Open letter to Daisy

For those of you not familiar with the case, going on two years ago now, one cold winter night two young teenage girls snuck out of the house to go to a party with some older boys from school, and ended up getting raped. One was dumped, undressed and obliviously drunk, in the snow outside her house. She lived to tell of it and to seek justice, but so far the only result of this quest has been that her (widowed) mother was fired from her job, her siblings have been threatened with violence, her family was driven out of town and local terrorists on the side of her rapist(s) burned her family’s house down. Last week she took the trouble to tell her story on line, mentioning how it has, among other things, made her stop believing in God . This is my response back to this deeply wounded girl.  

daisy

Dear Daisy,

First let me say that I’m sincerely sorry for your pain and all of the suffering you and your family have been through. I don’t pretend to know how it feels not only to be raped and treated as disposable, but then to have those who care about you terrorized for caring about you. I have my own problems in life, but I’m not going to pretend that they match up with yours.

By way of introduction all you really need to know about me is that I’m a man roughly three times your age, a school teacher to kids your age in Europe, and I’m currently working on my doctorate in philosophy of religion. What that basically means is that I’m supposed to be some sort of an expert in helping kids work through the question you asked (yourself) repeatedly in your blog about your recent trauma: “Why would a God even allow this to happen?”

Don’t take this as someone trying to defend the idea of God to you. You certainly don’t need that, and if there really is a God (probably best if we leave that question open for the time being) he wouldn’t need someone like me to organize his defense team for him. Think of me rather as one more well-meaning expert of sorts, who in the abstract knows something about what you’ve been through, and in his own particular area of specialization really wants to help if he can. The doctor who treated your vaginal injuries probably didn’t know what it felt like for you, but she/he knew something about how to prevent infection and help your organs to heal. Likewise (I would hope) you’ve had a social worker who probably doesn’t know how it feels to be you still trying to help you to return to something like a normal social life. The same would go the lawyers you’ve talked to, counselors you’ve been sent to and many others. Think of what I have to say as analogous to what they might try to say to help. I know you have been “spiritually wounded” in this series of events and that has left you with some deep and troubling questions. As that’s supposed to be my area of specialty, and as your blog caught my attention, please humor me as I try to offer what little help I can.

First let me say, as you probably know quite well already, your questions are nothing new. In fact they reflect what is probably the oldest and most important questions in the whole Judeo-Christian tradition. There’s an old running joke, with hundreds of variations on line, which sets out to explain world religions in terms of the old adage, “Shit happens.” They always start out by saying that the basic message of Taoism is simply that shit happens, and always end with the basic message of Rastafarianism being “Let’s smoke this shit!” In between, among others, the basic teaching of Judaism is always summarized as, “Why does this shit always happen to US?” There’s quite a bit of truth to that summary. Rather than the existence of unjust suffering being the death of their religion –– and consequently all of the other monotheistic religions in the world –– this question has become the most basic starting point and foundational consideration for their religion, and mine/ours. (I self-identify as a Christian. I know you don’t believe in any God at the moment, but I would assume it is some variation of the Christian God that you have recently decided not to believe in. Am I off by much?)

As you may know, the books of the Bible as we now have them are not arranged between the leather covers in the chronological order in which they were written. It’s a long story that I won’t bother to go into right now, but it is commonly believed among those who make a living investigating such matters that the oldest book in the Bible is the one we call Job, about why this guy who hasn’t done anything wrong goes through all sorts of hell anyway. I’ll come back to that later, but for now suffice to say, historically speaking at least, the problem of unjust suffering is just the starting point for belief in God, not the inevitable ending point for such belief.

But before getting into that, let me say that there are definitely a couple sorts of God beliefs that, based on your experience, you certainly should trash –– two common sorts of ideas about what God is that you should no longer give any credibility to.

First there is the idea of the tribal God: the sort of god who “is on our side” and helps us to “smite our enemies.” As a matter of building social solidarity and getting large groups of people to work together on major projects, almost all major human societies throughout history have had one sort of god or another, or some collection of local gods that they could call on, for this basic purpose. But in spite of how useful such beliefs can be as a team building shtick, and in spite of how much of this sort of belief has worked its way into various forms of American Christendom in particular, the sort of god that people make up to help them distinguish between their own tribe –– “the righteous” –– and everyone else –– “the heathens” –– is more useful to socially powerful jerks like Matt than to those like you who need protection and justice. Don’t be surprised if the sort of God that people make up to reinforce their tribal identities is of no use to you then, and don’t be surprised when some people claim that the Christian God is like that.  I could try to prove that such people are idiots, but rather than bothering with that let me just say that, as a Christian, that’s not the sort of God that I worship.

The other sort of God that you should not bother believing in any more is the sort of magical helper “upstairs” who takes all of the risks, uncertainties and unpredictability out of life. There are a lot of people who become religious because they have a hard time dealing with things being unpredictable and out of their control. For them religion doesn’t really work any differently than superstitious practices like rubbing lucky rabbits’ feet or nailing up horseshoes over doorways and the like. (Two sorts of people who are said to particularly depend on religion for superstitious luck improvement in this sort of way are competitive athletes and sailors.) But it doesn’t really work like that. As the Bible says, the rain falls on the just and the unjust. Good people too can have random bad things happen to them. For instance a preacher friend of mine has a grandson who has been battling with cancer for most of his preschool-aged life. If God were in the business of showing favor to his favorite people and keeping them from experiencing random suffering, why doesn’t he start there? No, life will always involve risky situations. You can limit those risks somewhat by following certain sorts of safety rules and by taking advantage of different forms of technology we have these days, but those things too can only go so far in stopping bad things from happening to good people.

