Religious Exploration

sent in by Sarah

My Story: I am the middle child of nine and was born into a strict Southern Baptist family. I attended church three times weekly (Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night), attended summer "revival meetings" that seemed endless (only made worse by the horrible potluck dinners), and attended private school (on church grounds).

We were not allowed to watch TV, go to the movies (even if it was G rated - simply because someone who sees you go into the theater has no idea if you're going to the Disney movie or the R-rated thriller), drink, smoke, wear large jewelry, wear jeans or shorts (women), dance - you get the idea. My parents did cheat sometimes and we were allowed restricted TV privileges and every once in a while we went to the movies. I used to put blank tapes in my boom box, put the volume all the way down, and record hours of regular radio. I would go for walks or go horseback riding and listen to the evil rock music on my headphones.

We had a "six-inch rule". We were not allowed to be within closer than six inches of the opposite sex. They would literally pull out rulers and check. We had to have our skirts (or culottes *shudder*) knee length. They would make us kneel on the floor and if the hem didn't touch we would get in trouble. Funny, none of that helped me avoid being molested as a little girl. But that had to be my fault. We were told men weren't able to control their sexual urges so we had to dress modestly and behave modestly. If we didn't and something happened (like rape) it was our fault because we knowingly tempted men. WTF???

About the time I was twelve years old I started thinking for myself. I decided any God who loved me wouldn't be so damn mean and wouldn't restrict happiness. It couldn't really be a sin to listen to rock music!! I thought the whole thing was ridiculous so I decided to ask my mom about it. She smacked my mouth, as I recall, and said I was going to go to hell if I talked like that. Then I thought I could ask my pastor. I did. He said some things just had to be accepted on blind faith and shouldn't be questioned. He was also confident I was going straight to hell.

Towards the end of that summer I was in a terrible riding accident. I was thrown from my horse, kicked in the arm, and kicked in the back of the head. I was certain (thanks to years of reading medical journals for fun - mom is a nurse) I was going to die or at the very least need brain surgery and then I would just be royally screwed for a few years - possibly the rest of my life. Either way it was no good.

I didn't want to die. Of course, you're thinking, no one WANTS to die. The reason I didn't want to die wasn't the fear of going straight to hell (you thought it was though, didn't you?). I didn't want to die because I hadn't figured it out yet and the pathetic life I had up until that point was NOT going to be my whole life! Everyone around me thought I was on my way pastor was even at the hospital praying over me. You want to scare a deeply religious twelve year old girl who's bleeding from the head in the emergency room? Send in her pastor. What were they *thinking*?!?

After I survived the accident (didn't even need surgery!), I conned my parents into sending me to Europe for three months the following summer. Travel really opens your eyes. You see so many things you never would (at least I wouldn't in my small mid-western home town). The summer abroad really changed my opinions and opened my mind to other possibilities. It also made travel a passion - so much so I even work in the travel industry today.

When I returned home I started exploring other religions. I also insisted on high school at a PUBLIC school (and surprisingly won that argument!). Eventually, I was even allowed to attend school dances - but not with a boy. My dress was still restricted but I did get jeans and shorts AND was allowed to wear them!

I bought books on Buddhism, Hinduism, Wicca, and Judaism. I converted to Buddhism for a while. My mother would come in my room and take all religious books and destory them. I just bought more. She hated the tarot cards I bought so I had to hide them. I was raped when I was sixteen by someone close to the family and after the horrible event he actually had the balls to call my mom and tell her he saw me with tarot cards (you see, he was a Christian too).

Eventually, I latched on to Wicca. Until....

I moved in with a Jewish family (I was the nanny) and a whole new world opened. I love Judaism. I was a practicing Jew for two years while I lived with them. Then I moved away and didn't know any Jewish people anymore and since I'd never converted didn't feel right going to Temple. I pretty much gave up on all religion for several years. I did go back to Wicca at some point and have never given up my love of tarot cards.

About a year ago I decided to convert to Judaism. I went to see the Rabbi to discuss this. At some point he said "kosher". Apparently, that's where my faith ended. I just don't see how God could care if I eat the crab or the chicken. I never went back.

