Tuesday, June 26, 2018
The Regret of Religion
Since the deconversion, I've pondered the wasted 16 years, in Christian fundamentalism.I suppose, that I did learn a lot. Ask me what is in the Bible I can tell you. I can quote off the differences between almost every church in the USA. However I do have a lot of regrets. I literally do feel like I left a cage escaping Christian fundamentalism.
I am fortunate unlike other people deconverting from Christian fundamentalism, that I am married to an agnostic, I am already no contact with the family. I had the past UU roots to return to. There was no bad homeschooling nightmares to recover from. I wasn't left empty handed without a direction to go. I drew a map to escape in my youth and re-found it. First no contact matched the first deconversion. Second no contact produced the second deconversion.
However I have cried over the lost time. It's hard to explain. Even if I understand how trauma and religious abuse in my youth took me into fundamentalism and realize that I really truly moved to one of the most extreme rural and conservative places in the nation, I have mourned the time spent within. I wasted a lot of time, believing and studying things that simply WERE NOT TRUE.
I noticed another blogger wrote about my religious deconversion. I won't link to her blog. I still don't agree with a lot of her world views on narcissism or "victims" but decided to post this because there's a few truths in it. I have major regrets about where fundamentalist religion took me:
"A few years ago, I had a falling out with another blogger who wrote about narcissistic abuse. We are still not on speaking terms, and probably never will be again, but recently I started to read her blog again, not just because she happens to be a good writer, but because during the past few months I’ve actually found her blog inspiring. I won’t go into all the details of what led to the falling out, but one of the reasons was because of the woman’s religion. She had made some critical — even cruel — comments about and to me, using what I felt to be her fundamentalist Christianity as a weapon of judgment and intolerance. From what I could observe from her older writings, she appeared to be stuck in a victim mentality, unable to move forward in her recovery due to her tendency to judge others harshly because of her fundamentalist Christianity. I saw no evidence of any real self awareness or willingness to self-criticize. So, at the time, I dismissed her as a covert narcissist masquerading as someone with “only” C-PTSD.
But apparently I was wrong. It seems like Trump’s election changed her in a positive way. She wrote about what she saw happening with politics and the religious right, and became increasingly critical of both. She began to realize that her fundamentalist church was infested with malignant narcissists who judged her negatively for her poverty and health problems, believing, as they did, that wealth and good health were proof of God’s approval. It wasn’t long before she ditched her fundamentalist church and began to seek answers outside religion.
This actually didn’t surprise me, since I always got the impression her religion was a bad fit and she was miserable within its confines. This woman was clearly intelligent and well educated, but it was almost as if she had been trying to force herself to adapt to a restricting mold that didn’t allow her to grow as a human being. She was telling herself lies that she knew were lies, because of the fear of Hell and judgment. Freed of that, suddenly she was exploring and seeking answers in secular fields like science and psychology, and her mind seemed to blossom. At the same time this happened, she seemed to develop more tolerance and empathy toward others. Most impressive of all, she began to develop an ability to self-reflect and as a result, began to make changes to herself. Her writings indicated a new insight into herself I hadn’t seen while she was under the thrall of toxic religion.
She seems happier than she ever did, and a lot less angry in general. She’s exploring old interests and talents that she had neglected while she was in that church, and more positive things seem to be happening to her now too. I’m sure being happy and using one’s mind to question and explore the world aren’t sins, and God is not judging us harshly for doing so. If God didn’t want us to ask questions or think critically about things, he would not have given us brains!
I won’t link to her blog here or even name it, due to the fact we stopped speaking several years ago, but her most recent article about the religious right’s war on science was one of her most enlightening and insightful. It was also very dark and unfortunately all too true. In it, she criticized the religious right’s scorched-earth mission of squelching all independent thought and critical thinking, which has led to an all out war on secular education itself and an accompanying celebration of ignorance and superstition."
This blogger is right that I chafed within the confines of Christian fundamentalism. One thing odd about me, is I retained some liberal views while I was in, still protesting war, and refusing the Republican party which earned me a lot of ire in my IFB circles. I realized though that the religion itself was narcissistic, confining and as I tried to reconcile my religious beliefs and more liberal outlooks I was failing, and getting swept up into a morass of cognitive dissonance.