So tossing those sorts of religious habits aside, what is left for you to believe in? Plenty actually.

You used an interesting turn of the phrase: “I lost all faith in religion and humanity.” I think I know what you mean there, but if we were talking face-to-face I’d still ask. I mean, if you were to say that you lost faith in God that might mean that you know longer believe that God exists, but when you say that you’ve lost faith in humanity you obviously know that humanity still exists. Likewise for religion. So maybe you’re saying that you just believe that, even if those things exist, you can’t trust them to “be on your side” any more. Part of that could be that you had rather unrealistic expectations about what humans in general are like. Might the same be said of your expectations regarding religion and God?

If this were a proper dialog I’d wait for your response on that and frame my comments based on how you actually feel about such things. Since we’re not in direct contact I have to sort of make up the next part not knowing if you can relate to what I’m saying or not.

Anyway, your blog has this (old?) picture of you holding a puppy. I’m glad to see you have such a friend. I hope you still have her/him. (A boxer?) My own dog is a Springer Spaniel, and without him I swear I’d be in a mental hospital today! Dogs are far more dependable as friends than people, beyond doubt. But dogs too have ways in which they can’t be entirely trusted. My dog, for instance, knows that he’s not allowed to have pizza, among other things, but if I were to leave him alone in the house with a pizza in a box on the kitchen table, even long enough to go take the laundry out of the washing machine, I could not be sure that he would behave himself and leave my pizza alone. That doesn’t make me love him any less; it just makes me more careful about was sort of chances I give him to do things we’ve agreed that he shouldn’t do.

Perhaps your experiences have, in some analogous way, taught you to be more careful in how you relate to people in general, and in what ways you need to avoid risks with them. Hopefully, as with our dogs, seeing the limits in how much people can be trusted doesn’t stop you from appreciating their value in other ways. The same might even be said of religion for you, but from here I can’t say; that may be pushing it a bit.

But whether through religion or through purely secular therapeutic perspectives on things, in terms of wishing the best for you I hope that you come to believe in two basic principles that are in some ways very, but not exclusively, religious: love and justice. Finding ways of learning to believe in both of these again is key to regaining a sense of your own beauty and of joy in life for the long term. These may sound impossible to believe in at this point, but please hear me out on this.

Justice would be the tougher one for you to believe in just now I’d imagine, so let me just say I believe in justice to the same extent that I believe in biology, and maybe you can too. In my first couple years in high school I had a syrupy sweet lady as a biology teacher; not the kind that any boys had crushes on, but the sort of kindly middle-aged woman that many kids wished could be their mother. As part of her personality she taught the subject in a rather fuzzy sort of way that sort of bothered my rational mind. We’d do an experiment with the different variables in growing pea plants for instance. We saw the difference that varying amounts of sun light, water, soil types, etc. made, but in any given sample group of plants you could never tell which ones would turn out tallest or have the most flowers, and she never tried to explain that to us beyond a sort of naïve assumption that “some things are up to God.”

Physics and chemistry didn’t have that sort of unaccounted variability to them it seemed. Once you knew what the input parameters were and how the system worked, you could predict pretty exactly how each experiment was going to turn out. Those sciences didn’t seem to have the same “slop” to them that biology did. Later I learned that it’s not that simple. If you get down to the microscopic and atomic level –– if you see the exact composition of every molecule within the seed or cell –– you can tell very exactly how it will behave or how big it will grow under given conditions. Biology isn’t actually as “sloppy” a science as it looks from a simple high school level. Likewise physics, when you get down to the sub-atomic level, gets a lot more random, requiring things like the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and “Schrödinger’s cat” to make sense of it all. But that’s not important right now.

The point is that when it comes to justice, seeing that in individual cases it doesn’t seem to work the way it should on the surface of things doesn’t prove that there’s nothing to it. Problems of accounting for the slop in the system not withstanding, there really is something to the principles of justice, ethics and morality.

Of course this is not to say that you deserved to be raped or that your family deserved to have their house burned down! Anyone who tries to write off those tragedies as something you “had coming to you” cannot be properly described in vocabulary that teachers are allowed to use. The point is that there is a complex set of dynamics behind such events and a complex set of results that progress from such events, but dismissing it all as totally random doesn’t really help anyone.

Obviously you know in hindsight that you could have reduced your risks by not secretly experimenting with alcohol and not bypassing your older brother’s judgment in this case. No need to beat yourself up any further emotionally over those matters. The more constructive perspective on the justice of the matter at this point is in looking forward. The point now is that Matt in particular, and Maryville and Missouri collectively, cannot escape from “paying for this” on some level. Besides the different variations on the mystical idea that “karma is a bitch” and it’s bound to get them, if not within this life then thereafter (and those shouldn’t be entirely written off), there is the factor that by in practice denying your value as a human being and treating you as disposable, they have seriously discounted their own value as human beings as well, and effectively categorized themselves as disposable. That inevitably will have effects that cannot be ignored. Just as slavery and racist abuse throughout American history have seriously messed up not only the abused peoples but the abusers themselves, for Maryville to accept the treatment of teenage girls as disposable sexual objects cannot help but seriously mess up the individuals involved and the society there as a whole. Ultimately it has the effect of seriously reducing, if not eliminating, their capacity to love and to be loved, which leads to the other point I wanted to make.

