This post is part of a series on what it’s like to be an atheist in prison. To read other parts in the series, click here. Some of these inmates have done things that, to many of you, will be unforgivable. I will be disclosing some of their names, so you can easily find out what they’ve done to end up in lockup. You may be disgusted to find out their crimes, and you have every right to be. This series, for the most part, will not be about their crimes. I’m interested in painting a picture of what life is like for nonbelievers in the joint. If you find it is too upsetting to be part of giving them a platform, please choose not to read this. You don’t have to be part of it.
With that said, I’ve sent each inmate some preliminary questions to get the conversation going. If you find you have questions that arise as you read their responses, please post them in the comments below or email them to me @ firstname.lastname@example.org and I will make sure the person gets them.
The following letter is from Mike Webber, who is locked up in Oregon for the murder of his father. Horrifying, yes. However, it would appear there is much more to the case than just the charge. According to Mike, he suffered abuse at the hands of his father from the time he was two years old and when he was finally strong enough to defend himself, he did. I’ve not been able to review any of the evidence in the case, so I don’t know what to believe, but I thought I would mention that up front. As a content warning, you will read about some of his abuse in this lengthy letter that I will divide into several parts. Here is part one:
Thank you for your correspondence and concern for prisoners and their problems. Some people in prison have done some very heinous things and are a danger to society and deserve to be locked up for a long time. It is hard to have sympathy for them, however, they are someone’s mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, etc. and were probably kind and helpful to some people they knew so hurting even the heinous criminals hurts their loved ones as well. Heinous crimes/criminals create much hurt and sorrow all around them but they are still people that should not be mistreated and it serves no purpose except to satisfy the hateful desires of those who would persecute/mistreat them.
Most people in prison are generally not bad people but people who made a mistake. Unfortunately, the USA has made an industry out of making more and more things illegal so they can put more and more people in prison for longer prison sentences so they can grow government budgets and power and politicians can get elected for being “tough-on-crime”. The USA loves to punish and persecute unlike other countries such as Canada and Europe. The USA does not strive to solve the problems of its people and help its people become better and do better. America is a convoluted mess of idealistic propaganda that rarely gets lived up to.
Before the Great Depression feminist groups and religious groups in the USA got the government to pass prohibition (only after an income tax was instituted so that the U.S. government no longer needed the money from liquor taxes) to stop people from getting drunk, violence towards women and men spending the family money on alcohol and saloons, etc. At that time women and children were excluded from saloons and from being served alcohol and organized crime was not much of a problem. Until prohibition passed, all of a sudden people were willing to pay more money to drink illegally. Speakeasies were built to have clandestine saloons. Since you would go to prison for serving men alcohol anyway, why not serve alcohol to women and children and make more money for the same risk? Why not allow prostitution in your saloon and sell other drugs to make even more money for the same risk? Now, so many more people are drinking them before prohibition started, so it became more accepted as normal. It made the people involved rich enough to buy off police and mayors so they never get busted creating far more corruption in local governments than existed before. Because so many more people were drinking so much more, alcoholism became far more widespread and more domestic violence and street violence occurred than before. To supply and transport all that alcohol, a whole criminal industry evolved generating alcohol trafficking gangs (Al Capone). Then the FBI was forced to grow in size and power to be able to fight organized crime, rum runners and gangs and all the corruption that was created by prohibition. The problem just kept escalating and getting worse until after the Great Depression hit making it impossible to fund the war on alcohol.
