I am not blindly following anymore -- I know why I believe what I believe

Sent in by S.H.

It's hard to tell this story. The fact that one day my parents or church friends might come upon this testimonial and identify it as mine, despite the anonymity, scares me. But, as soon as I saw this site, I knew that I wanted to share.

I was "born Christian," meaning that both my parents were Christians and I was essentially raised in church. They were then, and still are, extremely active members of the Vineyard organization, a non-denominational national church group. The church has since updated it's sect to "empowered evangelical." Aside from weekly service, I went to bi-weekly Bible study and attended private school until 5th grade.

My parents imposed strict moral conditioning on me from a very young age. Not only was I supposed to go to church regularly, but I had to "experience" the Holy Spirit and be able to "talk" with God. I distinctly remember being seven years old in our dining room, crying because my parents were trying to force me to be able to speak in tongues, and I couldn't figure out how to do it (eventually I made it up so they would stop).

They were also complete believers in corporal punishment, and I was spanked on many occasions with a large wooden frat-style paddle from the time I was five. My mother in particular would get suddenly angry with me about things as small as not putting my shoes away, and she wouldn't hesitate to scream at me and hit me. She said I was disrespectful and strong-willed. One day she sat on my chest and hit me over and over again in the face. I don't remember exactly why.

Basically, anything that was a problem in our house could be solved by prayer, the Bible was a better reference than the encyclopedia, and I wasn't allowed to watch anything with over a "PG" rating. This is how things went until my last year of high school.

That year, I took some post secondary courses at a local community college where I met my boyfriend. He was a philosophy major, and as we began to get to know one another, we would spend hours discussing different theories and ideas. He was probably the first person in my life who asked me WHY I believed what I did. Up until that point, my answer was always "Well, the Bible says..." or "At church we learned..." or "My mom told me that..." I never really knew for myself what I believed, and he encouraged me to come up with my own reasons. At first these were still based on the Bible and my upbringing, but for the first time I understood why I believed things and could explain my beliefs out loud.

Eventually the two of us moved to another city to attend college. We started going to a very liberal church, discussed philosophy and other religions freely, and decided to have sex for the first time. Eventually, we moved in together and are still together today. My parents, who are supposed to love me unconditionally (regardless of church), turned on me. They developed an intense hatred for my boyfriend who they felt was leading me astray, and they denied me the right to have my 9-year-old sister come to visit me because they thought what we were doing was wrong. This reflects the teachings of their church: God only loves you if you are conformed to the church's standards. If you don't, you're screwed.

For the first time I began to see the hypocrisy of my parents and their church. I was confused as to why an "all loving God" could send people to hell just because they were different. If believing in Jesus was the key to heaven, why didn't Jesus visit ALL the areas of the world and tell ALL the people about God? Why would God force people in little tribes in Africa to go to hell even though no one had told them about Jesus? Why would God make people gay then punish them for it? I had so many questions and all of them pointed to God being this angry, vengeful being who delights in breaking apart families and sending people to hell — quite the different message from that Jesus gave. The fact that my parents were angry with me for seeking answers other than those provided by their church proved to me that Christianity was less about "love" and more about "control."

Eventually, I began to drift more and more away from Christianity all together. My boyfriend and I got involved in the BDSM lifestyle, and I became his submissive. I also eventually identified as a masochist and a bisexual, both no-nos in the church's books. I stopped going to church. We are into a lifestyle that rejoices in differences, sexuality, and freedom of choice. Being in such a suppressive environment as a church makes me feel uncomfortable. I always feel like someone is coming up over my shoulder to judge me. I know there are good Christians out there, I have even met a few, but the majority I know are so paranoid about their eventual heaven-hell outcome that they will do anything to rack up points with God. Judgmental attitude, close-mindedness, and a feeling of superiority are traits that are MUCH too common in Christians today.

