Sent in by Trish
I was raised as a Christian. My mother's side of the family was Christian, my father never talked about his side, so I don't know what they believed in. My father didn't enjoy church but came if my mother pressured him enough. By the time I was in junior high, he had refused to attend completely.
We attended a United Church every Sunday. I began going when I was about 3. I was a gifted child, speaking and reading at a very early age, with a phenomenal memory. I was very uncomfortable in the building, it seemed cold, empty and unfriendly to me. I remember colouring Bible stories and being anxious because I couldn't understand the contradictions we were told to believe, such as the David and Goliath story. (Thou shall not kill...unless killing is "allowed"?) I was adept at sensing energies and feeling auras and had a number of psychic like experiences that my mother told me I "imagined" and that things like that were of the Devil.
My mother had a thing for the Devil. When I was a kid, she would terrify me by telling me that if I were bad, she would take down my kitten and ballerina posters, and put up pictures of the Devil dragging people down to a fiery Hell. Looking back, I remember feeling panicked and completely horrified, sick to my stomach and fearful that I would somehow "do wrong" and have to spend an eternity there. I couldn't have been more than 6 or 7 then. I would terrorize myself at night with thoughts that the Devil was going to trick me into selling my soul, or that God would judge my imperfect human soul as deserving of eternal damnation. Needless to say, I was a nervous, over sensitive, shy kid.
As I began junior high, I didn't want to go to youth group anymore. Everyone there seemed like puppets, and they all seemed "overly eager" to me. Somehow, it seemed false and fake. It made me keep my distance, because I could not understand what they felt. I used to stare at the front of the church during the sermon, and PRAY to God that He would send me a sign, a feeling, ANYTHING so I could believe and be happy like the rest of them. No sign was given.
I had many friends by now, both religious and non-religious, and I saw from sleep overs how other families lived. Some of them seemed SO happy and loving... but how was that possible when they WEREN'T CHRISTIANS??? My mother had constantly told us that we were "better" than everyone else, that we were "special" because we were Christians. It embarrassed me and I was disconcerted by the idea.
I was a straight A student, a quiet, shy but nice girl, with friends of both sexes and many different races and religions. My mother would criticize my friends behind their backs, making racist comments or judgments about anything she didn't approve. My family life was very abusive, my dad was an alcoholic and severely emotionally and verbally abusive, my mother would have "fits" of rage where she would drag us out of bed early in the morning and force us to clean (no...SCRUB) every inch of the house, while she stood over me in particular, since I was the oldest, and screamed insults and use physical force.
Sick of being threatened with Hell, I refused to attend church by the end of grade 9. I could not believe that God would be so hateful, to torture people for minor sins they committed, why people who didn't know of Christianity would automatically go to Hell...it seemed so unfair and cruel. When I was young, I'd ask the Sunday School teachers questions about inconsistencies in the Bible, or moral dilemmas, and they could never satisfy my question. I realized that they could only tell me what a very, very old book said, and since I had tried numerous times to read the Bible (getting frustrated and confused more often than not) I realized that they COULD NOT give me the answers. I decided that though I may not know WHAT I believe, I certainly knew I didn't believe in the Devil!!
In high school I didn't think much about religion...I was more concerned with getting good grades, dating, partying and working to make extra money. Because of the abuse, I moved in with a girl friend after graduation. I lived there for a year before her sister had to move in, so then I went back home. By this time, I was 18, in college and had a real boyfriend and a part time job. One night, while I was at work, my mother went through my belongings and read my diary. Seeing that I had recently lost my virginity, she told my younger brothers that if I called home, to tell me I was no longer welcome...to come and get my things and be gone. I tried to contact her, but she would not speak to me. I didn't even know why.
So I left, and spent a summer sleeping in my car, at friend's parents place, where ever I could. My car insurance ran out and I went to renew it at the store where my family got their insurance. My mother and two teen brothers (both larger than me) were hiding in nearby stores. As I walked up, I heard a voice yell "Get her!" and as I turned around to see what was happening, my brothers and mother attacked me physically. I screamed and tried to get away (this was all in public...on the sidewalk in front of a strip mall.) My mother's friend was there, telling people who looked like they were going to come to my aid, that I had recently escaped from the hospital mental ward, and was "off my medication." Somehow, I got away from them, and did not speak to my family for over a year and a half. I had declined to press charges, even though my brother had said, while pinning me on the floor INSIDE the insurance store while horrified clerks looked on helplessly..."Mom says we're underage so we can do whatever we want and not get charged." My brothers told me years later that my mother had lied to them and told them I was doing something illegal and that unless I was stopped, my father would have to go to jail, and they would lose their house and comfortable lifestyle. My mother told them that, a woman who claimed (and pretended to all outsiders) to be a devout, modest Christian.
The next few years were very hard on me. Raised in a pretty sheltered existence, then kicked out into the world at 18, I didn't know what to do. I met a guy at my work and we hit it off, and he introduced me to Witchcraft, or Wicca. He said he knew I was really a Witch. He was right, and to this day is still a close friend and beloved person in my life. I studied everything I could on Wicca, and was relieved...there is no Satan or Devil in Wicca!! I had been the type of child who secretly loved to be a Witch at Halloween, and had a deep respect and communion with nature from a very early age (we lived on the outskirts of town so I'd go walk in the paths to get away from my family). I knew that my family would excommunicate me if they ever found out I believed in Wicca, but after the damage they had done to me (for no REAL reason, and never apologizing or even to this day ADMITTING what was done to me) I really did not care.
