let it be that we are leaning into His Graciousness to do that…actually into HUMILITY. That we are attempting to do the right thing, even if others will hate us for it. That we are attempting to only make it so long as it brings about a greater good, of another person seeing a hopeful light… a good light… a positive news… something new and wonderful. There’s a dichotomy between being truthful in their own perspective and being loving in understanding other perspectives. Sometimes leaving people alone is the best way to go. Truly, unless the Holy Spirit makes it right or real to that other person,…in their own spirit…they can’t hear love involved in it. I prefer to wait on God’s timing. Because ultimately all religion is made in the heart of that person, despite all outside sources, between that person and that God only. It’s just THAT personal.

    • Mast Attack October 23, 2014 / 2:29 pm

      Hi, Amy, I don’t know if this was supposed to be comforting or kind or what, but you were right when you said it is pretty judgmental. Whether or not God judges people has nothing to do with how I feel about it. I don’t hate Christians because God judges people. I don’t hate Christians at all. But I’m tired of some of them pretending that their bigotry is “love” when it’s not. It’s bigotry.

      I’m not going back and forth about this, but I was pretty disappointed to wake up and read about how the problem is that the Holy Spirit hasn’t moved me to accept a label of devil worshipping in love.

  8. Cindy October 23, 2014 / 8:32 am

    I believe in God. Not by a specific name or model. It is my very personal belief, as long as you believe in a higher power, the name or sect is not relevant. May God, by whatever name, sent his protective light down upon you and guard you from evil. I pray you will continue your amazing work in peace, love and acceptance. The devil does work in mysterious ways and I personally believe some organized religions may be one of them.

  9. andrea October 25, 2014 / 11:54 am

    I grew up as an Seventh Day Adventist and still mostly consider myself one. I am liberal though as are my parents. I lived in a very small town for a few years and going to church was painful, they were very judgmental and it went against everything I thought a Christian should be like. I would have stopped going, but it wad a very small church. The same thing happened this week on facebook on that page.
    I think the term Christian can be thrown around with little thought. I think it can also cause more harm when they make it more for show than belief too. I personally think some popular christian singers do that. Maybe being famous went to their head, I don’t know. The behavior of those on that page does not reflect Christian behavior or even behavior of someone who is happy with their life. Karma will come back around to them someday.

  10. gail October 25, 2014 / 2:29 pm

    I’m with you, Lisa. Sometimes we have to meet people where They are in their Own journey… everyone is in a different spot on their journey. .. they only know what their own experience has taught them. The trick to living is to be open to understanding that, and living it. We are all on our own Journey, meant to learn certain things during our movements on this earth. Our actions and reactions are all part of the great teaching. Km not Catholic, not Christian, and also do tarot. I believe in Inclusive spirituality, not Exclusive religions. Everything and everyone, every moment has a purpose… and a ripple effect 🙂 I love your blog 🙂

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