At the risk of getting all fuzzy-wuzzy in ways you totally cannot relate to at this point (and sappier than my high school biology teacher to boot), love is something vitally important for all of us. Love is about more than sex and genetic survival and all that; it is about recognizing that my importance is not limited to what’s happening within my skin. I am, as a person, important to others, and they are important to me. I matter to people (and to my dog) and they matter to me. Love is about seeing others as more than tools for your physical enjoyment and competitive self-promotion. Sex, at its best, can be one of the ultimate expressions of love; though sex as you’ve experienced it is pretty much the polar opposite of love. But in spite of that, love is particularly worth believing in for you.

Believing that we can find these sorts of connections with others is a huge part of what makes life worth living. Lacking a capacity to connect with others in these sorts of ways is actually the basic essence of what hell is all about. In that regard your rapist certainly deserves to be in his own form of hell, and there is every reason to believe he is. No one can do what was done to you and still have a capacity to connect with other people as people. He may be admired for his athletic skill or for his family’s social position, but he can never know what it is like to matter to others as a person if in practice he treats other people as disposable. Through his actions then his life has come to mean nothing. Likewise a community or society which thinks it is OK to treat certain people as disposable is more than likely to become hell for most of its members. This is what turns countries into what are known these days as “failed states.” In the same sense Maryville may well be a “failed community” already. Those are more common than you realize.

In fact as the emotional wounds from your trauma heal, in your case it should be relatively easy to believe in love again: After the whole #justice4daisy campaign there are thousands if not millions of people around the world who feel your pain and see your value as a person as important. As you have inadvertently come to stand for thousands of other young women who are to one extent or another treated as disposable sexual objects, you must be acutely aware of the fact that you matter. Let the sheer volume of that love you are receiving soak in for a minute or two. Through your pain you have become important to many of us who will probably never have a chance to meet you even, not just as a symbol, but as a person. That has to be a good thing for you.

The whole question of love and importance becomes far more difficult for girls who go through variations of your same trauma every day in many countries around the world –– from victims of sex tourism in Thailand, to child brides in Arabic countries still, to those raped as an act of war in the continuous conflicts happening in much of Africa today. It is much harder for me to imagine how love and justice can come into their lives than to see how it could come into yours.

I don’t want to trivialize any young rape victim’s suffering by saying, “Don’t worry. It will all work out.” For many I know it won’t. That’s where I comfort myself by believing in a form cosmic justice that lies beyond the limits of this life, and where I keep working on doing what I can to promote justice and caring for others within this life as well. I haven’t definitively solved the problem of unjust suffering. I’m quite sure no one has. I can only keep working on doing my best to reduce it in ways that still enable life to go on for all of us.

Let me close by coming back around to that oldest book in the Bible I was talking about. The introduction chapter in the book of Job is actually the silliest part of the story: How could we imagine God still being God if he would intentionally choose to let a good man suffer excruciating agony of all sorts just to settle a silly random bet with the devil? Forget about that part for the time being. The important part is to acknowledge that Job really didn’t do anything to deserve to suffer. From there the thing is to look at the series of debates which make up the core of the book.

Job has three peers who come to see his situation and try to help him figure it out, all assuming that somehow he must have done something to deserve it. First we have this guy named Eliphaz, who responds to Job’s statement of depression by telling him that God is just and justice always works, so he should just pray about it and comfort himself in trusting God. Job basically responds to him by saying, “No offence, but it really doesn’t work that way. If you think there’s some justice in this then show me how it works.” Then comes a this guy named Bildad, whose basic message is that you shouldn’t pretend that you’re in a better position to say how things work than God is, and if you’re a good guy God will always put things right in the end. To him Job goes on a rant and says that he fully understands how much wiser and more powerful God is than him, but that doesn’t really solve the question of why this shit keeps happening to him. Then comes the third one, Zophar, saying, “How dare you mock God and claim that you’re right and he’s wrong on this one?!” To this Job basically says, “You’re not the only one to give me that sort of crap. People who have it easy always treat those going through rough times with contempt. But besides joining in to what the crowds have to say, what do you really know about it?”

From there they each take a couple more rounds going after Job, with increasing antagonism as things progress. Eliphaz says that Job’s mouth is getting to be the cause of his problems. Bildad says that Job in turn is not being respectful enough towards their perspectives. Zophar finds a particularly long-winded way of saying, “I feel rather insulted here, so to hell with you!” Job gives abuse back to each of them as good as he gets. Finally they all give up on trying to change each other’s minds about things.

That’s when a kid about your age, named Elihu, gets involved in the discussion. Elihu had waited to talk because young guys weren’t supposed to interrupt older men in their debates in those days, but he found it particularly frustrating that Job was trashing the whole idea of justice and that his three “friends” were ready to attack him without really having any grounds for their accusations. So when all of the others are done talking he lets them have it. After deconstructing their arguments (for 5 chapters) he basically points out that nothing we can do as people would really have that big an effect on God one way or the other. Rather than worrying about what we can do for God, and what God is ready to do for us in return, the point of religion should be to look at the incredibly majesty and mystery we see in the world around us and to ponder the wonder of being able to connect with something that incredible.

