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Karen the Rock Whisperer

Karen’s current Facebook profile picture

One of the regular commenters on this blog, Karen the Rock Whisperer, is currently hospitalized in California. Over the past month or so, she has had a plethora of health problems that have repeatedly landed her in the hospital. Sometimes, in the digital world, we forget that real flesh-and-blood people are attached to an online username. Even though I have never met Karen face to face, I consider her a friend. I wish her well as she battles the various afflictions that have laid her low. I can’t offer up prayers or even karmic good thoughts, but I can say, Karen, I hope you get better soon!

Let me leave you with several comments Karen made in 2015:

Comment #1

I was at least moderately depressed all my life, and finally getting treatment for that illness was my start on the road away from religion. The story: I was raised Catholic in the liberal West Coast church of the 1960s and 1970s. I attended Catholic schools through 12th grade, and was taught my religion by a bunch of wonderful nuns who were determined to raise up a student body of social justice warriors. They tended to slide over the parts of the theology that were disconcerting; the important things in life were to take joy in the gifts of God, be properly grateful for them, and put them to the uses he intended. In college I made friends with Evangelical Christians, and discovered there was a whole other Christian religion out there. They seemed to have a more evidence-based faith, one based on the bible and not the pronouncements of the church hierarchy. I explored that for a few years. Meanwhile I met and married a man who was raised in an Evangelical tradition but was not religious.

I got into serious trouble with the Evangelical message. I couldn’t get my mind around the notion that one could take the entire bible literally. And the constant emphasis on sin, and my worthlessness, fed my depression fiercely. We were attending church regularly, but my husband finally insisted we quit, because the sermon would leave me in tears of despair; not even God could love someone as worthless as I. So I stopped going to church, but the damage was done, and it ate and ate at me for several years. Finally, in my mid-thirties, I reached a point of not being able to function beyond doing simple household tasks (I had been a very successful engineer). The doctor put me on Prozac. The effect was amazing. I discovered I was not worthless. I discovered that my every action was not somehow based in sin. I was thinking somewhat clearly about myself for the first time!

The process of healing was very long, and to some extent continues to this day. But very early on, I started questioning everything I knew about what was really right and wrong, true and false, including religious beliefs. That led me on a long and winding path, but eventually I was able to chuck it all as lacking in evidence. And also, along the way, I had to re-learn that the purpose of life is to take joy in what I’m given, be grateful for it, and put it to good use in a way consistent with secular humanism and social justice.

So while my life doesn’t involve any deities, in the end the nuns got the last word.

Comment #2

I appreciate your writing. Though I gave up on Christianity many years ago, it is learning about experiences like yours that have really made me comfortable in my atheist/humanist skin. While I don’t rage against the faith, I also no longer tiptoe around family and friends who are Christians. I’m no longer shy about objecting when they advocate bad ideas under cover of faith. This has made me much happier, but also enabled me to spread what I think are important messages about how we humans treat one another — and occasionally, I can make the faith-bound think.

Comment #3

As a geologist, I don’t have much knowledge of biology. I have played a bit with invertebrate fossils, and the changes we see through time in those fossils have made evolution real to me in a way that no amount of reading and lectures and presentations possibly could. But I have to leave in-depth understanding of all the different lines of evidence to my colleagues in the biological sciences. And I’m quite happy with that, because I trust that they do science the same way I do and have properly put together the story that these lines of evidence tell.

And that’s the fundamental problem in debating with creationists: they don’t trust the process of science. They don’t participate in it (for the most part), at best pretending to play at it. They can’t honestly do it, because their faith requires fitting the evidence to the conclusion. Dealing with them is just tiresome. But the ones who annoy me the most are big on arguing “XYZ disproves [evolution/age of the universe/big bang/etc.], therefore Christ!” Um, no. even if they’re right about XYZ (and they never are), that doesn’t say a damn thing about what really is true. Disproving evolution would definitely win you the Nobel prize, but implies nothing about the truth of Christianity or any other faith.