Fundamentalism did make me too judgmental. I am thankful that they didn't take me into full blown hate, I broke a lot of the church's rules, and kept all my non-believer friends. This actually got me rebuked twice in fundamentalist churches. I refused to treat gay people badly or adopt other nationalist and negative attitudes. However fundamentalism preached to me against heavy rock concerts, tattoos, new age spirituality and I followed accordingly. It separated me from others dividing the world into "us vs. them".
It is hard to explain how Christian fundamentalism makes one afraid of everything. Now I feel like I can breathe. It's possible I rudely called the Catholic church, the "whore of babylon" or said my church taught it was a false church since she was a recent convert in, or something along those lines. I still don't like the Catholic church but my view of Catholics is far different today. Remember I used to be one too. Our main disagreement was about narcissists and their ability to "reform". Even that depends on the spectrum, if they are malignants, society already gives them more then enough leeway. They already have the majority making excuses for them.
Fundamentalism doesn't bring out niceness in people. I do believe I am a better person today. I have major CRINGE moments from being a fundamentalist:
1. Once some people in my old town directly asked me, "Do you believe homosexuality is a sin?" It is a topic I usually kept my mouth shut on. I should have kept my mouth shut. Prompted on in my head by the pastors telling me not to be a cowardly Christian, I turned and said to this one lady and her gay friend, "Yes, I believe homosexuality is a sin" but then tried to soften the blow, saying there's lots of other sins and tried to drop that topic in a hurry. My views of homosexuality are completely different today. The UU is a LBGT affirming church. I feel horrible by what I was led to believe about gay people in fundamentalism. Even as a Christian, I used to wonder why they had to be constantly harassed and talked about by preachers and Christian websites.
2. Speaking of homosexuality, one cousin of mine I am sure will forever hate me. It may not matter because my mother had turned him against me long ago before I was a Christian or deconverted later. I told him some Christians were cruel to homosexuals but I believed it was a sin because of what the Bible said. Problem was he was gay himself but was still in the closet then, and came out later. Both his children are gay [well one is trans] though they were younger at this time and I didn't know this either. Knowing that my secretive mother probably KNEW, put the whole no one is allowed to talk about certain topics battle in new perspective, but that's just more of the usual games in my family. I don't get that cousin, my mother is/was extremely homophobic, abusing me for being gay when I was not, and mocking me for it when I was in my early 20s. His whole entire family has come out as LBGT, I knew before I went no contact he was friendly with her.
2. I told some people in a ghost hunting club in my old town, that they would be messing around with demons, and needed to be careful lest one followed them home. The me of today remembers their pictures they got really excited about, and there was a lot of dust orbs in them. People probably thought I was a nut. An episode like this one when I met a schizoaffective woman with hallucinations, repeated itself, I said, "Take your medicine but look into the spiritual factors too, maybe they are demons."
3. One day getting very eager to witness and save all those non-believing friends I had kept from hell, I put up a "Jesus is the only way" banner on my Facebook that said all other religions led to hell. That created a bunch of social media fall out. I was fortunate that Aspie and other friends still stuck by me. They knew I was just sharing sincere beliefs at the time. However it was a fast way to piss off a whole lot of people. The me of today, now is horrified that I was even in a religion that taught almost everyone goes to hell, and it kind of depresses me and makes me angry too. Hell was used to be make me afraid from a very early age.
4. I told one woman, that I didn't believe in the Eucharist [she was a Lutheran in this case] and quoted Baptist bible verses at her. This was a friend of mine that is now an ex friend. We didn't fight that day, it was a friendly disagreement and obviously I don't believe in Eucharists now, or sacrifices for that matter today, but I am kind of embarrassed over this one too. Delicate religious exchanges are a minefield for Aspies.
5. I was visiting my brother years and years ago, there was some show on TV which brought the Rapture up, I was more post-mill so didn't believe in a Pre-Trib Rapture, but said to my brother, that I believed we were in the last days, and he laughed and laughed at me. That was a time of making myself too vulnerable. He still considered himself a Catholic though he never went to church except maybe on Christmas. Being mocked was no fun, but it just added to the overall disrespect.