After Elihu’s speech then a huge tornado comes up and God starts speaking to these guys from the tornado, saying basically, “You know, the kid’s right.” It then goes on with 4 chapters’ worth of itemizing the marvels of the universe that make people and our problems seem pretty tiny by comparison.

The ending of the story is almost as problematic as the beginning: God tells the three friends that they owe Job a pretty massive apology, so they follow through with that, killing a truckload of livestock before God and Job to say how sorry they are. Job then forgives them and asks God to forgive them, and after that God makes Job all rich and successful again… as though, in spite of everything that was said in the debate, that would be what really matters. But some people need to see that sort of thing in order to find what God has to say before that as important. Such is life.

So what can you take from this long speech? (Sorry. Sometimes I talk too much: teacher’s occupational hazard.) Hopefully that you have a value that doesn’t depend on you being a “winner” in any sense. Your importance doesn’t depend on being the prettiest or the sexiest or the most athletic or the smartest even. Your value is based on your being able to connect with something greater than yourself –– being loved and being able to love in return. For all your sufferings, that principle is still worth believing in. Many religious people fundamentally miss the point on that one, so they might try to give you the same sorts of messages that Job got from his “three friends.” You may want to avoid such people if you can. But if you can find people who really “get” the message of Jesus –– about being able to love God and each other in spite of all our problems –– you might find their company and support quite helpful.

Whatever else happens, I hope you do come to believe in love and justice again in the aftermath of your tragedy, Daisy. I hope the same goes for Paige and for all others who suffer great travesties of justice in our world. Speaking not only for myself, but for the thousands who still believe in God and who have been touched by your story, our prayers are with you.

David Huisjen

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39 Comments

Filed under Education, Ethics, Happiness, Human Rights, Love, Pop culture, Religion, Respectability, Sexuality, Social identity, Spirituality

39 responses to “Open letter to Daisy

  1. Sean

    I’m pretty sure I absolutely fucking love this. It’s written intelligently, honestly, and passionately, and it approaches these large complex concepts in sort of a non-presumptuous, respectful way, which makes it at least a bit more likely that someone who doesn’t want to be preached at will be interested in hearing/reading. At least from my perspective, as one of those very people. I hope she reads this and it helps her in some way – and if not, it’s food for thought for me.

  2. Rebecca

    I am blown away by this. It was brilliant. I wish that I would have had a letter like this years ago when I had an issue with God. I am going to save this for my children, nieces, and nephews. Thank you for this letter.

  3. Tera

    Fantastic and can be used on so many different levels and topics today! I hope daisy hears and absorbs your words one day.

  4. JoycieB

    That was good for me, too! Thank you for taking the time to write it! I’m sure you’ve helped a whole lot of people!

  5. Tully

    Wow, this is beautifully written – clear, consise, and cuts straight through all the common platitudes to the heart of suffering and searching.
    I not only hope that Daisy gets to read your response, but I also hope that this reaches a wide audience – whomever needs to read this actually. There is a great deal of wisdom here.

  6. Totally agree with Sean! Intelligent, relatable, and beautiful! Thank you!!

  7. 40days2thesoul

    Wow, I can’t imagine how lucky your students are to have you as a teacher. It has taken me 25 years to be able to come to my own understanding of  God and as a result, see a beautiful change in my life born from this unconditional place of love and acceptance. As so many, I was surrounded be people who gave me the “three speeches” throughout my life.
    I longed for and conducted my own research for many years to try to erase them and replace it with love. This is what so many of long for – a deep, sincere, intelligent, and non-judgmental explanation of the mysteries of life and God.
    Thank you for taking the time to write this article. I had so many AHA moments!  I’m very grateful for your lessons today. A sincere THANK YOU and may you have a wonderful week. 

  8. Katie Gillespie

    It’s great that you’re trying to be so supportive of this young girl after what she’s been through, but I don’t necessarily think that you (quite honestly) should be pushing religion into this right now. The more I actually read this “open letter”, the more upset I become.

    This girl needs justice, not scripture. While some humans rely on the belief of a higher power to give them optimism or a will to live, some individuals go through traumatic experiences that expose them to the harsh realities of humanity, or lack thereof. Not everyone needs God in order to feel love and acceptance. You’re sort of missing the mark by… going on and on about Job and your religious/philosophical opinions. Also, I enjoyed reading your subtle condemnation of biology and sciences thrown in there.

    What set me off the most about your letter, you ask?

    “Obviously you know in hindsight that you could have reduced your risks by not secretly experimenting with alcohol and not bypassing your older brother’s judgment in this case.”

    And, to that? I have almost no words. Young kids make mistakes, experiment with things at a young age, this is almost inevitable and has been happening for decades. Do not make this about what SHE could have done to reduce her risk of being raped. Human beings should know not to rape others on the mere basis of the psychological and physical harm that it brings upon a person! It doesn’t matter what situation a victim is in, they are NEVER responsible for their sexual assault. “Reduced your risks”…. That just enrages me to read.

