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Rich and Deanna Joy Lyons

Lost Childhood, Found Hope

The following is written by a woman who was raised in the church I formerly pastored. She was 3-years-old when I joined the church, and would have been around 13 when I became senior pastor.

Her words here are true. I know, because I was there. –Rich

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

“Because I bound my own feet, I could manipulate them more gently until the bones were broken. Young bones are soft, and break more easily,”
Wang Yifen- China

In fuedal China, the old stories still hang around of women who had their feet bound and broken horribly and disfigured for life for the chance to marry into wealth. Wang Yifen was so very indoctrinated into this belief that she broke her OWN feet after the death of her mother. The act was outlawed in 1921, but villagers continued to do this and to hide it from the government. This symbol of status now is a symbol of female subjugation. The idea that this was the only way…the only way to be married into a rich home was so very strong that this child broke her own feet. “Some scholars say footbinding deepened female subjugation by making women more dependent on their men folk, restricting their movements and enforcing their chastity, since women with bound feet were physically incapable of venturing far from their homes.” I guess you must be asking…seriously? Is this woman going to compare being raised in religion to having your feet broken and deformed for life? And yes…it is a bit over the top. But in many ways I am still affected in ways that are every bit as strong as Wang Yifen with her tiny silk covered feet.

My childhood was a remnant of western civilization that the rest of the world has long since tossed away. I feel much more like a child from the 1890’s than the 1990’s. There was no going to the movie theatres, no pants wearing, no makeup, no popular music, no high school dances. In fact, there was no public school for me for years. I was taught at home by my mother. Did I have a problem with this? No, I didnt. I was the obedient little soldier. The girl who would break her own feet for tradition. In fact, the hardest thing is to keep from breaking them now. I grew up. I saw the world. And I had no tools, not any, to deal with it. Hobbling around with all those inner bindings still affecting every moment of my day.

Now, let me make this clear. I do not in any way condemn or feel hatred or anger at my parents. Last time I checked, nobody gets a handbook for raising kids. Everyone is taking a wild stab at it. And as far as parenting goes…they did the best they could. They worked hard. They stayed together. They loved us. I know that.

But the church, it was the binding tie that they used to keep our lives in line. And it was destructive to my inner self. So destructive that I feel that in some ways I am crippled. Let me explain…

We were not to be unequally yoked to sinners. Which means really basically. Dont make friends with sinners. You can know them..and you can proselytize them…but in the can’t be friends. And it is your responsibility to keep a distance. When I was born into the church I was born into a premade package of “friends”. These people were to be my only social contact…my only interaction with the world. They were default. Much like family. I had no choice in being their friend and I had no chance of opting out. There were other children in the church…when I was young. But something awful happened when I was a kid and the church divided and chose Rich to be my pastor…and all the children went away. My peer group was dwindled down to just my brother and whatever passing grandchildren of members came along. I was homeschooled to keep me away from the “worldly” kids. So I was given no tools in those developmental years to know how to make friends. You know…start to finish friends. Where you introduce yourself and get to know people and decide you wanna hang out. I had no idea how to go about this. In highschool when I finally was put into the world…I spent my lunchtime in the library reading. The other humans my age were terrifying and they were unapproachable by the weird girl who wears skirts. I found their interests in games and in social drama to be childish. They seemed like a whole lot of irresponsible childish morons to me. And besides, I had never walked up and talked to a stranger on my own before. How does one do that really? I became close with some of my teachers though. I found their motives to be much more understandable. They were authority figures…something that I was VERY familiar with. Their agenda was instruction and I understood that too. I went to the mall shopping with one of my teachers one weekend. I attended one of my teachers weddings. I never attended a pep rally. I never went to a friends home. Now I am not interested in wallowing any more in poor me…so lets move on. ROFLOL

