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Or is it a symptom of their disease, beyond their control?

Photo by Ümit Yıldırım on Unsplash

Readers please note: this story includes a discussion of verbal and emotional abuse. If you need help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

I fell for her the day we met. We sat in a forest nook at a music festival and talked for hours. I loved that I struggled to keep up with her conceptual way of thinking, her artist’s mind.

A master at nurturing plants, animals, and children, she was passionate about living in harmony with the planet; she held a deep empathy for those who had been traumatized and fiercely opposed abusive power structures.

She’d had her…

Northern California lives up to its reputation

Photo courtesy of the author

Hitchhiking is a fascinating method of travel. Since you’re living out of a backpack, you have the flexibility to be completely spontaneous and independent, but you’re also entirely at the mercy of random strangers on a regular basis.

This combination ensures that every day will be a completely unique adventure. There’s no way to predict what’s going to happen, so you must be adaptable, develop and trust your intuition, and become an expert at self-reliance and minimalism.

Because getting along with your driver is so important, you often have to hold your tongue when it comes to religious, political, and…

Seeing the world from outside yourself

Photo by Edi Libedinsky on Unsplash

I had no shortage of questions when I was a struggling Christian.

Where is God when I pray? Why is the Bible so problematic? How can Christians disagree so widely when the Holy Spirit unites us?

Many of my peers who were raised Christian have had these kinds of doubts. And yet, most of them have not left the religion — and likely never will.

Why is it that they stayed faithful while my doubts led me to disbelief? What’s the difference between us?

Some people think I lost faith because I never had a “true encounter” with Jesus. But…

An angry RV park owner crashed into me on purpose

Photo by gregkorg on Pixabay

I don’t recall the exact words he screamed into my face, but I can still feel his hand around my throat. I see his frothing mouth and the trembling fury in his vivid blue eyes.

I’ve never been in a real fight; this was the most aggression I’ve ever received from another human. It didn’t happen in my thousands of miles of hitchhiking or in a lawless place like Slab City. I had to annoy a business owner in conservative, white, small-town Arizona to experience this level of unhinged rage.

I live, and travel, in an old airport shuttle bus…

Really, I just die… and that’s it?

Photo by Marc Wieland on Unsplash

On the morning of my open-heart surgery, I was at peace with the fact I might die on the operating table. Life or death; either outcome was fine. I would either wake up in the hospital and recover from my operation or wake up with God in the best place imaginable.

At 15, I had convinced myself that life on Earth was insignificant compared to the eternity I would spend with God. This became the foundation of my faith for the next five years — even as I began to doubt.

The more I learned about Christianity and the Bible…

Other than the whole “not believing in God” thing

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If you’ve spent enough time listening to religious apologists, you’ve probably heard one of them say “atheism is just another religion”.

As an atheist, it would be easy to pull up a few definitions of the word “religion” and make a case for why this claim isn’t true; or, I could use a quick rebuttal like “if atheism is a religion, bald is a hairstyle.”

However, I want to examine the logic behind this claim instead of dismissing it outright, because glossing over criticism is a sign of dogmatic thinking.

To gain a better sense of what this “atheism is…

Moving through life’s phases

Photo by Atlas Green on Unsplash

“Hey dude, where you headed?”

The scruffy man shouted at me from a bright red, graffiti-covered school bus. A skull-and-crossbones was painted on the hood.


“Us too. Hop in.”

I was in Snowville, Utah, after a brutal day of hitchhiking — only 100 miles of progress in 13 hours. I had spent the previous night camped in the brush behind a Walgreens in Bountiful, a suburb of Salt Lake City; then, starting at 6am, I had waited 1–3 hours by the side of the road all day long for rides that only took me 10 minutes down the road…

It’s just not worth it to me

Photo by Gregory Hayes on Unsplash

One question that commonly arises in thru-hiking and vandwelling communities is: “should I bring a gun with me?”

The ensuing debate tends to split along conservative/liberal lines, as one might expect.

Some people would never leave home without a gun. It gives them peace of mind to know they always have the option to use a firearm in case some person, or animal, threatens their safety.

I can see the logic behind that. If that’s what helps you feel safe enough to travel, so be it. Maybe someday you’ll be really glad you had it. More power to you.


An ex-Christian atheist describes a Buddhist Vipassana retreat

Photo by Kevin Bluer on Unsplash

Years ago, if I had accidentally wandered into a Vipassana retreat, I would have assumed it was some sort of cult initiation.

Imagine: 80 participants forbidden from speaking, touching, or making eye contact for 10 days. Men and women kept separate. A 4:00am wake-up bell every morning. Meals prepared by invisible volunteers and eaten without a word. No books, media, internet, games, or group activities allowed: just 10 hours of meditation every day, sometimes directed by the disembodied voice of the esteemed master, S.N. Goenka.

And every evening, in a dark room, with entranced faces glowing in the light of…

Adjusting your communication to suit your audience

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

We send each other signals all the time. Our speech, writing, and body language are pieces of data that originate from inside of us, travel through space and time, and get interpreted by other people.

It is tempting to think that as long as we present our thoughts accurately, the person we are communicating with should have no problem understanding us. “I said exactly what I meant, so if they misinterpreted me, that’s their fault!”

Indeed, when we’re talking to close friends with similar backgrounds and worldviews, it’s easier to communicate successfully. …

Joe Omundson

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