    If you’d like my opinion, I think that focusing on her choice to be an atheist is what comes off as trivializing. She should be getting undying support from her community, and not have you attempting to correct her beliefs, which is what you’re honestly trying to do here.

    THE FOCUS HERE SHOULD BE JUSTICE for this girl, not rallying up to “save her” from a lack of religion. Many people do just fine without it. The last thing I’m sure Daisy would want is for yet another thing to be pushed onto her unwillingly, including someone’s differing opinions and philosophies.

    I was a victim of rape, brought up in a catholic household, and denounced all religion not long after that. And I’m happy! I’m a happy, atheist woman in college studying biology, giving my time to a resource center to help girls like Daisy directly, not praying for them to find their way! Supporting her justice is what it should be about.

    You missed the mark, to say the least.

    • Thank you Katie for your honest critique. To briefly respond item by item…

      – I realize that for many religion is associated with their pain, and that on a psychological level it can be very healthy for them to stay away from religion entirely after the sort of trauma we’re talking about here. I don’t want to say that Daisy or you or anyone has no hope without the sort of salvation many of us find in our faith. I tried to make it clear that I don’t want to play God, or pretend that I’m an official spokesperson for the divine here. I’m sorry if that part was unclear to you.

      – Regarding the “obviously in hindsight…” bit, I really meant no condemnation for Daisy in that respect; very much the opposite! I can’t imagine, after all she’s been through, that she hasn’t spent time condemning herself, and far too much at that! From what she said in her blog it’s not hard to read between the lines that this has been a major issue for her. Obviously she made childish mistakes. Obviously those left her vulnerable. Obviously that does not make what happened thereafter her fault! Obviously in order to move on the focus needs to shift away from those factors. Again, I’m sorry if my message was unclear on this point.

      – On “correcting her beliefs…” I can honestly say that is not my intent. Her blog addresses the pain of having lost faith in the crisis. My intention is to tell her that, like many of the traumatic effects of her experience, that loss does not *have to* be permanent. I’m trying to present an honest set of pros and cons regarding religious communities and the experience of faith, without saying it is the only way forward for her. I hope that is clear.

      – Regarding my “subtle condemnation of biology and sciences…” No, my point was to say that justice has many complex variables to it, like biology. Just because at a high school level biology may appear to be less exact than other sciences doesn’t mean that there’s no sense to it, and just because justice seems to fail in many cases like this does not mean that there’s no sense to the idea of justice. Where I think you and I fully agree is that justice really is what Daisy and other victims need, and that some sort of faith in justice — in a more abstract and universal sense — is particularly hard for her to come by just now. My point is to say that just as the shorter individual pea plants within a sample group do not prove that biology fails, the fact that gross injustices happen does not prove that justice is a stupid thing to believe in.

      I’m not sure if this makes it any more clear, but I’m not part of the anti-scientific wing of evangelical Christianity, and I certainly wasn’t trying to steer anyone away from science here. If you read my other blogs you will find I’m being quite honest about this I hope.

      I certainly hope that believers and non-believers alike are communicating their support to Daisy. I know she knows there are serious a$$#6£€s on both sides. I hope and expect she will find decent people on both sides as well. Beyond that, if she remains an atheist I promise I will not think the less of her for it (and I have many former students who will back me up on that). I hope that if she decides to return to some form of theism *you* won’t think the less of her for it (and at this point I have no reason to believe that you would).

      And beyond that I sincerely wish you peace in life and all the best with your own studies.

    • trustmeonthisone

      I agree with Katie. Religion isn’t necessary to have love or justice or an appreciation of the majesty of nature. I imagine that as a biology student she has that in droves.

      Had this been addressed to me I likely would have stopped reading when you got specific about the injuries. Do you think she needs to be reminded in that much detail? I was shocked that you went there and respectfully suggest you consider an edit.

      • MissR

        I can’t agree more – I am a survivor too and while I can now many years later read those words with still a small cringe inside – I was horrified to see you actually talk to her about her ‘vaginal injuries’. Seriously?! This is one of the reasons why those who haven’t been there really need to shuttup. You have wounded her, not helped her. I’m disgusted.

    • Thank you Katie for identifying the issues that kept peeping out between the lines of this cleverly crafted and no doubt sincerely inspired advice.
      Yes she needs justice not scripture no matter how chronologically corrected it may be. Cheers ~jwf~

      • If the goal here were to be finding a respectful diplomatic position between my perspective and Katie’s, I believe you’ve come closest, John. Respect.

      • “If the goal here were to be finding a respectful diplomatic position between my perspective and Katie’s, I believe you’ve come closest, John.”

        Well I’m Canadian. We have read our Goldilocks and we know that there is always a third choice between the polarised extremes of good/evil, fact/fiction, order/chaos, Republican/Democrat, etc. We recognise that Compromise is not a bad thing; in fact it is the very process by which Nature and Evolution and Family Values and Peace all operate. Come to think of it even the spinning Solar System, yay the very Galaxies rotate in a balance of countering forces.
        cheers
        ~jwf~

  9. To the others who have left kind words here, thank you so much! Keep working for peace and justice, and if I can every help, please give me a shout.