My parents were trying so hard to be examples, that they forgot to be examples of how to be a real human and not a plastic fake weirdly perfect person. Emotional intimacy involves a certain level of honesty. And nothing is more dishonest than a devout christian. What goes on in my mothers head? I have no idea. I dont know if she is sometimes angry or sad or frustrated. Because she always has this cheerful christian attitude of “gods will” plastered on her face. I never once saw my parents fight. Which is wonderful…but dishonest. So there is this distance in my childhood from my parents. An emotional distance where I am trapped on the other side of the looking glass. And I am getting the same view that all the other church members get of who they are. My mother never talked to me about sex. Why not? Because we weren’t nearly close enough to have such a personal conversation. I have always been an acquaintance of my parents. Never let inside the gates of their real self. There was no room for my own mistakes in this little picture. If I fucked up…no WAY would I go to my perfect parents and tell them I messed up. Instead, I took every fear and mistake and tucked them under the rug just like they did. My father and mother were never the type to hug or kiss or touch us at all unless of course…they were at church. Church for them…was the only place where they could actually show real emotion. They cried there…they laughed there…they hugged me there. They told me they loved me. But only in those walls. They would allow the charismatic emotional drama of a pentecostal church service to open their hearts a bit and to let me in. So of course I loved it. Who wouldn’t? If there was a place in the world where your parents can cry and hold you close you would love it too. That never happened at home. Ever. My parents were awkward at home..uncomfortable with emotional scenes. They tended to point to stoic graceful emotionless people as my examples of perfection. I was a tempest in a teapot. And no tools to share myself emotionally with anyone.

I went to bible college. It was no change from my childhood. Still the same sheltered environment. Still the prepackaged friends. Still the church being the only place you ever allow yourself to be human. They searched our rooms every Tuesday for worldly contraband. Looking for hidden TV sets and porn stashes. But I was getting phone calls from home that were distressing. Insane stories. The wonderful paragons of my childhood acting like children. When I asked my Theology teacher about this…his attitude was that of…”they are just sheep and you are above all of that now” But of course we weren’t. A black student and a white student were found holding hands in the mall. The black student was sent home. The white student allowed to stay. Prejudice is alive and kicking…even thriving in the church. And it was made more than obvious that I wasn’t welcome in the Theology department. Women aren’t supposed to preach. Well unless they are married of course. Having a husband to guide them is the only way a woman could ever be a minister of the lord. I was intelligent. I was studious. There was a class on leadership that I wasn’t allowed to attend. Instead I was sent to a “ministers wives” class. Where one studied how to plan a banquet and how to start up a sunday school in your husbands church. It was ludicrous. Women truly are second class citizens in the fanatic Pentecostal home. Unless of course you marry well. Then you get to be the passive aggressive schemer who gets her way through manipulating the man in her life.

I was married for a little while. He was a pentecostal man who always felt he wasn’t good enough to be included in that exclusive crowd. He was new. He was so eager to be one of the chosen that he would have done anything in the world to be one. He saw the little cliques that formed inside the congregation and wanted to do anything to be let into the ministry. Including marrying a third generation pentecostal girl. Because of course…that is the key to getting in for real! When you have the wife to prove it. And she is the cookie cutter devout and pure and unsullied example of pentecostal ambitions. The problem was, he wanted me on the pedestal that he had the pastors wife and their daughters on. And when you live with somebody for real…they turn out to be real people. He didn’t really want to be married to me. He wanted to be married to an idea. It lasted four years. They were bad and good. Mostly bad. I had done everything I was told to do. I had walked the line…married as I should. I was making my family proud. And my husband didn’t love me. I was so wanting to finally share emotionally with somebody. Open up. Be myself. And this person didn’t want that. He wanted the stoic graceful emotionless example of perfection. It is exhausting to be that person. He didn’t have sex with me. One doesn’t do such things with a holy person after all. I left him after four years. And then. I was adult. Alone. Independent. Terrified. And wondering WHO THE HELL AM I?

I had NO self identity. Other than I loved to read. Not a freaking clue. Did I want a hobby? Was I a promiscuous person? Was I gonna go wild and start dressing like a slut? Lol. SO I took it slow. I got online.

