I can't do it anymore

Sent in by Hannah

I am currently trying to begin the process of leaving a Christian cult and I wanted to share my situation with people that might be able to understand and hopefully offer some advice even. I was born into the cult and brainwashed for my entire childhood by my parents (whom I still love by the way) who are very involved members. If you have seen the film "Jesus Camp" that is a very close depiction of what my life was like. We had extremely strict rules in my house....for example, my sister and I were not allowed to talk to boys (we had to be silent if they talked to us), we could not lock our doors, if we asked questions to our parents they would not usually answer, we could not attend sex ed or anything related to evolution or DARE in school (if we heard someone else talking about things like that we had "sinned")....that's the idea. I was completely miserable but my siblings and I, having not been exposed to rational things, did not know any better or have any choice but to go along with it. I began having sex as a very young child but was not able to tell my parents because they would punish me. We attended church for about 7 hours on Sundays and church events constantly throughout the week to memorize Bible verses. In once instance when I was very ill my father said that I was not reading the Bible enough and yelled at me that he no longer wanted me to live in his house (I was just 15 with nowhere to go).

Well I am now in my early 20's but still depending on my parents to help me pay for college and those things. I have played the part all these years though I have refused to be baptised into "membership." I have still got everyone fooled but I can't do it anymore. To tell them the truth (that I do not share their beliefs) and stop attending church means that most likely I will not be allowed to see or talk to my family again which would be devestating. I don't know what to do but it is getting so controlling....yesterday I was told who I *will* vote for in the presidential election (he told me if I did not vote for this person, he would make sure I did not have the opportunity to vote at all), for example. On Sunday they publicly announced a man in church who had cheated on his wife and prayed to god to bring him misery and suffering. I am so afraid of what's going to happen because I love my family.....

*I am in no way criticising Christianity whatsoever, I am criticising this particular cult.....

23 comments:

Valerie Tarico said...

Wow Hannah-
In some ways it's amazing that you've been able to both keep your head down and keep your mind clear all of these years. That's a tough combination.

I think that if you weed through some of the simple anger and venting, you will find here a caring community, with some people who have had life experience very similar to yours and others who are willing to listen.

I once ran across a beautiful children's book called Rabbit Island in which two rabbits escape from a factory (for meat, though they don't know that). The little one loves the beauty and freedom on the outside, but the big older one is just scared and wretched and decides to go back. The little one has to decide whether to go on without his dear friend.

--Welcome to the outside :).

Valerie

P.S. It's ok to criticize Christianity. If you value love and honesty there are things worth criticizing.
www.valerietarico.com

HereticChick said...

Hannah, Hang in their sweetie. To thine own SELF be true is one of the greatest things Shakespeare ever said. You can't live your life for your family, you have to live it for yourself. If your parents REALLY love you, they may be upset, but they'll get over it. Don't pretend to be something you're not because you will only end up miserable. Life is short and should be lived to it's fullest. Make yourself happy, nobody can do it for you. And welcome to the Rational World!

Anonymous said...

Hannah,
Keep your head low while you are still financially dependent on your parents. Once you graduate and get a job, get on a bus and head as far away from them as you can (another country, perhaps). You'll need a complete change of environment.
As for voting, you can lie to your parents. God won't tell them who you voted for.

Good luck

Joyce said...

Hannah-

Way to Go! The first step is verbalizing that "Something is wrong here!" You have just done that. I bet you feel just a little bit better already. There is something freeing in just making a statement that you know in your heart of hearts, is True.

I'm sure that you have known that the way you were raised was whacky for a long time, you've just been afaid to say it. You are right, IT WAS WHACKED OUT OF IT'S SKULL!!!

I was raised very similarly. The very first memories that I have in my brain are those of looking up into my mother's face as she wept and spoke in tongues (in the prayer room of the old 4 square church). The holiness, fundamentalist church that I spent my whole early life in (until I was 26 years old)demanded all day on Sunday, Tuesday night, Thursday night, and Saturday night. We were not supposed to dance, go to movies, watch T.V., listen to secular music, have long hair, wear colored shirts, and god forbid the girls could NOT wear pants!

Anyway, I know where you are coming from. I was completely brainwashed. It took me the better part of the last 20 years to fully "come out". Please don't wait as long as I did. The one big regret in my life is that I feel so much of it was wasted on a BIG LIE.

You have friends at this web-site. There are many with your same testimony. I still have to deal with my mother, brother, uncles, cousins and many X friends who think that I am "Backslidden". But believe me it feels soooooo good to find real truth & Love in life after the luney bin of fundamentalist christianity.