    David

      • E

        There also seems to be a lot of I and me in here. Why include yourself so much? It’s not about you. I see this a lot, someone wanting to talk about religion and it’s always long winded and drawn out, someone’s chance to get on their soapbox and it turns into a very long sermon. But it also shows that you care for a complete stranger so I shouldn’t rip, just saying that this turns a lot of people off.

      • If I were to defend my practice on that one I would have to say it also relates to teachers’ professional hazards. I’ve learned over the years that young people relate better to what I have to say if I demonstrate that I am a fellow human being. At the same time I don’t want to pretend that I’m closer than what I am.

        But you’re right that this is too long a letter, because, as Mark Twain might have said, I didn’t have time to write a shorter one. It was very much stream-of-consciousness with Daisy’s own blog in front of me and a Bible to one side (to get the names right and all). If I would have taken longer on it as a project I would have looked for ways to seriously shorten it, starting probably with irrelevant references to myself.

        In all sincerity, thanks for the feedback, and I’ll keep working on learning to be more succinct and less off-putting in my writing style.

  10. Jackie

    I agree this article is “written intelligently, honestly, and passionately…” I did not take your words to mean the same as KG did. Your intentions were clear to me. There are A LOT of misconceptions about Christianity and you spoke to those in a respectful way. I did not see this article as preaching or pushing your ideals on her. I hope she would appreciate the honesty in your letter. (No I have never been raped, however, I have sustained my own trauma in life and in my experience, honesty supported me more than sugar coated words). Great job David!!

  11. trustmeonthisone

    I agree with Katie. I have love and justice and a great appreciation for the wonder of life without any need for religion. I even have a sense of spirituality. One doesn’t need religion for any of that. In fact I daresay a student of biology likely has a healthy appreciation for the amazingness of the natural world. If this letter was to me I would have likely stopped reading when you got specific about her injuries. That’s the last thing she needs to think about now. I respectfully suggest you edit that line.

  12. I am a fellow rape survivor and have recently come forward with my story- 17 years later. I have come forward not for my rapist to be punished, or for someone to find pity on me, I have come forward because I AM WORTH SOMETHING! I DO MATTER! I have also come forward to help other girls, much like Daisy, and the men and women who have suffered many years in silence as the past eats away at them. I did come forward 6 months after, and due to the fact that my rapist had political connections as well, I decided I couldn’t go through a trial and all of that. I believe in the pursuit of “justice” where rape is concerned, the process is not something that has the best interest of the victim in mind. The whole process of a rape kit, collecting data, and then going before a jury AND YOUR RAPIST, is much like the initial act. I believe that is why a lot of rapist go free. My story is on my blog that is attached to this comment.
    Anyway, very well said.

  13. “it is commonly believed among those who make a living investigating such matters that the oldest book in the Bible is the one we call Job”

    Actually, if you ask the people making a living studying these things in our faculty, they’ll tell you that this is most definitely not the case.

    Also, I’m sure you didn’t mean to equate your dog eating a pizza with a young woman being raped.

    • On Job… interesting Michael. I haven’t kept up with new commentaries in the last 20 years, but I was under the impression that the general consensus was that the Psalms and the Pentateuch contained the oldest textual elements, but that their final forms were post-exilic, whereas Job would have reached its final state much earlier. This might or might not be worth discussing over beer.

      And no, you are right, I did not want to compare the rapist’s behavior to my dog’s. I wanted to more compare school students’ and religious people’s crude, instinctual pack behavior to my dog’s. Daisy’s mother has tried to publicly say this month what nice people there are in Maryville and how before the “incident” they had a wonderful time there… I’m saying it’s a difficult matter to put in balanced perspective. Perhaps it’s necessary to recognize that aspects of their tribal instincts are inevitably going to make them act like a-holes under given circumstances, and that whatever good and bad things there are about them otherwise, you have to be realistically recognize that this is likely to be a constant. Does that make sense? (Honest question.)

      • As I understand it, the only books of the Old Testament that anyone’s willing to confidently date pre-exile are some of the prophets and Psalms. Certainly the Pentateuch, as we know it, is post-exile; its insistence on monotheism and only sacrificing at the temple of Jerusalem doesn’t fit what we know from archeology, and it doesn’t really seem to contain any historically accurate content. There’s no particular reason that I’m aware of why Job should be considered exceptionally old.

        As for the other point, certainly it makes sense on its own terms, but I can’t really accept the notion that male students behave “instinctively” or that male sexual violence should be considered a constant. It’s deeply sexist to posit male “drives” as some kind of natural constants that women need to pattern their behavior around, especially since it raises very – frankly – offensive questions of culpability. If male behavior is an immutable constant that sometimes leads to rape, that’s effectively saying that rape can only be avoided if women avoid being raped. In a word, that’s victim-blaming.

        As a man, I do not accept the notion that my behavior is a natural given that I cannot change, let alone that the only thing keeping me from being a sex offender is the circumspection of the women I encounter.

      • If I respond to those in reverse order this time…
        I entirely agree with the idea that men need to control aggressive sex drives, and that women cannot be blamed for “encouraging them”. In the context of the blog I was attempting to address Daisy’s own comment that she had “lost faith in humanity”. This had to do with post-rape social abuse she experienced, much at the hands of her female classmates. Those were the “dogs” I had in mind in the portion in question. What could she generally believe about people *as people* after such an experience? In many ways most of them *shouldn’t* be trusted… but it’s more complicated than that. You can care about some without trusting them in particular ways.