Now, I often tell my friends that I am "spiritual" but not religious. I am in a strange place right now, determining my beliefs, and sorting out my own moral code. Much of it comes from Jesus' teachings, some from Buddhism, some from Paganism, some from common courtesy. But each belief that I determine for myself has a REASON behind it. I am not blindly following anymore. I know why I believe what I believe, and I want to keep it that way. If I find out at the end that I was wrong, I'll burn in hell satisfied that I lived my life with love, hurting no one. That will be enough for me.

16 comments:

eris.discordia said...

Dear S.H.,

I want to applaud you for your strength! Regardless of how oppressive and abusive they were, it still could not have been easy for you to walk away from you family and reinvent your life!

What happened to you was child abuse, pure and simple! I will not go into the sorted details of my parents abuse of me, but suffice it to say that I stayed pretty screwed up, in the bondage of the church, for many years! I wasted 25 years of my adult life in that bondage and I have no intention of ever going back! I think it is also child abuse to force your kids to go to church and conform to another person's beliefs! Children should have the right to decide for themselves, what to believe!

I , too, have explored other lifestyles and I think there is a lot of lessons to be learned about love and tolerance, through those choices!

Now I consider myself a Gnostic Thelemite and I regularly attend the Gnostic Mass and Thelemic festivals because I WANT TO! The thing I like most about my Gnostic tribe and Thelema in particular, is that it encompasses many different schools of thought and attracts many well-read people from different lifestyles and backgrounds. We have pagan-Christians, Discordians, Atheists, and many others who attend our local Mass. Everyone is welcome to our gatherings because we feel that everyone has something to contribute tot he overall learning process! In other words, out group embodies all the Christianity is not! We even proclaim our own divinity as we take communion at the Gnostic Mass! I cannot tell you hoe personally empowering that is for me after years of abuse and oppression!

My point is, you need to do what ever it takes to make YOU happy! It sounds to me like your parents did their level best to make you as miserable as they are! How DARE they!

Children come through you not FROM you! You are not a piece of the furniture to be owned! You are a STAR!

We are ALL made of STAR material therefore we are all STARS! Some of us shine more brightly than others, of course!

Another thing- try not to let fear of your parent's disapproval take away your joy! So what if they read this on the internet! THEY are the ones who should be ashamed of their behavior, NOT YOU!

My father abused me in the most horrible ways that I cannot even talk about it. Now he is a born again fundie and is trying to convert me by spamming me with his stupid, bad-width wasting, Jeeeeeesus emails! You know that ones where they tell you to forward their vomit-inducing lies to at leas ten of your friends our you will go to hell?

Well, every time he sends me that shit, I Google the ugliest picture of Baphomet that I can find and I copy it onto an email back to him, usually with a message like "Let me introduce you to MY GOD!!!"

That usually scares the hell out of him for a couple of months and gets the pitiful old perverted bastard off my bakc for a while!

Anyway, I am 50 years old with kids and grandkids. Life is too short to put up with anymore abuse! So I let him and everyone else who tries to abuse me by shoving their shit down my throat, that I will not stand for it! Someday you will have to stand up to your parents, if only for your own self gratification! ;-)

In the mean time, you need to know that you have sisters and brothers out here in the world who support you and your right to be FREE!

DO WHAT THOU WILT, SHALL BE THE WHOLE OF THE LAW!!!!

LIBER AL vel Legus

There is NO part of me that is not of the Gods!

Liber XV

Peace and Enlightenment to ALL! Especially the narrow-minded, abusive, perverted religious pricks from the age of the darkness!

Eris

THE ACE said...

S.H., that was a well-told story!
Certainly not a happy one, but one
many of us can relate to. My parents are life-long Baptists, so there was no punishment for not speaking in tongues, but of physical violence as punishment there was plenty! One time, my mother struck me across the face so hard, it left a large red hand
print on my cheek. Since my grandmother was coming over, she tried to cover it with some make-up, but it didn't fool anyone. Being hit with belts or willow
switches was also common.