Welcome to sanity,

Ex-Pastor Dan

Huey said...

Hannah, I don't have the history to be able to advise you on this as I was never subject to all of that, thank god! :) I can tell you that not being a christian is one of the most liberating experiences ever! I agree with Valerie. This is the palce to come. Many of our members are ex-pastors and will have insights that I and some of the others lack (but that won't stop us from trying!). And watch out! We are subject to the occasional hit-and-run fundie. A lot of times it is fun to respond to them for no other reasons than to keep our thought processes sharp and trade knowledge, ideas and concepts. You will see some of the anger and venting that Valerie refered to if and when we respond to the more ignorant fundie posters.

I would not worry too much about being told who to vote for. A lot of churchs do that now-a-days. The catholics even go so far as to summon members of congress to meetings with bishops to explain why they did not vote on a particular bill as they were expected to, by the church. It is just another tactic (in a long line thereof) brought to bear by the churchs in an attempt to gain political power.

Hey Valerie! How did the book end?

fjell said...

Well, Hannah, I want to lend my voice to chorus of those who seek to congratulate your efforts in all manners possible.

My advice is to keep two things planted in your mind as you proceed, that getting to a better place, where you are happy in your surroundings and satisfied with yourself, may be difficult, but always possible.

You can make it out! And you can be free of the oppression.

You may have to "play ball" for a while longer if you have no other options for financing your studies, but plant firmly now in your mind those things you absolutely crave for your SELF, and resolve to seize them at the first opportunity. You owe it to yourself to pay the most heed your own desires.

In my own case, I ran for the hills. I crossed the Atlantic. I live now thousands of miles from the craziness. When things are truly irrepairable, you have to run first and ask questions later.

Please don't hesitate to keep us all informed about your situation and to share your concerns, thoughts, hopes, and questions. There are many here who have lived in similar circumstances, and who may be able to provide you a valuable ear or simply some real empathy. We all wish you the very best in getting free.

fjell

eris.discordia said...

Hi Hannah!

Welcome to the group! I hope you stick around and keep us up to date about your progress in the fight to keep your own mind!

My ex-husband's family was exactly like that! They were so controlling that the love they had for their children was conditional upon their ability to meet their insane, unreasonable expectations! They also used violence to get their point across while my ex and his sisters were growing up. The stories of abuse were horrific!

I too, want you to know that you are most welcome on this forum to speak your mind. One of the things I love about this site is the honesty! The people on this site openly express their anger, rage, frustration, tolerance, compassion, joy etc...about their experiences with Christianity and it's OK!

You found the right place if you are looking for support. This is a good site to express your rage, love, hate, sadness and confusion and get advice; sometimes all at the same time!

I live in Bible-Belt, Jesus-land, Indiana and low and behold! I found people on this site who reside in my area! You have no idea how much it meant to me to get their words of support! Just knowing that there are wonderful people right in my own backyard, that feel the way I do, empowered me! Just knowing that I am not alone helps me to cope with this crazy, disfunctional bunch of wackos that I am forced to deal with day in and day out!

With that said, I agree with the person who advised you to keep your feelings on the down low until you get out of college and get a job. Your education is your ticket to freedom! Get it while you can so you can move on to a good, secure job, preferably on another continent!

Find a nice island somewhere, where they serve those tropical drinks with the cute umbrellas and get a nice job! Then you can email your parents and tell them how much you appreciate all the guilt and insecurity and most especially those embarrassing moments you suffered through in school!

Knitterman said...

Congratulations, Hannah.

Another fundagelical ex-pentecostal minister here. The Assemblies of God were strict, but not nearly to the degree you've had to live with.

I don't feel particularly adept at offering specific advice, but I did want to point out the obvious: "Your Mind". Clearly you own your own mind still, and that will remain your strongest tool as you navigate your next steps. Just having the mental liberty to ask the questions is an asset a lot of people fail to acknowledge in themselves. So, kudos to you!

And what the others already said, keep coming back, asking questions. Plenty of resources on the Web these days.

Ray

Anonymous said...

Hannah,

Though I am sure there are people here who would love to encourage you as much as possible, remember that this is "Ex-Christians". Most of us here are more likely atheists than anything else (although some may have moved on to other religions yet are ex-christians). My point is that you probably ought to start out taking an inner personal inventory of what you believe. If you still believe in the Christian god, then you might try finding resources on the web that fit your personal beliefs more closely. Have you considered visiting other churches to find another "spiritual" home for community and support? Maybe there is a Christian group out there that fits your current tastes that could help you make your get-away.

