I mean we exchanged gifts—but I never stepped foot into a church as a child. I think the first time I was ever actually in a church with my mother was on my wedding day.

I had also never been baptized. My parents agreed that it was best for me to find my own way, in terms of religion. As a kid, I remember being asked by friends, “What are you?” My reply was almost always, “I am nothing.” Which, looking back, is kind of sad; but still, nobody got it—silly children. They could not comprehend that religion was indoctrination, not law. That being said, sometimes I did feel left out, like when my friend Heather got to pick her confirmation name. My mom laughed when I told her that if I had to pick a name, it would be “Roxanne.” Apparently, that name was not on the “acceptable” list—there was no Saint Roxanne. I decided that if I could not be Roxanne, it was not worth my time pursuing the Catholic religion. It seemed to me that they were already trying to stifle my creativity, so instead I named my bike Roxanne and moved on.

I don’t like to compare myself to my father but if forced to, I would say we both have the same “extreme” gene. For me, it’s my moods, my drinking and, at times, my drug taking; but for my dad it was, and always has been, Jesus. My father did not just dabble in Jesus—after his second failed marriage, he jumped in full throttle and expected all to follow. On summer vacations I went to faith healings, was forced to speak in tongues and even had hands laid on me when I felt ill. Slowly, all onus of my well-being was being shifted from my father, right into the hands of someone I did not know, had never seen and had absolutely no interest in: Jesus.

My father would even talk to Jesus in front of people. I will never forget the time my friend Susan was riding upstate with us and my dad began speaking to Jesus, thanking him for pretty much everything under the sun. “Thank you Jesus for this car, thank you Jesus for this road, thank you Jesus for my bowel movement this morning.” I was mortified. This Jesus was really beginning to cramp my style, and becoming quite an embarrassment to me. I would soon learn, however, that the best from Jesus was yet to come.

I will never forget the day my dad changed his name. He showed up at our apartment unexpectedly, as he often did, but this time with a shaved head. My mom opened the door and immediately burst into laughter. Apparently, while my dad was in the shower—probably thanking Jesus for everything from the water to the soap—Jesus had decided it was a good time for him to shave his head. Jesus also decided he needed a name change, so from that day on, my father would be known as “Israel Shomer.” My mom thought it was hysterical that Jesus had nothing better to do than worry about my father’s hairstyle, and wondered aloud if we all had to take the last name of “Shomer.”

It’s hard to figure out why some people turn outward when hard times hit, and some choose to look inward during challenging situations; but looking back, I really believe my dad used Jesus as a way of not taking responsibility for his own actions. If there is a puppet master with a master plan over which you have no control, you never really have to take responsibility for your life. You can rely fully on Jesus to make everything okay. I will never forget being a 15 year old and wanting to go see Motley Crue. My dad told me to go pray in my room and ask Jesus for permission. When I came out five minutes later I told him, “Jesus said it was totally cool.” He looked at me and said, “Well, Cynthia, Jesus told me it was not a good idea.” It was at that point I knew I would never get along with or trust this Two Faced Jesus. What kind of person or god dashes the hopes of a 15 year old girl who just wanted to see one of her favorite bands play live?

I am now 40 years old, and my father is still using the same “Jesus” approach in his parenting. We don’t speak and haven’t in over a year, mostly because of my outspokenness when it comes to my own belief system, and partially because my stepmother does not like Bill Maher or gay marriage and has no sense of humor. But that’s a whole ‘nother story. It’s not that I believe my father is an evil person; I would not even say he is a bad person, just misguided. I don’t think it’s wrong for him to believe what he does—who am I to judge that? But I do think it’s wrong for him to pin his actions on someone else, even if it is Jesus. I am sure that right now, somewhere down in Georgia, my father is praying for Jesus to turn this whole situation around and one day deliver me back to him, screaming repentance for all of my horrible ways. You know—wanting equality for all, gay or straight; sympathizing with all people, even Palestinians; and finding Bill Maher amusing.

My father and I have a huge difference in philosophy that I have finally come to accept. I am no longer interested in his approval, but I’m not saying our lack of a relationship doesn’t bother me. After Hurricane SandyI really expected that he would email to see if we were okay, especially since I had mailed him months back to say I was sorry for the way things were between us. When the days bled into weeks with no word, I realized that was not going to happen.