Now the internet…is fucking awesome. I can make friends there without the scary part of actually having to be in the same room. I can be honest there…nobody is gonna witness me being not perfect. And a nerd like me…gets information by the BUCKETFUL. The internet got me involved with the world. And I had to go out and see it. I can say honestly that I was the most happy in my life when I moved to Beijing. The farthest from my birthplace I could find. Making friends online has shown me that I am actually gregarious, witty, and kind. Something that I never learned about myself growing up. I didn’t have anyone to compare myself with. I was always told that I was an evil sinner on the brink of being unsaved. How could I know the good traits about myself? I lived in Beijing for a year..and then in Hartlepool England for a year. World travel puts into perspective how very little of the world gives a shit about pentecostal doctrine. It becomes not this scary looming shadow over your life when you are far away…more like..some distant dreamy memory. I keep having to return though. Seems like every time I am about to get on my feet…something happens to send me back home. I am here now…in a neighboring town…just half an hour away. The closeness of my family causes anxiety. I sometimes cant sleep very well at night. I want to be away so badly. I am saving money now…working hard to set aside enough money to move. I would love it to be Europe…but someplace on the east or west coast would be nice.

I changed my name. I did it because I needed to. I am not that little soldier anymore. Nothing about me is the same as it was growing up. So the old name it doesn’t even make me turn my head anymore. Hearing that old name can sometimes be like somebody walking across my grave. Reminding me of how tightly closed I was as a child. Head buried in a book. Flying beneath the radar. Hoping everyone wouldn’t notice me…that god wouldn’t notice me.

My life now…well I love love love love my free time. When I am off work..I can do WHATEVER I fuckin want to. That was like…anathema growing up. My parents never had one moment of free time. The work for the church literally took every single night. There was no time for closeness…we were much to busy getting close to god.

Now…I play video games. I hang out online (second life FTW). I still read voraciously. It is frightening how many books I go through a I listen to podcasts…seriously..I subscribe to like..fifteen of them at least. I don’t miss waking up for sunday service not one little bit. Or dragging my tired butt to church after work. I tend to invest myself in introverted activities because I sometimes cannot manage emotional and social connections with people. It is a part of my personality as well as my raising I believe. My mother is shy and my father is egocentric..which tends to not look outward for links to humanity. I think that religion fueled both of their natures. My mother is a servant to all who ask a single thing from her. And my father is convinced that god himself whispers secrets of the universe to him. Online I am fun outloud and proud. In person I am casual and easy to be around…but not likely to spend a lot of time in crowds.

I dont date much…people here dont have much in common with me or my interests. Homophobic racists rednecks who want a stay at home mom type girlfriend really arent my type. I am polyamorus, bisexual, and kinky…so all off that added up means very few prospects in this area of the world. I am a Dan Savage fan and I dont think anyone I work with would listen to five words from a gay man. So it is kinda quiet..I have an apartment…a roomate…a cat…netflix…and my internet.

I love the control I have over my life. I didn’t even know it was a commodity until I got it. Now I cant imagine losing it.

Have I departed from the childhood I was given? Yes…in just about every way you can imagine. But then again….No…the bindings wrapped around my personality..the shaping of my inner voice…the molding of my sense of self…that has been done. Very methodically and very on purpose by a religious cult. I am changed for life. But I have stopped breaking my own feet.

Minor Surgery and a Time to Think

While I admit there is nothing particularly dangerous about a surgical procedure I’m about to have, It is a chance to stop and think about things. I’m getting my gallbladder taken out. Not a big issue. There are some minor complications, but that’s stuff that concerns the surgeon, not me. I’ll be fine.

But just to be on the safe side, we decided to draw up the advanced directive. I love the one for Washington, state. Its wording is beautiful (as can be for something so dire) and empowering. It says just what I want said.

It gives me a chance to think. This is not the first time I’ve been in a potentially (albeit very little potential) life-threatening situation. It IS the first time I’ve been in such a situation as a non-believer.

As a believer (I couldn’t be lucky enough to be the kind who believed once you were saved you were always saved, I had to keep up with the sin question.) I always wondered if I was really saved. I prayed. I longed for answers. I remember going into a simple surgery, hoping against hope that I really had crossed all my ts and dotted all my Is. Otherwise, any slip of the knife, and I’d be into the flames.

This time is different. I realize things can go wrong. Sometimes horribly wrong. And if they do, I realize I’ll never know about it. My last moment will be the moment the anesthetic takes me into dreamland. I plan on facing that moment with confidence and peace. Confidence that I’ll see my lovely Deanna when surgery is over, and at peace that if not, I’ll never know.

