Saturday, July 14, 2018
How Bad Religion and Child Abuse Go Together
I found this on a message board, if someone knows the original source, please tell me, and I will cite it here. Childhood Religious Indoctrination often coincides with childhood abuse. This doesn't mean all religious parents are abusive, some will teach a "god of love". The less fundamentalist ones will allow some exploration and critical thinking. However often times religion and child-abuse go hand in hand!
Raised in uber-Catholicism, my religious training included a lot of fear, shame, guilt, fantasy and idealism. My uber-Catholic parents who allowed no freedom of thought, thusly prepped me for the fundamentalists. In my case, I "rebelled" and deconverted the first time, considering atheism even by age 10, but extreme trauma, abuse and the circumstances of life drew me back into another flavor of oppressive religion. Right now my deconversion and my no contact ACON recovery are walking hand in hand. It's strange how letting go of an abusive "God" who threatened me with hell, was only possible after letting go of a family that made my life hell on this earth.
This has given me the emotional freedom to even allow happiness to be possible. I think thoughts like: "You can be happy now." and "Enjoy your years left on this earth". The fogs of endless guilt and shame have lifted. Love in marriage gave me a foundation too. It's doubtful many therapists would go this deep religiously with their clients, but I believe ties to an abusive God, will keep one in the abuse matrix. In other words, you may free yourself from parental abusers, or they long ago died, but one big Kahuna remains in your head, with the pointing finger of God saying "You're bad!"
Many of us who do leave Christianity, do arrive at the conclusion that God as presented in evangelical and conservative Christianity is another abuser who has filled the space in our heads. He becomes a stand-in for the abusive parents. Just like ACONS have to learn to avoid narcissists and abusers in day to day life, spiritual examination needs to come in too.
The spiritual does overlap the emotional. I don't believe in demons anymore in the classic sense but my parents often appeared in my dreams as "demonic". They'd show up with glowing red eyes, and always ready to do extreme physical harm to me. It's strange that they were beyond human in my dreams. This may tell of the extreme power I believed they had over me. They'd cackle, laugh and chase after me. It's not a good sign when the Boogey-men and monsters of your dream life are your own parents and relatives. Even when I was a staunch believer, it seemed I stood up more for myself in those dreams, more then any imagined or dreamed of deity. After no contact, my dreams were like the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon movie mixed with James Bond films in fighting my enemies.
I have a theory about conservative and evangelical Christianity, I've talked about on a few ex-Christian, atheist and other boards. I believe Christianity itself is based on a toxic parental paradigm. While this exists in other religions, Christianity seems to go the farthest. The religions that seek God more as a divine force of goodness, either allow for the negative aspects of life to be explored or insist on God being loving instead of wrathful and punishing. Even Jews have a tradition of arguing with God. For conservative Christians, God is an abusive, controlling father who is ready to unleash the whoop-ass on you for one broken rule. You don't dare argue. Too much of humanity remains in infancy, while basing life on "punishment" instead of growing up. What else is hell for but the ultimate grounding, with "Daddy" setting up the system doing the worse that can be thought of?
The harmful childcare practices overlap with the toxic doctrine. Hell is the ultimate punishment, but more punishments are in store with God's "chastisements" and groundings. There was this constant feeling that bad things happening meant God had displeasure with you and the opposite was true too. Most churches today teach that God directs your life and if one is living a painful and hard life, there is that undercurrent, that "you are getting what you deserve". Add in the very foundation that to enter the religion at all in the "born again" sense of things, that one must admit they are a wretched sinner who has wronged God over and over. Self esteem is not grown in this system. It is diminished. A punishment based life is an unhappy life. Us ACONs who were scapegoats grow up and take too much responsibility, we are mired in a muck of self-blame. Those who are in a Christian religion like this get it from both sides.
Hell is used to keep many an abused child in line. One is told, if you don't obey your parents, you will go to hell! Some churches will inform young people, if you don't believe the same way your parents do, you will go to hell. The earlier the indoctrination, the more of an effect this will have. I was warned about the hot fires of hell and never being able to escape from an early age. Even to earn Purgatory you had to be "somewhat" good and holy.