 

I started thinking about every event he missed in my life—my sixteenth birthday, my high school graduation, my two week hospital stay, the day I was sentenced to two years in prison, etc. I had made it through all of the major events, and some of the worst ones in my life, without my father. It’s hard when someone you love, particularly a parent, can’t give you what you need—unconditional love, patience, understanding, support. And sometimes I wonder—which one of us, again, believes in Jesus?

About the Author: Cynthia Cone is an Ex Con with no college education and very bad punctuation. She is currently living in Long Island, NY where she pays extremely high taxes and likes to drink.

Write a comment

Comments: 15

  • #1

    Eric (Thursday, 20 December 2012 18:00)

    Loved it!!!

  • #2

    Nick (Tuesday, 19 February 2013 06:19)

    I love your candid writing style, but this article is more about your issues with your father than with Jesus. And I see that your father is a 'Jesus freak' so you are attributing your issues to his relationship with Jesus. But isn't this exactly like your father pinning his responsibilities onto Jesus? I think you may be looking for reconciliation with your father rather than 'Jesus'. Still, nice to read such a personal story from a fellow atheist, non-homophobic, enlightened person and I hope you work things out with your dad

  • #3

    Thrace (Tuesday, 12 March 2013 02:00)

    You're situation is so similar to mine. Thank you for sharing!

  • #4

    Eddie G. (Sunday, 05 May 2013 18:27)

    Sounds more like you're an agnostic than an Atheist, but that's kool.
    I liked your story and wish you all the best and hope that you're able to improve your life and be able to move on and become self reliant for yourself and those whom you love and might need you in their lives.

    Be good and free.

  • #5

    howler monkey (Wednesday, 08 May 2013 09:17)

    lol but she already judged the man by saying everything she has. I grew up in an atheist family and turned out christian. When i'm in a bind i reach inward, sometimes outward. Stereotyping is so wrong and dehumanizing its very dangerous as we look back on history. This isn't preaching tolerance but intolerance. I also get that a lot of Christians do the same. Why the heck cant people just get along without bringing religion or non belief into the picture. I support gay rights, i don't believe the earth is 6000 years old its 6050 lol. Geez i just don't get it. I'm also against abortion, which always make people react and say "your a crazy right wing republican christian racist". No i'm not i dislike Ron Paul but i believe in libertarianism and liberty.Not by any means am i left or right im neutral on everything that does not harm people.Growing up in africa i consider people of all colors to be my brothers so im not a racist because i dislike President Obama's policies even though i do respect him a lot. He has a great history and talent, hes also a great family man. If i'm against abortion i should appeal the legal and democratic way, if i loose so be it. I'm against federal government prying in peoples bedrooms people should do what they want to do as long as its not against the law. I feel your belief or non belief should be private and you cannot judge peopel on this. I had a manager once telling me i cannot trust you because your christian. He also continued to say that i had a mental defect and i should be fed to lions. He made my job hell until i resigned. Judging and stereotyping people is not a good thing to do. I have a very strong family bond with my family and we sometimes debate heated topics for fun. I feel that this attitude form both sides damages our selves, our families and our country. However i do feel that people should be able to have their own feelings on every topic. Even if it isn't the popular vote. After all we are a democracy. I liked your story but geez give your old man and the old bat a break lol I hope they can do the same for you. Liberty Definition: The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life.

  • #6

    Howler Monkey (Wednesday, 08 May 2013 09:24)

    BTW my wife is Christian and only really became a true believer shorty before i did. Shes also had similar troubles with her dad who is a Christian during Hurricane Ike. Since she turned 18 hes never really been there for her and her step mom almost seems jealous of her. But we still go to visit them form time to time.

  • #7

    Howler Monkey (Wednesday, 08 May 2013 09:26)

    Last note. Not all Christians are like your dad i know this is a stereotypical Christian but i do not know of anyone who acts like this. Unless their under the influence of a mega money making super church

  • #8

    Cynthia Cone (Wednesday, 08 May 2013 18:55)

    Thanks for the feedback - I actually identify more as a "Pantheist" than an Atheist but that aside this was VERY personal piece - More about the hypocrisy I see in SOME Christians and my experience growing up with my father (a man who does not always seem to practice the teachings of Christ). As Gandhi said, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." Hence my title "Two Faced Jesus".....That being said - I find the bible to be one of the most disturbing books ever written...I have no problem with people who want to practice religion , just don't push it on me and if you are going to Preach - than walk the walk. Stop judging, mind your own business and love one another.

