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: 24
  • #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.

  • #16

    Mixo Lydian (Saturday, 03 May 2014 17:03)

    Thank you Cynthia for sharing this story. The part about the Crüe concert was perfect: you were totally cool with it, but your dad wasn't, demonstrating that when we "hear" Jesus we hear what we want-- or need-- to hear. I believe that one can usually substitute the word God for the word good, or what we think would be good in a given situation. So, "Jesus told me..." would be equivalent to "I honestly think it would be best to... because..." In the end there's really not much difference to whom we attribute our own moral thoughts, we will continue to act exactly as morally as we do act, while keeping ourselves and our loved ones from harm, and learning from our mistakes along the way. Your dad (bless him?) was trying to do his best to protect you from harm, but unfortunately didn't take ownership for it, instead attributing morality to what he perceived that Jesus wanted. Perhaps he should have explained why he himself thought the concert would be a bad idea, or why he was so grateful for the soap and water in the shower (thank you, Head and Shoulders, for all the pyrithione zinc!).

    I am an atheist father raising a son and daughter in a complex urban environment with real dangers. I am aware that there have been alcohol-related assaults and even trampling deaths at recent concerts. So, I am equally protective of my children, and insist that an adult accompany them to large events, even as teens. I also challenge further analysis of lyrics that encourage violence over peace or espouse disrespect for women: "Friday night and I need a fight/My motorcycle and a switchblade knife... I'm such a good good boy/I just need e new toy/I tell ya what, girl/Dance for me" - Motley Crüe, 1987

    It sounds like your dad did you wrong by letting Jesus get between the two of you, when a better message from the Gospels would have been simply to act from love. Whether religious or atheist, he should have become more personally involved in your life, been present for you at all those major milestones and tribulations, and taken more personal responsibility for his own moral guidance as a parent. As a humanist, I certainly hope that the love and guidance I give my children will help steer them away from dangers like the criminality and prison sentence that befell you, and toward healthy choices that will help them and their loved ones lead happy, fulfilling lives.

  • #17

    Sierra (Thursday, 07 August 2014 04:14)

    I was raised a Christian, and so were two of my best friends while my third best friend was raised atheist. My junior year of high school all four of us went from being good kids to really out of control. We all had things going on in our lives: my dad had passed away the summer before, one of my best friend's dad had molested her that winter, another had just been adopted by her older sister because her mom gave up on her, and the one who was raised atheist was going through her dad giving her up to her grandparents and her crack addicted mom who left her years ago trying to come back in her life. Like I said we all had problems and three of us blamed God for our troubles. In the spring of my junior year we went with one of my best friends and her church to a youth event. All four of us got a message out of it and we all got baptized together soon after. We started going to a Christian protestant nondenominational church. Nothing crazy though, we don't believe in speaking in tongues or falling back or anything else you may have heard of. We welcome everyone- no matter how you look or talk or what you believe in. We accept you as a human being and we never try to force our religion onto anyone. (I know I am biased but I have also tried out a bunch of churches and seriously this one is really great) Just a few months later my best friend who started out atheist joined a new church, and it sounds like your dad and her could have been great friends. She dropped a lot of people who weren't "religious enough." (which included the three of us) I went to her church once and it scared me so much I haven't gone back, and they are very pushy about their religion. I just want to let people know that a real Christian doesn't act like that and I am very sorry that you had to deal with that. For different reasons, I also didn't have my dad on some very important days in my life, but please don't think that the kind of Christian your dad is is the only kind of Christian.

  • #18

    Marie (Wednesday, 19 August 2015 15:47)

    God loves us with all of our sins and faults. Nobody is perfect. He loves each and everyone of us, even when you don't love him. If we believe that God causes our suffering, we need to turn to the Bible to learn that God is our creator, saviour, healer, Protector.