Unfortunately, you are going to have to make some tough decisions that make cost you. Compare a continued relationship with your parents by sacrificing living as you truly see yourself, and vise versa. It's unfortunate that you have been forced into this kind of life and that you are now having to make these kinds of choices, but you must decide for yourself what kind of future do you want to live in. Only you can make that choice.

Back to atheism. Maybe you aren't ready to make such a bold consideration, but I would challenge you to question all your beliefs. Ask yourself what is important in life, what makes something more important than another, and how important is truth... real truth, the truth of the what is real about the world. Many people here have asked these questions and have found out that religion, and Christianity in particular, fails in so many areas and lacks the evidence to convince them that it properly describes reality. But from reading your post I am not sure you are ready to ask these kinds of questions, yet. I hope that you will.

Astreja said...

Hei, Hannah!

You have a lot of work ahead of you to gain full control of your own life. It is worth it, but it will also be a lot of work.

Be aware that you could get "outed" at any moment, either by you revealing your position in a moment of high emotion or by your family arbitrarily putting more restrictions upon you.

So, what do you do?

You prepare for the worst.

Make quiet inquiries about alternate living and financing arrangements, including emergency resources that can be called upon on short notice.

Wishing you calm seas and courage for your journey, regardless of where it takes you.

Micah Cowan said...

Hannah,

I wouldn't usually worry say this to most, but for you I'd probably recommend an announcement-in-writing. Your assumption that you will be disowned, and will not be allowed further contact of any sort with your family, seems entirely likely, given the extremely controlling environment. It seems fair that you should be allowed to choose the last contact, and in particular, that you should be able to avoid directly hurtful verbal contact, and potential physical harm to yourself.

The only thing I'd say you should try to be careful of, is to leave some thread behind. In future years, you'll wish you knew how your siblings were faring, and whether they too had escaped. You might even find that one of your parents eventually wisens up (you mentioned your father's controlling nature, but your mother didn't come up: perhaps she suffers in silence, but will be less willing than he to sever ties completely?). I don't know whether there's a practical way for you to do that, but if there is, you should strive for it.

Good luck, and know that you'll find friends here (eclectic and weird though we may be).

psychman said...

Hi Hannah,

Welcome to our community. You've come to the right place for encouragement in your journey toward a more rational way of life.
I agree with others that advise you to finish up your education as quickly as possible. This will give you valuable resource that will allow you to move towards the capacity to take care of yourself and not be dependent on your parents.

I, as well as others on this site, know exactly what you must be going through.
Don't despair though, just keep doing what's right for you and start planning your exit.

Wishing you well on your journey.

Wayne said...

All I reaaly have to add to this is that you can find support here - through your fellow ex-tians - in lieu of anyone closer to you. I've personally found that just knowing that this many others who feel this way are out here, it helps me get through my dealings with my christian family.

Stay strong, keep your mind clear, and you'll pull through.

WhateverLolaWants said...

Wow, Hannah. That's an awful way to have grown up and I'm sorry that happened to you. You and I are close in age (I'm 21) and it's a scary, yet exciting age. You're young and vulnerable, and not always experienced. but you're old enough to stand up for yourself and take charge. And just think- you're getting out of the cult NOW, not years down the line. The sooner, the better, especially since you're at the age where you can make major changes and not have to deal with all of the reprecussions that those changes would cause if you made them when you're older, with a husband and kids and all that.

Anyway, I don't have much practical advice, but I really want to offer my encouragement. I've been on a "journey of self-discovery" (cliche as it sounds) over the last year or two, really realizing how capable I am and how my life is mine (and mine alone) to live. I've realized I can do things I used to think impossible, and I've learned to deal with things I'd never thought I'd have to. For example, I've made decisions in my best interests that my parents disapproved of and my friends rejected me for, but I've found even that's not so bad. (And luckily, the parental disapproval wasn't too severe.) I'm just rambling, but my point is, I think you have the courage to get yourself away from this cult. Remember, you are responsible for your own life. You can make it better!

Oh, and that stuff about pastors/family members telling you how to vote is so stupid... it always pisses me off when people try to control each others' votes. It's really silly, too, b/c NO ONE has to know who you voted for, so ultimately, unless there's some kind of voter fraud or special situation, no one really can control another person's vote. It's so ridiculous to try to do so. Argh! But that's another story.

Welcome aboard, Hannah!

Celera said...

Hannah, we are not close in age but my youth was very much like yours.

You can vote for who ever you want, of course. Nobody can actually keep you from doing that.