        On the Job thing, talking to an American evangelical Old Testament specialist over the weekend (a random meet-up with someone I’d never heard of before), and asking what he felt about the matter, which is by no means an article of faith for anyone, he claimed that there would be something like a 60/40 split in favor of the idea I mentioned, and that he would side dogmatically with what he saw as the majority there. It would have to do as much with the narrative structure as anything, plus the fact that the names are not in any way distinctively Hebrew and no tribal references are given, as they would normally be for works related to the rebuilding of national identity. I mentioned that my outside understanding was that the more primitive form of Hebrew used there (comparable to Chaucerian English) was part of the argument, but he said that’s less of a deciding factor in the debate.

        Again, that’s not my area of specialty, but I don’t think my claims are entirely wrong either, and I could imagine discussing it at a quiet pub some evening (if that isn’t too absurd an oxymoron in a Helsinki context).

  14. Anthony

    Why is it that religious people no matter the subject always tend to find a way to bring up religion, how you should be faithful, and how you shouldnt abandon religion because its youre only salvation. Its a load of bullshit,don’t get me wrong religious people can continue to be religious and atheists can continue to be atheists honestly im all for each person having their own beliefs but I dont like people pushing their beliefs onto someone, especially a victim like this. Personally I’m agnostic, so in other words id like to believe there is some sort of higher power out there, though I don’t believe that some books written by man that have been rewritten multiple times and share characters, themes, and stories from other religions and mythologies are not true at all considering their theories have been proven wrong and proof of the events, characters existing, and most religious artifacts is non existent for example if moses, Jesus, Mohammad, and other religious characters supposedly lived thousands of years ago and theres not any sort of proof just some words in some books, yet dinosaurs and other species from millions of years ago could be found. Now that ive gotten seriously sidetracked and went on a religious rant myself, sorry to everyone for that, but dont you think you could have just avoided this whole letter for the most part, its basically just a rant about your beliefs towards religion and science which im sure isnt helping daisy much but hell look what a religious rant did it caused a bunch of people to go off subject and argue about religion and science and completely bypass that originally this was suposed to be about helping a girl get support .

    • Anthony, I hope we have a mutual understanding about each of us being justified in allowing ourselves perspectives different from each others. Beyond that, I hope you’ve also read through some of the subsequent correspondence on this thread. Even so, let me restate once again some key issues here:
      – My motivation to write this was in response to Daisy’s own writings this summer, among other things regretting that she is has no longer been able to take comfort in faith. I realize that there are many who would cruelly say, “Then you’re destined for hell girl!” But there are also many who would just as cruelly say, “Good! You’re better off that way. Getting raped did you some good at least!” I vehemently reject both of those attitudes!
      – My point was not to say that Daisy has to come back into religious belief to heal from the trauma that she has been through, but that coming back into a modified religious belief shouldn’t be entirely excluded as a possibility, especially if that helps in the healing process.
      – The main things that Daisy (very understandably!) has a hard time believing in these days are the power of *love* and *justice* in this world, which she was taught were supposed to come from God. Regardless of whether she ever comes to believe in God again or not, she will have to regain hope at least in the existence of love and of justice in this world in order to have a rich and fulfilled life again. That’s not religion; that’s just very basic social psychology.
      – If (or once) she is able to believe in love and justice again, her main reasons for losing faith will cease to be relevant to the question. The relevant issue as far as her recovery goes will be what perspectives are most empowering for her and where she finds the greatest social support.

      Now not directed to Daisy here at all, but between you and I as people who sincerely hope for the best for her (I hope!) is there anything about the reasoning here that you would essentially like to challenge still?

      • Anthony

        so daisy aside, on a religious stand point, how much do you personally believe in your religion and religion as a whole, because like i stated above majority of it cant be proven, aside from that the fact that in religious texts if people do one thing that doesnt seem in the higher power of choices favor your are condemmed to hell for all eternity, so in other words those who steal to survive not for some personal gain are going to hell, those who kill to defend others from being killed are going to hell, babies who literally couldnt have done anything wrong in their lifes but werent baptized are going to hell, People who have sex before marriage and with people of the same sex are going to hell, and multiple other people are going to hell because of one small thing. On a side note to the people who believe homosexuality is a sin and that god destroyed sodom and gommora to punish them for there sinful sexual acts, if a higher power does exist and actually did that then why is san francisco a place mostly homosexual in population not magically destroyed, why is bangkok where all sorts of sexual, amonst other sins, still around. Now back to what i was originally saying about punishing the innocent, so basically all these millions of innocent people are condemned because of small things like this. Yet in some religions if you confess your sins to some guy who touches little boys ,whos supposed to somehow be closer to a higher power than the rest of man, is supposed to absolve you of your sins.Which in and of it self is ridiculous because if god is all seeing all knowing and all powerful he would known you sinned without some sort of middle man.Aside from that why would god give the devil give lucifer his whole own domain, if he betrayed him so badly. In the end most of it is non sense I believe there is some moral to certain parts of religious texts and that for the most part alls they are there for are to strike fear in them to prevent people from running around killing people and commiting other sins and to make them not fear death so much,believe that death isnt the end, and all there family and friends will be in a better place when they die.In the end it comes down to people not wanting to come to the reality that even if there is a higher power the possibility of there being an after life is highly unlikely and we will all just most likely just cease to exist after death, ourbody will remain until it is cremated, rotted away, or eaten by bugs and other lifeforms living 6 foot under, our “soul” is going to float away from our bodies off to infinite paradise or condemnation, our soul is just us, it is our originality, our stubborness and pride, and our personalities basically but that is all in our mind which when our bodies die like i said earlier will not suffer or anything, we wont know we are dead because our minds will stop, they wont remember or fear they will just be non existent. Now all that being said dont get me wrong like i said before id like to believe there is a higher power, truthfully and honestly i would, but i would just want the smallest bit of proof like anything i believe. I would like to believe that there is life after death, that the people i love (family and friends alike) are in a better place, id like to believe that through all the torments that good people go through in life get rewarded after death by being given eternal bliss and the evil people in life get punished after death (though i feel being punished for eternity is a bit far). Like many other people I just find it hard when there is not really any proof in favor of religion and lots of proof against it