When you think about it, dying in surgery wouldn’t be all that bad. You go to sleep and just never awaken. The light goes out, and never comes back on. Pretty simple. Painless. Peaceful.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not afraid. Not that I’m some kind crazyman who fears nothing, but that these circumstances are very good. I’ll get better. Or I’ll leave this world quietly and peacefully.

When I look back, it’s all to easy too see that religion didn’t bring peace to my life. It only brought turmoil and fear. The true religion of peace, is no religion at all.

–Rich Lyons

Rich’s Response to Pascal’s Wager

I found this on my facebook Timeline, posted a couple years ago in response to someone who basically blasted by my wall and shat Pascal’s Wager on it, then buzzed away.

I used to feel that way about Santa Claus. Believing, regardless of the evidence, or lack thereof. But as Christmas after Christmas passed without a visit form the Jolly One, I grew tired of seeing myself as evil. I realized he wasn’t dissing me because I was bad, he simply does not exist.

I became immune to his judgment.

The idea of god is no different. For my entire life I believed. For 20 years I was a peddler of his lies. Then, I realized, he too, is a myth. He simply does not exist.

I would love nothing better than to die and find I am wrong. Because I would confront god with the evidence of the suffering he created, the childish acts he’s done… yeah, he’d toss me into hell… if he could do that before I dove in headfirst just to make sure I didn’t have to spend eternity with such a pompous ass.

I would rather live my life with intellectual honesty. I believe god does not exist. The wars and murders religion has caused are a blight against humanity. Realizing there is no one in the sky to make it right, it is incumbent upon US to make it right.

We can’t “atone” for the deaths and suffering that religion has caused. The only thing we can do now is work to stop them from happening, and try to prevent them in the future.

I can no longer believe that god is the author of genocide, and thus I can no longer shun the responsibility for preventing it form happening in the future. I can no longer believe that AIDS is the judgment of god, so I can no longer shirk the responsibility of facing this disease. I can no longer blame the evils of humanity on the goodness of god.

Il believe differently now than I once did. I believe that we CAN stop the needless slaughter of entire races. I believe that we CAN cure AIDS, I believe that we are here for a short time.. and we must make all we can of each moment.

We are both believers.

I believe.

I believe there is no god.

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Religious plea from former co-worker

It isn’t rare that I get messages like the following.

Always from someone who knows better than I do how I should live my life. I’d like your comments on how to reply to stuff like this, sent from a former co-worker.

A little background, I was never close to this guy, never liked him, and he had nothing to do with me. On one occasion, when we had a particularly stressful situation, I had to call in someone to replace him and relieve him of his duties, because he couldn’t handle the responsibility at the time.

So now, a couple years later, he writes….


I have gotten copied on a number of facebook postings submitted by you and Deanna. After reading the last few of them and being somewhat taken aback by some of the content, I feel led in my spirit to write you.

With respect to your choice to believe the way you want, I must say that I am concerned for you. We talked one night at KOMO about your traumatic experience with your ex-wife and the church you pastored in the South. At that time as I recalled, you expressed anger and bitterness at what was done to you.

It’s understandable you would feel that way. However, that wasn’t God’s doing. And deep down inside I believe you realize that.

I’m sad that both you and your wife embrace atheism. I’m doubly sad for you because you have been exposed to the word of God and you have no excuse.

Again, what you choose to believe is your business. However as a friend and someone who cares, I must tell you that you have taken the bait of satan. He’ll destroy you if you let him. Turn back to the Lord. He is real and He loves you.

I’ll pray for you. I value you as a friend.


former nor particularly close co-worker.

So how would you handle this crap?

Update: I realized that we never added our direct message replies to this person. We both went a little harsh on him, but I think sometimes someone needs to be told how rude they are being because they will never know it any other way.
I copied the former co-worker the link to this post so he could see the replies. He basically went all pascal’s wager…. here was my final reply:

“It’s a shame you can’t spend five minutes to read through the entire blog. It shows just how much you care about this, and to quote a famous xtian saying, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

If you were open to discussion, I’d welcome that. But since you are only interested in making an arrogant statement then acting all butt-hurt when no one likes your views, I think we can both see what your lame attempt is made of.

