Image by that_james via FlickrI was born and raised in the church while growing up in the South; a place where fundamentalist Christianity is seemingly (and quite correctly!) ubiquitous. My family and I wound up in Texas and I lived there through high school. We attended a Methodist church in Mississippi and Arkansas and Texas, but in small towns in the South, a Methodist church often has the same doctrines and is run like all of its fundamentalist neighbors.
From an early age (under 4 as we were still in MS) I remember my well-meaning dad reading from an illustrated Bible story book at bedtime each night. I didn't think of these stories as any more valid than my other story books, but I was often dismayed and sometimes frightened by their content. Specifically the story of King Solomon, in his famous wisdom, threating to cut a baby in half. I felt the same way about Moses almost killing his son because God asked him to. I thought God must be pretty scary. These were not great bedtime stories for a little girl, especially one who would prove to be rebellious, stubborn, and outspoken as she came of age in the church and became a free thinking adult.
Growing up, I didn't mind the well-intentioned people at church, who were friendly and caring most of the time. I really liked the hymns and music, because I loved to sing and play music. What I DID mind though and what greatly upset me, was the departure from logic and the narrow view of the world I witnessed in Christians. I ESPECIALLY disliked the harsh judgment of others that often reared it's ugly head. But most of all, I abhorred the sense of dread, fear, and recoil I had when people would throw their hands up, lay their hands on others, engage in faith healing. I hated the forced and artificial trip down to the altar at the end of worship to be "saved" or to confess some big transgression or issue. When I went to Southern Baptist Church with friends, things were even scarier. If I knew the words then, I would have described all this as contrived, artificial, and, as i like to say, group psychosis. I was a very sensitive kid and so I I was picking up on the fact that something was seriously wrong, but at the time I attributed to something being wrong with me. Sometimes I even thought that I was evil, because I did not feel inspired to do these things and was even repulsed by them. Many of these experiences happened when I attended summer Bible camps. I remember being about 11 and being forced to take a vow of abstinence, when I had not even an inkling of a concept of sex. I was also indoctrinated, not successfully, with the Creation Theory, both in Bible camp AND in high school AP Biology. !?! (we also had prayer in school!)
At 12 when the attempt was made in Bible camp to trash the theory of evolution, I was outspoken about what I saw as an obvious transgression against logic and common sense. I told my twenty-something camp counselor that the story in the Bible was symbolic because people back then didn't have science, and that the evolution theory was the same story of God's creation told in another way, and that they could coexist easily. At the time, I probably didn't know how to say it in that exact way, but i guess this was my way of rationalizing my Christian beliefs with the science I had learned and read about. She was not pleased. If I recally correctly, she didn't respond at all.
Everything really fell apart at the end of high school, when my Bipolar Disorder made it's grand entrance. At that point I was thinking and feeling in ways that I had never experienced. I was soon to be acting in ways which i had never imagined. My world was turned on its head by the time I was in music conservatory and I completely lost my faith, or should I say, what was left of it. I began to despise Christianity and myself for believing in it. I realized it was all a lie, and that if there were a God in the Christian sense, he was quite sadistic, and not a God I wanted to worship or trust in. I dreaded going home to my hyperChristian family, dreading seeing my highly judgmental sister and mother who were disappointed with what I had become, would not understand that it was an illness, and would constantly attack me verbally, and in my mother's case, physically as well. But this family dynamic had begun long before. So Christian, eh!? For me, Christianity and my family became one in the same, because they had both rejected me and I had no desire to reunite with either.
At this point I began a spiralling descent in to self destruction and madness. If there ever was a nihilist, it was me. I had known no other reality besides a convoluted and unhealthy Christian one, with which I didn't fit, yet I had no conception of how to live a life outside of that. I didn't care. Nothing mattered. There was no point to life. I wanted to die. I didn't have the fortitude to go through with it, so I did the next best thing and drank myself into oblivion for 6 years, supporting myself stripping, while going in and out of dysfuntional and/or abusive relationships. Surprisingly, I was not even an alcholic, or a lost cause. I was just a self-loathing and self-medicating manic-depressive exChristian who had found no way to come to grips with reality.
My saving grace came in the form of medical marijuana and a cocktail of psychiatric drugs, surprisingly enough. I moved to Colorado to be near my wonderful, understanding and supportive uncle. I met supportive friends and had supportive family on my side finally. My parents decided to help by financing my medical care. For the past year or so, I have been on medication with a great psychiatrist and have gotten my life together and plan to go back to school. All WITHOUT the "saving grace" of the false Christian god, but instead by something real, which I think is evidence of the REAL God, if there is one. I like to say the Christianity is the REAL antichrist, if ever there was one!
Christianity misleads people and quite often inspires them to hate those who are different, be it people like me, the GLBT community, people of other faiths, and anyone else who disagrees with them and/or challenges their narrow beliefs. I can hear my sister and others like her right now say that Christians don't hate others, they just think they are sinners and need to repent. I think hate is pretty apparent when all outsiders are referred to as sinners and must conform to certain beliefs to be otherwise. Worst of all, if they don't become Christians, they are damned and burned in hell. Pretty hateful... Are these Jesus' teachings!? She also says that people like me shouldn't try to make people in he church change their minds about homosexuality because it is their religious right to think that way and I am violating those religious rights. Oh really? If that were the case there would have been no abolition, civil rights, suffrage, etc. She just doesn't see it that way like most hateful Christians in denial of their hatefulness. She says she is accepting of GLBT because she goes to a church that allows them to attend, "because everyone is a sinner and gays are no different", right!? Their "sin" is homosexuality...they way they are made, and if ther is a God, the way he designed them. So i guess God prefabricated them to burn in hell. This disgusting view is pretty Christ-like, huh? I thought Jesus abolished all this crap. Oh wait, he did. Then why do today's Christians unknowingly promote hate? I think Christ had many great teachings and and a message which I agree are fantastically wonderful; but the religion that has sprung up around him is quite often a vile and convuluted distortion of something right and good. I believe in the possibility of God, but that God is not found in Christianity.
I am thankful for my illness, painful as it has been, because it made me aware of the reality that Christianity had almost stolen from me, and continues to steal from others. I think my illness is a blessing in some ways. I guess you could say I am truly born-again. I have gone through fire and have come out for the better on the other side: Purged of these backward, harmful and hateful beliefs.