Many abusive Christian parents use religion for isolation and control. This happened to me. The most extreme ones, practice separation from the world. I was separated from other people too. I was not allowed to go to parties or visit very many other kids. I was told their parents were wicked or they "drank" or they were "not to be trusted". I was punished for going to a friend's United Methodist church after a sleep over.
Many focus on Christian fundamentalists and homeschoolers as the only culprit, but there's other religions where religious abuse can happen. I was not allowed to date in high school even as some of my classmates married and had babies by 20 and are grandparents today. There was no junior high dances for me, and before I was beaten down, even as an Aspie, I wanted to socialize with the few friends I had. I was given severe edicts about sex, and told by the nuns and my parents both, that only whores had sex or "boyfriends" and the people who "never did it" were the most holiest of all. When it came to sex and just about everything else guilt and shame ruled.
There's young people coming out of Quiverful and Christian homeschooling families who have told horror stories about their isolation, denial of educations, physical beatings and mental abuse. With some of the most public fundamentalist families like the Duggars, they seem to take a pride in not allowing their children to grow up and keeping them obedient into adulthood. There are extreme cases like the Turpin abuse and torture of their children being exposed.
The churches themselves teach not only isolation for the parents who aren't supposed to socialize outside of the Christian bubble, but with homeschooling and more stress "isolation" from the "wicked world". During my time within the IFB and Christian fundamentalism, I didn't like how most of the parents parented their children, they were far too strict. I lived in a small rural town where everyone I knew, even people in other churches all homeschooled their children. The public schools in that place were on the verge of collapse. Some were already experimenting with "courtship" in the way the Duggars do it, 15 years ago. Some of the more extreme people did believe in patriarchy and women obeying men. They believed college was a waste of time for women and that they should only marry and have babies and focus on being "modest". Fellow progressives, realize where the USA is going. There's a lot of people who support this stuff out there, and I've seen it myself and it's growing!
God is a handy tool for all abusers to abuse. All of them claim God is on their side. God was used to abuse me. I was a "wicked child", and "on the way to hell". I've discussed some of my spiritual and religious abuse here, but there was more then a few times where I was told I would go to hell directly. I listened to some Mission UK on my stereo when home from college, and was told I was a "Satanist". My grandmother after my mother called complaining about finding that UU literature in my college things and told me I would burn in hell. My never questioning GC sister who obeyed all Catholic rules and never missed mass, was the "good girl" and remained so to the day I walked away. Hell is a handy hammer for abusers to use against anyone who dares to show an independent thought. Atheists and free-thinkers online today warn young atheists, to hide their true religious feelings from parents and relatives. I believe this is good advice, but it was too late in coming for me.
God is deemed always as being "on the parent's side" in many churches, Catholic school/Christian school classrooms, and Sunday school no matter how severe the punishments or life style. If your parents beat you, it is seen as God's will and "discipline". A child is always supposed to obey. People in American society under-estimate the danger we are all in from the Republican party and religious right, it's not the religion per se itself but the authoritarianism that comes along with it.
The focus is always on obedience to authorities with obedience to God and obedience to parents. Remember even the adult Duggars are taught they are under their parents authority until marriage, and then the young married women are under the husband's authority. Obedience is supposed to be forced via punishment. The majority of Christian conservatives all support spanking. Pastors world over preach "Spare the rod, spoil the child". The Christian run "Troubled Teen" industry and reform schools have been exposed for abusive practices and totalitarian rule over young teens. Read the book "Jesus Land"
Their love of spanking by the way is connected to their "lock everyone up" legal sense, and support of the death penalty. Their God goes all out to punish, burning people in hell, and drowning millions in the Old Testament. The lack of empathy there comes from the negative example of the God they follow. Everything is about control and punishment. Submission to authority and to God comes first. They do not value freedom or independent thought. There are religious elements as to why freedom in America is dying and some people are demanding a police state.