  • #19

    Marie (Wednesday, 19 August 2015 15:59)

    I have been through many sufferings myself. God has been there with me. Each heartbreak brought me closer to him. I thank him for all I have experienced, for if it was not for my life and path, I would not be who I am today. We are not to live to please man, only God. A true Christian loves and does not judge. I know Where I am going, and I would love to see all of you there too. May God bless and guide you always:) He loves us unconditionally.

  • #20

    Searching1111 (Sunday, 27 December 2015 21:41)


  • #21

    Ashleigh (Tuesday, 11 April 2017 19:45)

    I'm not sure that I really understand what you are saying in this article. I have been to church many years, and never has anyone been "forced to speak in tongues." Speaking in tongues is described Biblically as a gift of the Holy Ghost, so how were you forced to do it?

    As for Christians actually living out their faith, it depends on several circumstances. If they are new to church, like your father was, then they cannot be expected to know the entire Bible immediately. It takes a plethora of time and reflection to understand the entire Bible. But this is not unique to Christianity, as it also takes years to understand a college textbook just as well. During this time, it is really easy to judge someone for not following a section of the Bible here or there. Christianity is truly a lifestyle that can take a whole lifetime to encompass. I find this to be true of nearly any distinctive belief system. Something else that I think is important to consider is that people like your father are truly excited about their decision. He probably simply wanted y'all to know and understand the change that he was attempting to make in his life; rarely do I find that it is actually someone wanting to shove it down someone else's throat, it is just taken the wrong way. It would be the same reaction as if you had gotten to see that favorite band of yours. You likely would have gone around telling all of your friends and family about it, maybe posting on social media pictures and videos. From the sounds of your writing, you would not have been attempting to nastily brag about your experience, but you would have wanted everyone to know how awesome it was to see your favorite band. That is basically how newer Christians react to their new-found faith.

    It does sound like he attempted to tell his explanation of what he believes as a Christian. I am truly sorry that y'all have been cut off from each other, because family is such an important unit of a person's life. I would hope that each of y'all would be willing to indulge in a beliefs conversation together. Simply cutting off from each other shows that neither of y'all have the empathetic and loving spirit that your supposed to have. Maybe that would at least give y'all a greater understanding of where each other comes from, belief-wise, and y'all could work on mending. Of course, I do not actually know if y'all have already done this or if you have already attempted this. It is just a thought.

  • #22

    Jess (Saturday, 08 July 2017 05:36)

    I just want to say that all the atheists that post on this page and talk about worrying about what your child will go through at school and children talking about God and religion is similar to the situation I go through as a practicing Christian and worry about the things kids will say to my children at school who are being taught (by me, and the amazing children's pastor at my church, who is also a very good friend of mine)to love God and accept him into their hearts. I think it is very confusing for children especially in the situation I'm in where I love the Lord, I go to church on Sunday, I stay there for about 4 or 5 hours and I also go on Wednesdays and have my children signed up for Vacation Bible School. So, everyone should just understand that we're all going through a similar situation but from different perspectives. It's not easy being a Christian, I'm only human. I make mistakes, I don't always do what's most likely the right thing, but I try my best. I believe when your father was thanking Jesus for water and soap that he's saying "thank you that I have a home to take a shower in and I have money to buy soap to wash myself with" because there are people in the world that don't have that. I like the way he thinks and I'm kind of similar. When my kids are older, as they're only five and three right now, I will obviously allow them to choose their own path. I feel though as their mother I need to teach them the way of God and the path to him but in the end they'll be the ones to make that decision. I hope you can make peace with your father and find a way to accept Christ into your heart and I am not tying to sound mean or push anything on anyone. God Bless You and I hope all works out!

  • #23

    Judy (Saturday, 16 March 2019 00:06)

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  • #24

    Marge (Sunday, 02 February 2020 14:21)

    Have you ever read the Bible in its entirety? If yes and you continue to remain an atheist then I applaud you for taking the time to do the work and make a personal choice based on research and are fully educated atheist. If you have not read the Bible in its entirety then you are simply ignorant since you made a decision to not to read the number one best selling book of all time year over year. It seems silly to not read a global best seller.