      • So from the above rant I gather that you’ve been hurt and/or deeply offended by those who’s religion is based on “avoiding hell”, and attacking such religions wherever possible is one of your ideological priorities in life. For you this seems to trump any interest in rational conversation regarding what enables people to behave decently towards each other and what we can do to improve our situations in that regard. As long as we’re clear about that we can leave off with agreeing to disagree on the rest: I’m not able to or justified in trying to rid the world of people like you, and you’re not able to or justified in trying to rid the world of people like me. Such is life.

  15. Anthony

    Im not trying to rid the world of people of any kind, I just wanted youre opinion since you seemed like a open minded person so i wanted to see if you had any sort of rational argument or way to truly roof to me that god exist or then the just have faith shit people have force fed me since i was a child. I also think that if there is a god that he is solely in his kingdom not this purgatorial place we live in and that he would be more accepting to people as a whole than most people would like to believe and that if he is truly a just god like most writings portray him as he would accept all races religions and sexual preferences that all good people would be accepted into heaven. If not why look forward to the supposed afterlife if good people not of a certain race religion or sexual preference or automatically condemned. Like is said early in my comment you seem like an intelligent enough person to where you arent one of the religious extremists or zealots who spend there years on earth judging and condemning other people when by their religion only god shall be the judge. If I am to believe and side with religious people cant you agree that these zealots must first be convinced to be more accepting and loving like the profits of religious texts?
    If you can agree with me on that, then i could agree that one day i will join the people that truly believe in their religions at least the ones who are open to all,until then I will have to stand my ground. On a side note did you sign the petition to investigate and possibly fire the prosecutor of daisys case who basically let those animals go scott free, is on change.org

    • I’m pretty sure I signed that petition, but I’ll double check.

      “Roof to you that god exist”? I can only guess what that means from the context. What I certainly cannot do is prove to you that there is “something out there” that conforms to your personal taste in such matters. But if you’re interested in why I continue to believe and how I am prone to discuss the matter with those who don’t share my views, try typing “atheist” into this blog’s sidebar search function. If I would point you to one essay in particular it would probably be this one: http://wp.me/p1dpVu-9M, but it comes down to a matter of taste.

  16. Bonnie Morse

    I am a Christian. This statement by no means makes me perfect, just forgiven if I am truly repentant of my sins. I am a sinner. I was born into sin. But several years ago I came to realize that God had a plan for me, and not just me, but for everyone that wanted it. He sent his son, Jesus, to die on the cross for my sins. God never promised me that I would not suffer in this world. But he gave me hope for the next one. Terrible things are happening all around us. What happened to Daisy is horrible! And I know she is suffering for what happened to her. And my heart breaks for her and her mother. Maybe she will never see justice for what happened to her. I truly hope she does. But now she has to learn to love herself again. What that rapist took from her was her respect for herself and she needs to get that back. I pray she doesn’t give up on God. I am so thankful that in my quiet moments I have a place to go and connect with Him. I have ALWAYS felt better after talking with Him. I feel sorry for atheists/ as they have nothing to hold on to, nothing to give them hope. People want proof that God exists? Look around you. How can you NOT believe? I personally have had angels walk with me. I never knew it at the time, but I realized it afterward. To Daisy & her mother: Please don’t let evil control you. Satan controls this world now but there will be a day when God will send His son back again and all the evil will be gone….”behold a new Heaven and a new Earth” What is happening to you is awful but you need to be strong. There are people out there (and you’ve met them here on the internet) that are appalled by the actions of these thugs and are trying to be a comfort to you as you try to pick up the pieces of your life again and dare to hope for a better life. I wish you strength to get through this and I will pray for you to gain your life back again and to heal from this nightmare.

    • Briefly Bonnie, I share your sense of comfort in faith, but I do want to be careful not to “shove it down anyone’s throat” as some of the atheists here put it, especially for someone like Daisy. There are many for whom faith is a means of justifying hatred for those who don’t live up to their moral standards, and “fellowship” with such people could easily do someone like Daisy more harm than good. But I do hope and pray she finds comfort in believing again that there’s a God out there who cares about her in spite of all the disgusting experiences she and her family have been through.

      David

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