Add in the impossible expectations. When one worships a God that in conservative Christianity that demands perfection from imperfect beings, with punishment on hand for those who don't measure up, even if a proxy is set up, this carries onto parenting practices. Many narcissistic parents who use religion to abuse are perfectionists, they don't even allow children to be children allowing for normal development, mistakes or learning. Even if churches teach "grace" from God, I saw very little of that in evidence. Appearances were focused on and being perfect. Here too, this helps fuel the never ending shame and guilt.
People are set up for fantasy and magical thinking in bad religion. In my case, due to the extreme nature of the narcissists I was under, I was punished a lot for any independent thought. Being a creative and artistic child, they worked hard to squelch that as much as possible. My mother didn't just attack me physically, but she attacked my very soul, when I would ask questions about God and life. This would earn me usually some form of physical punishment. I was punished for not conforming. Inside I often thought thoughts that I knew were "non-acceptable" to those around me.This takes a toll on ACONS, as while we deal with our narcissistic religious ideologues, our youthful expression of ideas, and examination have no where to go. We have no positive guidance.
My mother was a rigid Catholic, who lacked all introspection. Whatever the Catholic church said, was true. Many ACONS with religious parents, are trained to shut down their critical thinking facilities, and not to trust themselves. This leaves them more prone to abusers, and false messages and being taken in by predators. I realize the decades of being shamed and blamed, and even dismissed for the first deconversion into my first 12-13 years in UUism, set me up for the later religious Kool-Aid, and that abusive deliverance minister.
I was prone to neglect "Reality" thinking-- testing things with fact based science and rational thinking and maybe even a good dash of personal intuition. Magical religious thinking increased and that came out of being told to believe that wafer really became the flesh of Christ, and that invisible spirits [demons] hovered around my head ready to do me harm. Bad religions set a person up for failure. We are taught to shut down our rational thoughts about these religions which shuts down our reality testing when it comes to our abusers and the gaslighting. Our minds are imprisoned. The mind control of abusers is enhanced by the mind control of religion.
My doubts about religion actually began 12 years ago, when I noticed the prayers were not garnishing results, I could have deconverted with only 4-5 years invested into a false religious system instead of 16. I was too scared to leave due to the programming and "guilt" though I left the IFB churches ahead of leaving the religion. One technique they used was telling me Satan will make one doubt. There was a built in religious "answer" to every doubt. Religion did as much as gaslighting to me as the abusive parents.
In evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity, Family and church authority are stressed. Conservative churches almost turn the family into an idol. Remember the group Focus on The Family? Groups like that stressed severe discipline that was often physical. One's family is cited as a moral guide into adulthood even if that family is immoral. It's like one is never supposed to grow up and separate from their parents and find their own way. Church obedience was tied to family obedience. This was true in every conservative church I attended or visited. Family came first. This is one reason why singles and the childless did not fit into many conservative churches. For those of us who became estranged from our families or had to go no contact, we were shamed. The last IFB church I was in, the pastor did a sermon on how people need to "forgive" family members and go back to them. No contact, in this case would be seen as the ultimate wickedness.
The diagram is also correct about how many are denied REAL information. There is a reason that in evangelical and fundamentalist circles, education itself is being shut down. This is why they see science as a threat because science is reality. Science is making it clear that their child rearing practices are harmful and holding people back. I was told psychology was "wicked" and that secular counselors would lead me to harm. That's so another door on the way out can be closed. History was rewritten to support religious suppositions. Sex was deemed a giant evil. The internet is full of those who talk about how their sex lives were destroyed via religion. Like many young people raised in religious fundamentalism, I was taught sex was "evil" and "wrong". If I never had met my husband, my life path could have very easily ended up being life-long singleness and celibacy.
There are definitely developmental delays. Young people are held back by controlling religions. Their relationships, rational, critical thinking skills and intellectual skills are affected. They are emotionally crippled by religions based in shame and blame. Going no contact can be a growing up process making up for lost years when you were stuck in the mud of abuse and false religion. I hope more people realize how toxic religious systems negatively affect young people for life and enable abuse and abusers.
Recovering from Bad Religion
Peep's Deconversion Articles