Megan Phelps-Roper leaves the Westboro Baptist Church.

Megan Phelps Roper and her sister Grace have followed in their uncle Nate’s footsteps and have left the Westboro Baptist Church.

In a city in a state in the center of a country lives a group of people who believe they are the center of the universe; they know Right and Wrong, and they are Right. They work hard and go to school and get married and have kids who they take to church and teach that continually protesting the lives, deaths, and daily activities of The World is the only genuine statement of compassion that a God-loving human can sincerely make. As parents, they are attentive and engaged, and the children learn their lessons well.

This is my framework.

Until very recently, this is what I lived, breathed, studied, believed, preached – loudly, daily, and for nearly 27 years.

I never thought it would change. I never wanted it to.

Then suddenly: it did.

And I left.

I’m sure, to Megan, taking her first unfiltered look at the world outside the church walls of the WBC is akin to emerging into the light for the first time in her life.  I’m sure it’s blinding and frightening for all of its unknowns.  And though I suspect that the fear of what the world will want to do to her for her past is less intimidating than the weight of her own conscience, I’m certain it’s still a lot to deal with.

Up until now, our names have been synonymous with “God Hates Fags.” Any twelve-year-old with a cell phone could find out what we did. We hope Ms. Kyle was right about the other part, too, though – that everything sticks – and that the changes we make in our lives will speak for themselves.

It is perhaps one of the greatest lies ever conceived: that absolution is free, as free as believing a man once rose from the dead.  The truth is that absolution comes not from god, but from other humans.  And it comes only when your conscience has become so heavy that you require others to help lift it off of you.  We’re willing to do that, Megan.  Contrary to what you’ve been told for your entire life, sins are not something for which you deserve to be punished forever.  Atheists know that.

What you have done in your past brought a great deal of suffering to people, but torturing yourself won’t unmake that.  Come with Nate, explore the life and the world you’ve been denied.  Take some time to learn what love really is.  Share it with others and, when you’re ready, start spreading real love – the love that abhors hate, the love that forgives those who truly regret their mistakes, and the love which seeks to prevent the suffering of other humans – all other human beings.  Therein lies the remainder of redemption, and we will help you find it.

Hell, most of us had to find it ourselves.  That is why, as I hope you will find Megan, that Jesus was never there, but we always were.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Glodson

    We know that we’ve done and said things that hurt people. Inflicting pain on others wasn’t the goal, but it was one of the outcomes. We wish it weren’t so, and regret that hurt.

    We know that we dearly love our family. They now consider us betrayers, and we are cut off from their lives, but we know they are well-intentioned. We will never not love them.

    We know that we can’t undo our whole lives. We can’t even say we’d want to if we could; we are who we are because of all the experiences that brought us to this point. What we can do is try to find a better way to live from here on. That’s our focus.

    None of us are prefect. We all make mistake. Like many people like me, white and straight males, I’ve had some pretty crappy attitudes handed to me. It can be all too easy to fall into the trap of believing the prejudices. It is all too easy to adopt the beliefs of your parents, of your community, without true reflection on those beliefs. Worse, when we encounter opposition to these beliefs, we can be defensive and unwilling to accept the criticism.

    I am glad to see her and her sister try to find a better way. I am happy to see they feel regret. This bodes well. This means they have learned something. They have grown. I know it took some growing in my own life. And I’ll continue to grow. It makes me happy to see her reject her former life.

    I hope her sister take this chance to learn and grow, and find a better life. Maybe it will help some of her friends and family still trapped behind the wall of ignorance.

  • Jaime Wise

    My sympathy for the family rejection they’re facing. Few things can keep people from making changes like this like the fear of losing your family. It will be fascinating to see what these two ladies do with their lives now.

  • Charlie

    Here is an interesting article about it.

  • cb

    The Westboro Baptist Church is not affiliated with any known Baptist convention or associations but is part of Phelps-Chartered Co., the Phelps family’s law firm. This is a family of lawyers using this “god hates you” thing to make money. It is time for this scam and the hate to end. They are NOT what they say they are! THEY ARE NOT A church, THIS IS A HATE GROUP!!

    • Glodson

      Yawn. No True Christian.

      The nature of many protestant churches is that they are congregational. Even within a group like the Southern Baptist Convention, you can see a diverse set of beliefs. Just because Westboro isn’t a part of those groups doesn’t mean that they aren’t a church. Just because you don’t like them, doesn’t mean they aren’t a church.

      But really, here’s the worst of it for this argument. The only reason many Christians denounce them is they are quite crass in how they put their message out there. It isn’t the message itself. Saying that gay people will go to Hell is a staple of many a church. Those churches often use the words gay, or homosexual. Some might say queer. But really if we just put the word “fag” in there, we get the same basic message as the Westboro Church. This is a part of the holy book. It isn’t like Fred Phelps made it up. It is in there, Old and New Testament.

      In some ways, many churches are effectively hate groups. Many churches fight against gay rights. Many churches encourage the idea that homosexuality is a sin. Many churches will “other” their opponents as a means to dehumanize them. Many churches have the same ideological bent. They just aren’t as impolite as the Westboro Church.

      • Art Vandelay

        Exactly. We give this book to little children and tell them that it’s the divinely-inspired, infallible words of the creator of everything and the greatest moral guide in the universe. Then when they grow up to believe every word of it, we blast them for being bigots. At the end of the day, their biggest crime is just having more faith than most Christians. It seems to me that if you’re a person who likes to promote the idea of faith as a virtue, you don’t have much ground to blast the WBC.

        • Glodson

          Oh man, I’ve got a couple of stories about books about the Bible.

          Figure this is a good time to share them. My wife’s mother sent us a prayer book for our daughter. This was before I had come out as an atheist. Hell, I think I was still Christian at the time. Anyway, about a year ago, my wife was reading it to my daughter. My girl pointed at a picture of Jesus and asked “who is that?” My wife said “White Jesus.” Always an acceptable answer.

          A few months ago, my little girl picked out a book that was on the shelf. Again, about a Bible story. I read it to my daughter because I’ll read anything and I felt this was prefect. It was a book for children about Jonah and the whale. And it fucking started with God wanting to kill everyone. Oh, we all had some good blasphemous fun reading that. The story ends with God changing his mind and not horrifically murdering everyone! See kids, God loves you just enough to not kill you horribly if some random dude goes to your town!

          • Art Vandelay

            Oh, let’s not forget that they’ve managed to make this lovely tale into a children’s story.

            Mass genocide is fun for the whole family!

          • Glodson

            Ha, we’ve got that one too.

            I don’t want to read that one to the little girl. She’s actually got a great sense of empathy, and so I don’t want her to feel bad as god drowns the world. Hell, she gets upset in the Jonah story when the people throw him overboard during the storm.

            It is amazing what a sense of empathy and a lack of an undue respect towards religious stories can do them.

    • Brad1990

      Oh look, the No true Scotsman fallacy. How predictable.

      You act as if the two are mutually exclusive, when in fact I would contend that almost every church out there could reasonably be classified as a hate group. There are exceptions, obviously, but I feel the vast majority would fit into this category.