Do Christian households have more child abuse thinly disguised as
discipline than others? I wonder if
anyone has that information.

xrayman said...

Hey S.H.

May I first give thanks to my parents for letting my sister and I think for ourselves. Wow what a mind fuck your parents played with you in the name of that all loving God who will send his children to an eternal roasting for the smallest offense.

I liked your little tid bit about part of your moral code coming from "Common Courtesy." I think if we all used those two words for our moral code and nothing else, this would be a hell of a great world wouldn't it? Why do some of the most devout Christains sometimes lack that inert sense of kindness?

Hats off to you for exploring your sexuality to it's limits !!!!! That is what a great fun filled life is all about.

I do have a story to tell about a coworker and great friend of mine. He and his wife were deeply into the S and M lifestyle for many years, and that son of a gun gave it up and recently became a born again Christian. God Damn I hate that shit !!!!! I want my old perverted buddy back. I pray(metaphorically) that it's just a silly phase he's going through.

FormerFollower said...

*Everyone* makes up prayer languages. When I attended a Pentecostal church as a teenager, I thought I was the only one who was making it up while everyone else was experiencing a true communion with the holy spirit. GOing back later and talking it over with my friends made me realize, everyone had given in to peer pressure and gabbled something to make everyone believe they'd received the baptism of the holy ghost and to get the powers that be off our backs. Since there's no such thing as a spirit baptism, about the only explanation could be that everyone makes it up out of their own heads, for whatever reason. It is something fundie kids have to do to survive in a place with an insane worldview.

Anonymous said...

S.H.,

It is so saddening to hear stories like yours, of physical and emotional abuse in the name of a mythical figure. As the Ace suggests, there must be so many untold stories of child abuse in Christian homes. I grew up in a similar household under the denomination of Seventh Day Adventist.

Marks were left on my body on too many occasions, except when it was hair pulling, which sometimes left my scalp sore for days. Also unseen, the psychic scars that one carries through a lifetime. The woman who did it to me, now old and near the end of life is in denial that any such thing ever happened. She told me about 15 years ago that I imagined it all when I was taking LSD. The man who had to know what was going on and never once intervened passed away a few years ago. This type of stuff is intergenerational, and I know they were abused, too.

I mentioned drugs. I now believe that the heavy drug abuse in my teenage years and early 20's helped me to survive all of the mental trauma. In my late 20's I realized the drug use wasn't sustainable if I was going to have a productive life. Coincidentally or not, and I think not, around the same time I gave up the religious beliefs that were haunting my soul and began to contemplate the real questions of life, starting with: where am I located in this vast universe and what the hell am I doing here? Those questions did not lead me to understand some sort of all-powerful being or anything like.

After what you went thru' as a child, don't be surprised if you have some struggles in life. What they did to us is not the way you treat a child and expect a healthy, productive human being. They injured us badly. What I have done for self-healing is a fair amount of reading. The most profound book I have read is by a sort of self-help guru of the '80s, John Bradshaw, his book, The Family. He described my predicament, all the moving parts of how I got there. I don't exactly agree with his prescription, but the diagnosis was spot on for me. I found a better prescription in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey. But there is a lot of insightful stuff out there, and I'm sure folks here could make good recommendations too.

S.H., I wish you the best of luck in life's journey of discovery. So glad you were able to escape the darkness of dogma.

Steve

Hellbound Alleee said...

Now is the time to declare your moral autonomy. Now you know you don't need an invisible hand to guide you, or to love you. You know you can do good and make choices on your own. Others are afraid of this. That's why they stay in groups like this. You have realized that you don't need to subjugate your values, and you have decided to go on basically a hero's journey.

Of course it's scary--to be a grownup, to acknowledge you are responsible for your own choices. But you must know that this is the right thing to do. To sever your moral ties to your parents is a very scary thing to do, but it's what we all do if we want to acknowledge our true selves. Be authentic, don't hide.