6. I told two friends, I could not go to a casino, I was kind of smug about this. "Gambling was a sin too!" I play the Lotto now.
There were other moments like this. Unlike my IFB church members I wasn't living like them in a bubble of people who all believed the way they did. I don't think most of the time I was a jerk about being a Christian. I was the type that left the tract on the public bathroom sink instead of confronting people to their face. I didn't bible bang with people or the family: they detested me just as much during my early deconversion and UU years as the bible believer years.
I had doubts that started some years ago before I deconverted. I am not sure why I stuck it out, fear of hell, fear of being wrong again. I had thoughts like "Well you already didn't believe, how can you circle back?" The usual progress is that someone deconverts when young and leaves their family church and it's left at that.
This blogger is right the religion was a bad fit. There were many years even when I wanted to "Do God's will" and follow the Bible, that it was like trying to hammer a round peg into a square hole. The intellectual freedom within the UU has been a life-saver. There was no such freedom in Christian fundamentalism by people telling me they had all the answers and saying that freedom itself was a danger. Sometimes I wonder if all those threats I got from my family upon the first deconversion played themselves out where I thought I was being "punished" for the first spat of disbelief. Religious programming of a child can have life-long effects. Children who are spared the horrors of hell, probably are far happier people. I know fear took me in.
As I wrote before my abuse history led me in. It made me sad reading in my old journals about how I "had to improve my life" and how God was going to provide me with answers to life and living and improve things. I cried seeing the part where I wrote about how I would now find love and acceptance among my new "Church family". They always say people who are looking for love and acceptance most often find themselves in cults. I didn't end up wearing orange pajamas, handing my social security checks to a guru or minister, but ended up in a religion that claimed to have all the answers and was a cult in it's own way.
At the time I saw myself as fleeing endless horror, to enter into a bright and new existence. I had massive PTSD, and had just witnessed the poverty and severe crimes in a job with violence that I had written about many times on this blog in Chicago, and had just escaped. It was like running to safety.
Extreme religion was my new SAFE place. I moved from a city of 10 million to the most rural remote small town, of under 8,000. One friend I had years ago challenged me, saying I had moved to that small town to HIDE. She was right. I did. I guess that describes my mentality and I went from the UUs, to the IFB cult. I remember some people saying to me, that my philosophies and religion had become FEAR BASED. I did not heed these warnings.
The religion itself is constant fear fear fear. I never felt safe around a God who threatened me with hell. Even all the begging to him not to be squished, more impoverished, homeless, or not to let more medical horrors happen to me just increased the fear factor. Yahweh was just another stand in for my abusive parents. I am happy to be finished with him too. Think about this, think about how the evangelical and fundamentalist world is the most AFRAID and how we are suffering under their fear based politics NOW.
So I got tired of being afraid. I regret those years spent in fear. I got tired of being told I was in control of everything and everything was my fault and I had to beg to be "kept safe". There was part of my mind that said screw it, I'll try and do what I can, but there's only so much I can control. I got sick of this religion that wants me petrified every minute. I even had thoughts about the conspiracy and bible prophecies about mankind's end, if the world is that damn dark, screw it, I don't want to know.
That stuff is bad for people's minds too. It hurt my mind, and emotions. I do believe the economic decline and rapid changes in society are leading people to severe right wing religions and philosophies, they will be like me looking for safety but they won't find it there. They will find pain, and regrets. The blogger is right, I am happier. I am happier being freed from this cage. In the UU, there is happiness via art, nature, poetry to be found again.
Christian fundamentalism and evangelicalism, I believe teaches a lack of empathy for others. One blogger wrote about How Faith Breaks Your Feeler. She is right. Just look at our religious right today who has no empathy for immigrant children, I almost unfriended a bunch of people from my old churches this week, on Facebook for defending the children being put in cages. I was and remain disgusted.
There are many messages in the bible, how we are supposed not to faint, how we are supposed to never give up, the demands to be blameless and holy, and to be strong in affliction and distress, and I wonder if this limits empathy among Christians.Think about the religious right, they have some of the least empathy of any people when it comes to the disabled, gay people, poor people etc. Hell is pretty damn un-empathetic. If you divide the world into the few special people who go to heaven, while everyone else burns, empathy burns up along with it. I often felt that Christianity chafed against my inner human compassion and empathy. I didn't want to cast off people like Yahweh seemed so eager to do for "not conforming" after all it had happened to me!