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    Grammar Gramma

    I’m so sorry to know you are in the hospital. I hope you won’t be there long. I’ll raise a glass of wine to your quick healing. Best wishes.

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    Those are some great quotes. Thanks for sharing them Bruce. This last one is one I’m sure I’ll use if Karen doesn’t mind. 🙂

    Disproving evolution would definitely win you the Nobel prize, but implies nothing about the truth of Christianity or any other faith.

    Thinking of you Karen.

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    Hospitals are not easy places and I wish you healing, Karen the rock whisperer. My Baptist preacher dad, recently deceased, spent some of his mid-90’s being treated in hospital for diabetes and issues related to old age. He was fairly demented by then but my crazy-for-Jesus older brother would visit him and drill him with Bible verses until dad would parrot them back to him, thereby proving the grace and glory of God (as my brother saw it.) One day, when I visited dad and was there alone with him, he broke his silence (his dementia kept him primarily quiet) and quoted Proverbs 3. The words came out slowly but were clearly enunciated: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths,” and then, after a pregnant pause, he added in a droll tone, “But you might have some problems with the FOOD!”
    I was delighted to hear my father’s voice, not his quoting of scripture but his personal addendum that spoke truly and eternally about hosptital food! (After laughing till my belly hurt, I went out and bought us hamburgers.)
    I have appreciated your comments, Karen the rock whisperer and will be gratefully reading them some more, I trust.

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    Karen the rock whisperer

    Thank you all for your kind words. I’m still not out of the woods, health wise, but the docs are working on it. Meanwhile I’m in a good hospital with an attentive staff. We just need a little luck.

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    Hi Karen. I hope you feel better Karen. Do you need anything tangible?

    Per Karen’s Comment 1. Been there. Experienced that. Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical churches are highly destructive to people with clinical depression, anxiety, and other kinds of mental health difficulties. Based on my own experience, I am tempted to call their churches “Suicide Machines” because it is very hard to listen to a highly negative fire and brimstone sermon every Sunday when what your mental health most needs are uplifting messages.

    I have a hypothesis that fundie churches attract a certain kind of personality type that is almost impervious to criticism and negativity. Personalities like that are built by strong moms and dads who love their children deeply and the children never doubt it—and also moms and dads who are sociopaths and psychopaths—-and turn their children into hardboiled psychopaths and sociopaths just like themselves.

    I don’t know. What do you think Karen and Bruce?

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    P.S. Karen. I have most of an undergraduate degree in geology—and a B.A. degree in anthropology and a graduate degree in anthropology/archaeology. I am a nonfundie Christian, and I can tell you without any doubt whatsoever that the evolutionary science is accurate (to the level we understand it today) and the creationist people are dead wrong. The thing that most often frustrates me with the fundies is their total unwillingness to take a human or primate evolution course at their local college or an invertebrate or vertebrate paleontology course.

    I am about 30 years behind on it, but human evolution is well understood today—and an enormous number of fossils humans with all sorts of different characteristics have been found over the past 30 years—and when you look at the anatomy from one to the other, you realize that you are clearly dealing with early hominids that were quite different from us but clearly on the human evolutionary pathway or very different from us but still clearly human.

    As a Christian, I do not see any reason to throw God out the window because of evolutionary science—like the fundies do. It is all just a matter of how a person understands and interprets the Bible. For example, I do not believe the two creation stories in Book of Genesis have anything to do with science prehistory, or history. They are parables whose primary purpose is to orient a person toward spiritual matters—such as all members of mankind are brothers and sisters—not literally—but that is the proper way for us to treat each other.

    The fundie insistence on reading the Bible literally, believing it is all accurate history, believing it is a science textbook, and believing it contains no errors of fact and no internal contradictions, etc. is where the fundies get themselves into all kinds of needless trouble.

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    Well wishes to you! Being in the hospital sucks. Hope you got competent people that are figuring it out. Take care of yourself.

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    Hope you will be well soon, Karen. Your intelligent and insightful comments are always helpful to me, and I’m sure, to others as well. Take care of yourself.

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