And watch out for what matters to you.

Raul said...

First of all,I'd like to wish you the best of luck in leaving behind all the abuse,that you received from you parents. Personally,I've been lucky in this aspect: my parents can be hardly called religious (we didn't even have a Bible before my conversion to xtianity).
Christianity was less about "love" and more about "control."
Yup,you need to "love" "God" , so you could be controled.
Eventually, I began to drift more and more away from Christianity all together. My boyfriend and I got involved in the BDSM lifestyle
To me xtianity is a variant of BDSM.
Much of it comes from Jesus' teachings, some from Buddhism, some from Paganism, some from common courtesy
Does it have much in common with gnosticism?
If I find out at the end that I was wrong, I'll burn in hell satisfied that I lived my life with love, hurting no one.
Well,there can hardly be a jewdo-christian hell,because Bible is too Inconsistent. If there is a God it sure doesn't look like he writes books or something.
To eris.discordia:
stayed pretty screwed up, in the bondage of the church
Bondage is the right word. :)
>Gnostic Thelemite
Could you please give me some info about your believes and Thelema?
momentofpeace1 at gmail com

chelsea said...

Thank you for sharing your story with us! I am so mad about you not being able to spend quality time with your little sister! just remember, it always back fires on parents when they do that. one day your sister will have a mind of her own and your parents will have no say in weather or not she spends time with you. just make sure that you continue to let her know that you love her and when she grows up seeing you happy and enjoying life she will come running to you!

Anonymous said...

I first saw this speaking in tongues bit in the doco "Jesus Camp". I'm glad that is one bit of insanity I was spared.

Anonymous said...

"If there is a God it sure doesn't look like he writes books or something."

Raul, great line!!!!

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine what it would have been like having to go through the shit you went through. My parents took me to church until I was about 8 or so I guess. They eventually quit going and they were never hard-core religious in any sense. Stories like yours really break my heart!

You're right that religion is often about control... control through fear. I feel for people that have had to endure it.

The best advice I could give anyone is that your real family are the people that are POSITIVE influences on your life. Blood doesn't mean shit. If a person is a negative influence on you and you have the means, then by all means get them out of your life... don't argue with 'em, don't talk to 'em... if there's any way at all to avoid it... even if they're your sister, mother, brother, whoever. The best thing we can do is surround ourselves with people that believe in us, encourage us, and want us to achieve our max potential.

I hate to be judgmental, but from what I've seen, a lot of churches out there are fucked up. I'm a Christian, but I haven't been to a church in a long time. I'm cool with that really. Salsa dancing is more fun.

I really hope you find the happiness you seek!

Lance said...

Thanks for the post S.H.

I attended the Vineyard for several months during my many years as a Christian. I have to say it was the most whacked out of them all. Kudos to you for surviving so many years there and making it out with your brain intact.

I love your last thought:
"If I find out at the end that I was wrong, I'll burn in hell satisfied that I lived my life with love, hurting no one. That will be enough for me."

Amen to that sister!

Peace.

- Lance

Free Thinker said...

eris.discordia wrote "people come through you not from you". not an atheist statement....so what kind of belief system are you referring to??

Fascination said...

Great story! I'm glad you learned to think for yourself. Check out Secular Humanism sometime. I basically consider myself a secular humanist now.

muttmutt said...

Wow, I hope your younger sister deconverts. For some people, there will be no deconverting though. I agree with discordia, that was child abuse. Dont forget who you are now, but never go back to it.

Anonymous said...

I commend your growth as a freethinking person... Proceed with caution! Your life and your actions are in your own hands now and as such you'll have no one to blame but yourself if you screw it up. But cheer up! You also get to take credit for the good things you do!

***Note to Christians: How is: "Praise me eternally or be tormented forever in hell..." any different than saying: "Allow me to rape you or I'll put a bullet in your head..."? How is this a CHOICE?!

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