My parents are far less strict now. After all their "trouble" with me they lightened up considerably. It was worth it then, if you ask me. They do still give me crap sometimes (my mother says I need to find a man in church and not at a bar) but overall they're actually human!

I hate Christianity for a variety of reasons. The first is the Bible. How could a sane person base her entire life on a book so incredibly OLD? Nevermind that - how about a book that's been translated a zillion times by men with ulterior motives (like, oh - a king)? Nevermind THAT - how about a book that was translated from languages like Hebrew - Hebrew has no vowels. None. Every single word could be many different words. Example: PN That is a Hebrew word. Translate that. It could be: PiN, PiNe, PuN, PeN, etc. How could you possibly know that what they translated was the correct word? Okay, forget even that. This book - the Bible - was put together from multiple sources of ancient writing. You know what "they" did? They read through it and chose only the books that they liked. Really. The rest they just left out because they were too ridiculous. How could Matthew be more ridiculous than the Gospel of Mary Magdalene? Do you know a Christian who has read the Apocrypha? I don't. But I've certainly read it.

If Christianity is a religion built on "love" why is there so much hate? When I watch the news and see battles between the Christian right and whomever is "wrong" - all the hate and judgement and nastiness is coming from the Christian side. I don't see the "wrong" side shouting about how everyone who doesn't agree with them is going to die and suffer for eternity.

Christians are supposed to let God judge. So why are there so many Christians judging everyone?? What difference does it make to YOU what I do? If you really believe what you say you believe let me answer to God myself and stay the hell out of my life! And the gay thing? ARGH! So WHAT if someone is gay? How is that ANY of your business? Are you GOD?

Here's a story for you - this is what Christianity does to you. My friend has a sister-in-law (we'll call her Jane) who is married to a youth minister (we'll call him Joe). While they were dating, Jane became pregnant. Now what in the world is a youth minister doing having pre-marital sex, right? Joe flipped out because he was worried about what the church family would say. Any decent person concerned with doing the right thing and being a good example would simply have confessed this to his church family, apologized (or whatever it is you do in that circumstance), and used it as an example of what can happen to you when you "sin". Did Joe do that? NO. You know what he did? He and Jane went to my friend and asked her and her husband to pay for an abortion so no one would ever know. That's exactly what happened too. Jane got an abortion and no one in the church ever knew. I think that's disgusting.

Here's a personal story - my brother Jason was planning his wedding. He had dated Jen for a couple of years. She was a single mother of two and her abusive, drug addicted boyfriend had ditched her. Jason and Jen lived together for a while before the wedding. Jason asked my brother Jon to be a groomsman.

Jon went from a cool pot smokin' ACDC listenin' hippie type into this psycho Christian guy. I don't know how it happened. He attended Hyles Anderson Christian College (cuh-razy rules at that school). He married a girl he met there. He now pastors his own (Baptist of course) church. He has done many things over the years in the name of God that I find disgusting. Like cleaning offices at night with his wife and baby in tow in order to make extra money because he made hardly anything as the church treasurer (this was before he got his own church). His wife was on WIC because they had so little money. She mowed lawns on the side to bring in extra cash. Jon has a TEACHING degree - high school math and high school PE. He could have at LEAST made enough to survive on a teaching salary but he felt God wanted him to work with the church.

Anyway, I'm getting off track and if any of you are still reading this I'm shocked.

Jon told Jason he would NOT stand up for him at his wedding. Said Jason and Jen had "lived in sin" and if he stood up with him he would be sending a message to his church family that it was okay to live in sin. He said he couldn't even ATTEND the wedding OR the reception (there would be drinking and dancing at the reception, see). My sister called Jon and ripped him to shreds (she's really good at that - don't get on her bad side) and Jon finally said he would attend the wedding but still wouldn't stand up with him and he would drop by the reception but wouldn't stay long.

What kind of God would want a man to do that to his brother??

Jon and I don't speak.

I am certainly NOT a Christian. As a comedienne once said: "when I hear 'Christian' I immediately think 'hmmm...not so smart.'"

City: Denver
State: CO
Country: US
Became a Christian: born into it
Ceased being a Christian: twelve
Labels before: Southern Baptist
Labels now: Spiritualist
Why I joined: had to - that was my life
Why I left: it's archaic and unnecessary

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