  • #9

    Howler Monkey (Thursday, 09 May 2013 22:43)

    Yah i get what your saying. I think there's nothing more disgusting, than a Christian who does not act like Jesus did. Well sometimes i'm disgusted in myself for acting inappropriately then judging others. Christians should realize they are human, just like everyone else. No one is perfect and everyone has their own views,beliefs and vices. Where not able to forcefully change each other and we have to learn to love,get along and be tolerant. I agree with you on how disturbing the bible is though. But it does document the lives of people from ancient times. Pretty barbaric but that was life. I guarantee you worse things happened back then lol. Hell even in today's world there are worse things happening. One particular thing i totally hate is human trafficking. I read somewhere that the slave trade is larger today, than at any other point in history.Were largely shielded from the horrors of life and it does sadden me allot that most people don't even realize whats going on in the world. Even as we speak some one is being brutally murdered for no reason or sold into slavery. I do really like that Gandhi quote and i reflect on it a lot. I do hope your family situation improves isn't there a way just to forget the past and just move on? I understand your father has hurt you and i do know how that feels after my parents divorce.

  • #10

    Ginger (Monday, 22 July 2013 17:32)

    I totally get what you are saying. Hypocrisy, judgement, lack of responsibility, condescension,..... I see in so many "good Christians".

    The violence and disrespect in the bible is utterly disgusting !! The fantastic fairytales. No, I will not believe in immaculate conception or resurrection..... I cannot understand how reasonably intelligent, educated people in this day and age are roped into this nonsense.

    My folks and brothers are all agnostics. We were given the advice, as children, to educate ourselves and choose carefully.
    One of the best pieces of advice they ever gave.

    I have a degree in science many of my colleagues share the same view.

    A side note I am also a recovering alcoholic and have had my share of run ins with the law. I was able to overcome all this without religion.

    It takes a lot of courage to come out and bare all, as you did.

    Good luck, be true to yourself ;)

  • #11

    Israel Shomer (Sunday, 25 August 2013 14:45)

    yes, I am the hypocrite she has described. And described very well.
    I have, in my sojourn mistaken my admiration for Jesus, and the truth I see in him, allowed this deception to overcome me...that seeing the truth, is not the same as walking in it.
    I have wounded many, disappointed many, and surely grievously done harm in thinking I had any capacity to help anyone. I am the one in all the need of help.

    But despite my obvious failings a truth remains I cannot deny...which is even testified to by my many failings...I am ill equippped, of myself, to be anything at all. I do not rebel against the notion that I am no more than talking mud (with a nod to Vonnegut...and his Creator), and am learning to be quite at ease with it.
    But I see in all the other talking mud, even though I be nothing, a need of expression. I have listened to the mud of Bertrand Russel, I have listened to the mud of Hitchings and Sam Harris, I have listened with interest to the mud of many of my contemporaries "in the faith"...and many that have gone before.
    Yet, in all my listenings to mud, I have not found one whose words penetrate to a place I didn't even know was in me, a place I easily denied...even after my seeming assent to his words being like no other. And even after my seeming "giving of myself" to him as best I understood at the time. I cannot rightly explain why his words resonate as they do, I cannot explain why I find his words totally engaging...and for me...made every time true...in my sight. But I do now know, even this resonation does not make me better than anyone else...even, and especially, when another word seems to holler "but you are! you are better...after all you are the only one of you...the others well they are all "others"...and that's why we call them that...even when they be children, wives, friends or strangers.
    Which is the same reasoning of saying "english" is the real language...because well, after all....that's why we call other languages..."foreign". (With a nod to Joseph Heller..."remember, you guys are American soldiers...and no other soldiers from any other country can say that!)
    So, it seems...we all have something to say...from a place peculiar to us alone. The need to exalt that place is easily seen...in our expression...for we believe, in the very act of expressing ourselves...that something "of us" is necessary in the conversation. We may allow that others "may" be necessary...but of our own necessity...we are never in doubt...are we?
    How then to navigate amongst so much talking mud? I have found only one who has managed to expose my necessity of feeling necessary, and by that assumption in myself, allowed me to see all the unnecessary harm that has been consequent to that deceitful assumption. Yes, I am a man that has striven long and hard...against other mud to show...I am more necessary than they.
    But, I am not.
    And even when, or if, I can be provoked to renege in action and word to dis annul that, well, the one whose words have already penetrated the deepest...the one whose word resonates...perhaps weakly at best in this mud of mine...has already told me...I am failing...but his word...does not.
    He has already told me he can only help complete failures, and he must wait both for me, and for all, while we may embrace some other notion of ourselves in this temple. Of mud.