Don’t contact me anymore. I’m happy to leave you in your ignorance.

to finish with YOUR line… If he is real… I’ll see your arrogant and apathetic ass in hell.



and then this addition from Deanna Joy:

“Just add a bit to what Rich said:

I am truly insulted by your inability to contact ME about the things you learned from your “friendship” with me. Am I not your intellectual equal? Am I the insolent property of my husband that needs to be chastised through him?

I can answer those two questions easily. No, I am absolutely not your intellectual equal. Your refusal to engage shows you haven’t thought for a moment or read a single word of the things I have said or shared. While your religion tells you I am below and behind you, reality shows you are not anywhere near on my level.

And yes, in your eyes I am, or you would have sent me a message directly about the things you are concerned with. And that’s all I need to know about how you feel about women.”

Help a fellow LAFer with some needed advice

Hey there everyone at Living After Faith!

My name is ____. I am 17 years old.

Something happened just recently in my family that I really want to share with you as well as other atheist communities. I could really use some advice- this problem has been present for as long as I’ve come out as an atheist and seems to be deteriorating my family the longer I remain an atheist. I desperately need some feedback because, at this point, I don’t know what else I can do.

Last night I was watching television, and completely unannounced to me, the entire youth group of the church I used to attend came to my house- my little brother being the driving force. Needless to say, I was extremely nervous, but I knew what they were here for and decided to just push through it. Of course, it was about an hour of preaching directly to me under the watch of my previous Christian peers, Christian friends, and Christian family. I’m not going to try to be noble and say I fared well- I don’t think I’ve ever been shaken up so badly. I cannot ever accurately portray the guilt I felt when my brother, unable to speak and overcome with tears, confesses to me how much he loves me and looks up to me followed by how my entire family and the church thinks my life has become “dead” for not having Christianity the driving force of my existence.

What I find interesting is that I’ve just recently been able to cope with numerous anxiety problems I’ve been having due to leaving religion. Although I wouldn’t say it is post-religion PTSD, (although I’ve learned a lot from you both about the problem and I do seem to exhibit the majority of symptoms) I’ve always known I have not necessarily been as stable since I’ve had to deal with these issues. Obviously, I’ve never been able to meet with a physician due to the nature of the problem, and my family’s dismissal. It is, of course, a “non-existent” problem that can only be cured by their religion. This past year, I’ve finally been able to gain control of my anxiety. And although episodes can still be triggered by church services or late-night surprise preaching, I finally came to a point where I felt like I could be a normal kid again. Christianity is what made me “dead.”

I was really shaken and scared last night but I understood their good intentions. I simply responded after the hour “Thank for guys for coming. I think it’s very sweet that you’re concerned about me. But I’ve grown up in the same upbringing as all of you, and I’ve made my decision.” I was careful to be very polite, although there were a few choice words I would have liked to say. Regardless, there is no point in arguing with them.

Afterward, I was ranting to a good friend who is also an atheist and understands when I need to vent. He actually brought something up that I can hardly force myself to consider, but I fear it may be my only option. He suggested that I just tell my family I’m a Christian. Go along with it. Not to be neutral or even passive, but just to pretend I buy it. Maybe it’ll make things easier while I’m still living here. Although saying I’m a Christian may be easy enough (if we aren’t considering my flaming pride-fullness), pulling off such an act would require me to completely dive into my Christian life before I came out- events, services, friendships, worship, praying, and all. (At least while my family is looking.) Like I said earlier, the thought of this is enraging to me because I want so badly just to be myself and for that to be okay. But I’m afraid it will never be okay until I finally leave.

Of course I’d still be an atheist, but this idea has really been bothering me. I want to be proud of who I am as a non-believer, but if it is tearing my family apart, is it selfish for me to even acknowledge my beliefs? Part of me says they are selfish and playing the victims, but the other part of my is just exhausted of all this and wants to just breathe freely again. The only thing I’m truly worried about is if giving in to this idea and throwing my alter-ego into Christianity will once again trigger the anxiety issues I’ve worked so hard to overcome.

I understand this is a lot to process, but I really need some help.
Is it worth it to tell my family I’m an atheist if it only causes chaos? Should I just pretend I believe for their sake, and continue my life as an avid non-believer under-cover?

Please let me know what you think and feel free to have members give feedback- I want as many points of view as I can get.

Thanks so much for all you do. You make this bearable for me and I can never thank you enough,