One thing extreme Christianity is very attractive to people who have been traumatized or otherwise broken or facing hardships. That's exactly how I got sucked in and I regret it. While I am happier to be standing outside the religious jail-house, I've cried over this stuff.
We were told and I know I bought into this, that Christianity would provide answers to us in improving our lives or if we had problems that were not solvable in dealing with those said problems and getting to a better place. Christianity with this idea that God will 'fix your life" not even in the direct prosperity way sets people up with false expectations which brings in disappointment, self loathing, anxiety and more as time progresses. There is the constant insistence that one "lives God's will for their life" and "seeks daily guidance via the Holy Spirit". Truth, Wisdom and power are promised.
There is this idea of love, that you will be loved automatically--most of the Christian relationships to me seemed the most superficial and uncommitted. One thing they told me, is God would change my life and give it great meaning, and a "legacy" even for a childless woman, with the things done for God stored up in heaven. It's all so heady. I can see why I got sucked in. I was eager and excited. The high lasted for years in my case until I noticed...
Life was continuing on the same before I was a Christian with still many meaningless troubles. In fact some troubles worsened. As I aged much of the health stuff got harder. The relationships I was promised in Christianity never panned out. God was as absent as the church members were. Christian fundamentalism destroyed my social life too via repression. Appearances and status is still what mattered.
While I bitch about God here, leaving that ABUSER behind, it's like I have become a happier person in general. I am still sick and disabled, but I made the decision even if I am broke and poor and chronically ill, I want my later years on the earth to be happier ones. Severe religions do bring misery to people. I don't have to be blamed anymore for stuff going wrong.
I don't have to try to fit in and please people anymore. Trying to be a "good Christian" was exhausting. Where I had to work to try and please the giant Celestial Boogey-man. He was just like the narcissists I left behind, I went no contact from my whole family and when I removed narcissists from my life including some toxic friendships, as a recovering ACON [adult child of narcissists], Yahweh had to go too. He wasn't nice to me. He didn't respond to my phone calls [prayers] He never voted for me or had any loyalty, so BYE BYE.
Kicking the monster Santa Claus/Big Brother to the curb, opened the door for me to feel human again. I no longer have to worry about narcs judging me, and hurting me, I removed them all from my life and I removed this giant narcissist too. [don't believe anymore that a God exists in this way] I gave him 16 years to show me some love, or kindness and all he did was hurt me, so good riddance. Some people who read this may believe in God, if you do, I am okay with that, but try and find a nice God, not the cruel God of Christian fundamentalism.
Too much of Humanity is imprisoning itself with this mean cartoon character. When I think of religions now or any kind of higher power, I am going with the UUs in going where the love or kindness is. I am working on finding some happiness and doing what I can on earth for whatever time I got left. Leaving Christianity has taught me some happiness is now possible, while I am here despite endless challenges.
As I have deconverted I have assessed some of my own needs in life, for improvement of it.
I don't want to worry about being "holy" or "acceptable" anymore. I am sick of worrying about people liking me or trying to please them or a God. I want some people in my life, who don't give a shit, if I or God fix my life or not. I want to be accepted and loved for who I am TODAY. I am tired of fake shit.
I don't want to have to worry about always measuring up. I am tired of a God I was never good enough for, who matched the family who told me I was a piece of crap, and with the church's expectations of total conformity. I just want to be me. I will do my art work and do what I want for a change. Some Christians can call that selfish, I call it survival. I couldn't be who these people wanted anyway and I got tired of crushing myself into their box.
I have several old classmates and acquaintances on Facebook, some who have mental health disorders and one who faced severe abuse and homelessness, and they are new to the Christian conversion game, and I fear for them. They are traumatized people reaching for the Christian rope of "hope" thrown out to them. Little do they know it could pull them under the water to drown some more.
I feel more hope then I have in years. Does this sound strange to anyone. I am disabled and sick, but at least I don't have to prove myself to anyone else anymore and I don't have to impress or cajole or beg an uncaring silent deity anymore either. With this blogger, we still don't agree on many things but she was right about a false religion and it's chains around my soul.