  • #12

    Israel Shomer (Sunday, 25 August 2013 15:13)

    With apologies to Hitchens...who doesn't much care now at all...does he?

    But...thinking of him reminds me of something he wrote later in his life...near the "end".
    A notion he had seemingly ascribed to...he was disabused of in his own experience.


    “Before I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer a year and a half ago, I rather jauntily told the readers of my memoirs that when faced with extinction I wanted to be fully conscious and awake, in order to ‘do’ death in the active and not the passive sense. And I do, still, try to nurture that little flame of curiosity and defiance: willing to play out the string to the end and wishing to be spared nothing that properly belongs to a life span. However, one thing that grave illness does is to make you examine familiar principles and seemingly reliable sayings. And there’s one that I find I am not saying with quite the same conviction as I once used to: In particular, I have slightly stopped issuing the announcement that ‘Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.’

    In fact, I now sometimes wonder why I ever thought it profound. It is usually attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche: Was mich nicht umbringt macht mich stärker. In German it reads and sounds more like poetry, which is why it seems probable to me that Nietzsche borrowed it from Goethe, who was writing a century earlier. But does the rhyme suggest a reason? Perhaps it does, or can, in matters of the emotions. I can remember thinking, of testing moments involving love and hate, that I had, so to speak, come out of them ahead, with some strength accrued from the experience that I couldn’t have acquired any other way. And then once or twice, walking away from a car wreck or a close encounter with mayhem while doing foreign reporting, I experienced a rather fatuous feeling of having been toughened by the encounter. But really, that’s to say no more than ‘There but for the grace of god go I,’ which in turn is to say no more than ‘The grace of god has happily embraced me and skipped that unfortunate other man.’”

    What Hitchens failed to understand...at least in the above last line...is that grace is given...not only in the escape...but to reenter the fire...as need be.
    I hope, soon to discuss with him the other things he learned...and let go of, in the reality of his own failing.

  • #13

    Chef mom (Monday, 21 October 2013 16:55)

    Reading this has giving me hope for my daughter. My husband and I are both atheist who were raised Christian until we could think for ourselves. We plan on raising our daughter without religion. I'm not scared that she won't have a parent around more that her grandparents will disapprove of her. I was wondering how things would be for her in school with other children going to Sunday school and asking questions to her about her religion. Thanks again for the blog it really help answer questions that I had about raising a child without religion because this is a learning curve for me. Thanks again and I wish the best of luck to you.

  • #14

    Charles (Sunday, 01 December 2013 11:53)

    This was an interesting article. Very well written and explained. Well I grew up Catholic. Served as an ultra boy once for a while. My dads idea. I attended mass even in my teens but fell away from God sinning and living as the world. But then after I realized some weird events would not have been ordered on their own, and when I noticed certain things written in scripture where happening in my life I decided to seek out God. The God of the universe.. The creator. I realized the more I searched .. the more I learned and the more the word of God made sense. Apart from the churches.. the buildings.. the bondage.. And in simple terms you know God exists because sunrise happens and night falls comes and the seasons happen and we are the right distance from the sun to have life. God is holy. His word is truth. he does not think like man. You have to seek to find. It's not the same ting as finding a Job. Remember Moses was a prince who did not believe until he was chosen.

    Now when people like your father sort of go over board.. that is what can happen when we get so caught up in the moment. You lucky to have a dad who loves you.
    The universe has laws and complex mathematics. To think it happened random is
    silly. Seek and YOU will find. Call out to God and see if he exists. Watch the video's and people that did not believe. Near death experiences. I can tell you HE EXISTS!
    prophecy alone is testimony to this. Bless you and may God show your heart the truth.

  • #15

    ashley (Tuesday, 03 December 2013 04:56)

    This whole website is sad and frankly very disturbing. I could not imagine living in a world without God our bringing my children up that way. Life would be very hard if I didn't have Jesus there with me every day helping me through every day struggles and hard ships. I'm going to pray that you find God when it is your time.

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