The US government has been losing the war on drugs every year for the last four or five decades. It keeps getting worse, wasting billions of taxpayers money and killing thousands upon thousands of Americans and incarcerating 2+ million as well as killing probably over a million or more people around the world just to make the problem worse. The difference in the 1930s was that the very same people (feminists and church groups) who got prohibition passed, realized it was a catastrophic mistake and advocated its repeal. The government refused because it was using prohibition as the excuse to increase taxes and it’s legal powers until the Great Depression forced its hand. The parallels are amazing between the war on alcohol and war on drugs. They use the same recycled, exaggerated propaganda and tactics. Nowadays, the public and government cannot admit they will ever win the war on drugs and are just making the problem worse and it is a huge mistake. The whole thing is a ridiculous convoluted mess like most of American government policy, politics and society.I have not always been an atheist. I was agnostic. Religion was not really pushed on me when I was younger, nor as I got older, even though many of my family believed in God as a general proposition. They did not like organized religion because it was oppressive hypocrisy. They did not talk about religion or God much so I was pretty much free to believe what I wanted. Except when I had to attend a religious school in third grade with Bible class. I do not remember much except I was always getting in trouble for general disobedience and asking too many questions about Bible sermons because they did not make much sense to me. I probably had brain damage from my father’s violent physical abuse of me since I was about two years old so I was somewhat retarded for a while almost like I was autistic or something. I was not very good at social stuff, and I was unlike most children who quickly figure out to agree with and repeat what the religious adults want you to so they do not get mad at you even if you think it’s bullshit or don’t understand it. I was too honest/blunt about things. I would argue and say what I thought and what I did not understand.
My father’s side of the family was, for the most part, what I call “Sunday Saints”. They did every sinful thing they wanted all week long then get all dressed up and went to church to talk about God and how they are good Christians doing good things. They would talk about how liberals, minorities, communists, socialists, sinners, etc. are destroying America. Then after church, they would go back to doing all the sinful, hypocritical stuff they always did.
It seems to me many people adapt to deal with religion acting like they are religious because they do not want to be social outcasts. They grow up with it learning to speak religion and acted as a false front to stay in good standing with their peers but then do whatever they want in their private life. I saw on the news a few years ago that a high-profile evangelical priest was gay and in the closet with a wife and kids. He was continually preaching hate against homosexuals in his sermons until he got caught with gay male escorts. He first tried to lie about it, completely denying having homosexual sex, saying he was doing research talking to gay men to find out why they were gay. Then under lots of pressure, days later, admitted it but then said the devil made him do it and asked God for forgiveness. He later went back to preaching. He probably continued to preach against gays using his “battle with temptation” experience as a net benefit because now he knows the evil that is gay seduction/lifestyle, etc. He would probably be a great actor or salesman or politician or Fox newscaster/opinion show host because it seems he could spin anything to his advantage.
Amazingly, this is not a rare situation. Many people are born and raised in cultures, societies, religions, and gender roles that they hate or do not agree with. They cannot adhere to it but if they outright, openly and honestly rebel and publicly live as they want to, their lives would be far harder to live. They face being made fun of or persecuted and discriminated against and even killed in some countries or cultures or time periods. Living a double life becomes second nature because it is the only way for those individuals to fit in and function normally in their surrounding society. Meanwhile, they have a private hidden life where they can be themselves, indulging their different beliefs, sexuality, etc.
Unfortunately, it seems to be a core facet of human nature that everyone embraces far too much, probably because another facet of human nature that we embrace far too much is to persecute dissent and force our beliefs/opinions on others and exploit them. Even when previous politicians, lawyers, police, salesman, etc. are obviously lying and misrepresenting their agenda, history, intent and everything else. As long as we perceive them to be on our side or against those things we dislike or think that they will grant us something we want, we elect them every election cycle. Then we wonder why they keep lining their pockets and those of their friends and allies with taxpayer money. We wonder why they continue generally screwing the people of this country over, accomplishing very little that is not a convoluted, hypocritical mess that only effectively wastes taxpayer money. We either elect a blue sack of shit or a red sack of shit every time because they say what we want to hear then do the same corrupt, ineffective recycled crap. We keep screwing ourselves by voluntarily electing people that screw us. It is sad people cannot see past their emotions/diocese/beliefs to do what is best for our country and people.
So, Mike sent me close to 8000 words in response to my letter. I guess when you have nothing but time, you can just keep writing. I have to break it all up into pieces or you’ll just get a wall of text. So, stay tuned for part two of Mike’s letter which I will publish next week. You can subscribe to my posts by using the form at the top right of the sidebar.
If you want to get in touch with Mike, you can send letters to:
Michael Webber #12362542
4005 Aumsville Hwy SE
Salem, OR 97317 USA
If you would like to read other entries in this series, click here.
Image: Creative Commons/Pixabay