Whether you decide to keep your true feelings "down low" or be open about them, and risk your college funding as well as your family ties, is a decision only you can make. My life was different than yours, I left home, got married and started a family. Later I went to college without any help (but i was lucky to have a good job.)

You are right to see this situation as a cult, even if it is just your family. There is very little difference in the mind control techniques of cult leaders and abusive families.

You must decide for yourself what to do, but God bless and keep your mind detached from the craziness around you and you will be ok in teh long run. I say this from experience.

leotracks said...

Hannah--

If it were me, I would get out as quickly as possible, even if that meant I had to work three jobs to pay for my own education. I fear that your parents are the type who will hold your tuition over your head for the rest of their lives, along with everything else they ever did for you.

Controlling people do not give; they provide only fuel for emotional blackmail. Also, many people have children for all the wrong reasons; to gratify their own egos or as extensions of themselves. If you must be a certain kind of person to qualify for their love, then it never existed to begin with. I'm sorry if that sounds harsh.

If your family really does love you, then they will continue to do so, even if there comes periods of ugly turmoil. If you believe that their love is dependent on your subscription to their way of life, as your testimonial implies, then you have nothing to lose by escaping.

--Brent S.

Spirula said...

Hannah,

Many here have written great encouraging remarks, so I'll just stick to this part.

I am so afraid of what's going to happen because I love my family....

I don't know how to break it to you, but if they disown you (something many of us here have had happen), they don't really love you. They are too immersed in a horribly controlling fantasy world to be able to recognize humans for what they are. They have a perverted concept of what it means to be human and how to really care about someone else. If a parent bases their parenting on fear and guilt they have failed as parents.(I have two teenage kids. There is nothing they can do that would ever make me reject them. It's just not in me.)

Yes it is sad. Yes it hurts. But remember one thing, you are not to blame for this situation. Also, you are now an adult. You have the right to self determination.

(And maybe it would be better for your self esteem if you struck out on your own and financed college yourself. I did, and I see a number of others here did as well.)

Anyway, stick around. You'll find a lot of good advice, a lot of empathy, and a lot of sympathy here.

And the occasional troll that drops by...well it can get really funny.

Searching said...

Hannah,

You are so welcome here!

I do not share the same type of experiences, but, I too, have realised that something is just not right with Christianity. It is an exiting and turbulent journey, but worth every step.

I agree that you may want to keep a low profile until you have finished your studies.

Once you can stand on your own two feet, you can then get as far away from this cult as possible.

I offer encouragement and warm thoughts. (You won't find prayers here, they just don't work :)

Soon you will breath again.

Anonymous said...

Hello Hannah

You are in with the right bunch of people. My brother and I were both barred from Sex Education by my parents. Lucky for him, my son has already taken Sex-ed. My parents went to 2 separate churches for a while, but my dad forced us to go to his church against our will. There were more kids at my mothers church. It is good to criticize Christianity, since it has more holes in it that Swiss Cheese or even a sponge.
Best of luck to you!

jimearl said...

Welcome Hannah.

I just wanted to add a few thoughts I had while reading your post.

You are lucky in every sense of the word. To have the clarity of mind to leave the cult takes a lot of courage. I am much older than you but wish I had seen the light at your age. I'm excited for you in that respect.

I can't imagine what a difficult time you must have experienced growing up. But rejoice in the fact that you are able to use logic and reason in spite of the upbringing you had. Not many can say the same.

I would advise you to continue to use this site for help with any problems you may encounter in the future. Good luck. Jim Earl

Tony said...

Hi, Hannah! Welcome to sanity. I'm also in the camp with those who've said it's best to keep these things to yourself until you no longer need your parents' help financially. You can nod your head and give lip service to your parents for as long as you need to. No one is going to be in that voting booth but you, so vote your for whomever you want! All religion is bull - ALL of it. You don't have to give "respect" to any religion only to your own beliefs.

Anonymous said...

Hey guys it's me (Hannah), I just wanted to let you all know that I have been reading your comments and I am so glad for your help and honesty....I am so glad for a place to be honest for once...I am going to be starting a blog to just write about this and how things go(I will need some sort of outlet!)on my journey to some sort of freedom of thought in my life(at least, that's what I'm hoping for). But yeah, I'll keep you posted....

Jake said...

That's a rough road to be on, Hannah. If you'd like to join us over at ATT, we've got a pretty busy forum with a lot of folk from all walks of life to chat with.

http://www.atheistthinktank.net/


While I'll hope to see you around, I'll hope even more that whatever your 'right way' in life is, you find it.

Peace.

-Jake

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