Somewhere in my early 20's, I began to study theology and different religions and forms of spirituality. I found it amazing that similar myths could be found in distant cultures all over the world. Part of trying to heal, I inwardly forgave my family (they wouldn't talk openly about any of the incidents) and began to see them at holidays etc. I thought things were going well, though emotionally I was a wreck...anxiety, depression, panic attacks, drinking to forget the past...when I took some laundry over to my mother's to do it as my washer was broken. Nobody else was home, she and my dad had divorced by then and my brothers were out. I was folding laundry in my old room when (HONEST...sadly, this is NOT a joke or an exaggeration) my mother came in and physically assaulted me, telling me I was possessed by the Devil and that she was supposed to "exorcise the demons" out of me. She was completely serious...and she looked scary, there was a fanatical glint in her eyes. I tried to get past her out of the room, but she is larger than me, and had no qualms about using physical force to hold me on the bed while she recited strange litanies, garbled Bible verses, and screams of "Satan leave her....I command you in the name of JESUS!"
All the while I was quite calm inside, surprisingly, because I think I knew she might not be in her right mind (if she even had one!) Sorry if that sounds flip, my mother was and is a very troubled person and takes many prescription mood altering drugs which she couples with alcohol against doctor's orders. She also was severely abused and deprived as a child by her religious/alcoholic family. I asked her to let me go, told her there is NO demon, I am NOT possessed by Satan, I am not an evil Witch, etc, etc. I didn't want to hit her or hurt her which I figured would be the only way to get away, so I repeated calmly to her the same words. Finally, after more chanting and praying and "televangelising" she let go of me and I grabbed my laundry and left. My mother and I have not had a relationship since then. I've seen her a few times, but she refuses to "remember" any incidents and criticizes everything about me and my life, so I choose to stay away.
Well, I wish I could say these were all the problems I've had with the Evangelical Fundamentalist belief system, but since I am not close with my mother, when my aunt (mother's sister) and cousin moved to my city, and I became close with them. My aunt is a fundamentalist Christian, but she never attempted to force it on me, and seemed genuinely loving and caring, so I tried to believe that my mother was ill and that Christianity wasn't to blame for her actions. Until my aunt, who had become like a mother to me, went online and saw that I had joined a Facebook group about Wicca. She sent me an email saying she would NEVER have me in her life and family because she was "A CHRISTIAN!!!" her emphasis, not mine. Furthermore, I was not allowed to contact my 34 year old cousin anymore as she worked for law enforcement and "cannot be associated with anyone in the occult". I was devastated, but not shocked. Yes, it hurts, because I finally felt like in them I had a family. It hurts to be excommunicated because of WHO YOU ARE and WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN.
I have NEVER tried to force my beliefs on anyone, and I try to accept everyone for who they are, unconditionally, because I know the pain of being rejected. I am against Fundamentalist Christianity because it can DESTROY families. It can tear families apart. I KNOW. I should also mention, that since this last rejection, I have completely come out of the "Broom Closet" and have chosen to start teaching Wicca in my city. I've belonged to two covens in my life, and gone to Wiccan retreats, and I must say that almost everything fundamentalist Christianity says about Wiccans are LIES. Sometimes they get the name of our holidays right, (lol) but that is pretty much all the accuracy they have about us. They deliberately make up lies and distribute hate propaganda about us. And people, like my aunt, brainwashed into believing whatever her televangelists say and quoting a 2000 year old book of uncertain origins, actually believe that I, the niece she loved a few months ago, being a Witch/Wiccan, kill and eat babies, sacrifice animals, worship the Devil, cause malice and strife to loved ones and generally am a horrible, evil person. Someone she loved a few months ago, told everyone what a loving, kind, decent soul I was, now believes I am evil and going to Hell because that's what the Bible (or Pat Robertson, or Jack Van Impe says.) By the way, my aunt is disabled and very ill, and living on less than $800 a month, and she sends these frauds money to keep their hate-promoting agendas going...money she could spend on her health or on food.
I'm sorry, but any religion that won't let people think for themselves is not one I have respect for. I have recently done much research on the history of the Bible, and the authenticity of it, and I have found so many errors and discrepancies, I find it hard to believe that any rational, intelligent person would believe much of what is in there. I will not deny that there are some good spiritual lessons, but the horrific stories and contradictions far outweigh them. The violence and brutality, the way God is portrayed as a cruel tyrant rather than a loving creator, it saddens me. I'm sure this wasn't what Jesus intended, if he really did exist. I am sorry that my family has been brainwashed into fundamentalism, but I am relieved that I was able to make it out, and still be able to love, trust, and worship my idea of Deity. The love of the Creator, (by whatever name we call him/her), is inside of us all and it is through our similarities, not our differences that we can be healed by seeing in all souls part of the Divine, and part of ourselves. Blessed Be.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)