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Entry 37 – Not as calm, cool and collected as I thought I was

January 9, 2011

Happy New Year!  Over the holidays, I got into a discussion with a family member over yes…you guessed it…Christianity.  I thought I was ready for it (the conversation)…but, unfortunately, the conversation got the better of me.  More on that later…

I write because I want to share with you the reader that this conversation taught me a valuable lesson. 

On the outside, I try to present a certain person to my family members who still hold to their Christian faith.  I try to present that I have no problems with people who still hold to a Christian worldview.  What I learned though through this conversation with the family member was that deep down I very much DO have a problem with people who hold to a Christian worldview.  I honestly wish I didn’t.  I wish I could just let these kinds of things “go”, so to speak, but in the end, if I don’t address this issue, I am only fooling myself by trying to remain tolerant of the Christian faith. 

So, back to the conversation…

Somehow we got onto the concept of sin and I recounted as a young boy how I was completely terrified of what might happen if I didn’t confess all my sins before I went to sleep.  I littorally spent sleepless nights worrying about this worst case scenario with my , who I considered at the time to be, Creator…God.  It’s probably hard for someone who hasn’t grown up with this concept of sin ingrained in them from a very young age what it’s like to think like this on a daily basis.  Even now as I recount this episode in my life 30 some odd years later I am hardpressed to truly recreate what I was feeling at the time.  All I know is that I was a pretty miserable 5th grader.  I wish that no child has to go through the same thing I did.

So I became more and more incensed at the doctrines of Christianity, especially the concept of a Hell where all people who don’t confess their sins and trust in Jesus go to be tormented forever.  I wanted this particular family member to see just how ridiculous the concept of Hell was, and how unloving a God would have to be to create such a place.  And the more I wanted this realization to take place in this other family member, the more they became unwilling to concede such ‘sightedness’. 

Conversation basically ended with me saying I was sorry for getting so emotional over the whole thing, and that I didn’t want to be proselytized any more from this particular family member.  They agreed not to do any more proselytizing, and we agreed to disagree on matters of the supernatural.  I do wish that this family member would be able to have a different understanding of the world and how it works (i.e. a secular rather than supernatural approach).  But I have resigned that this won’t be possible any time soon. 

I’ll close with something I heard recently from Sam Harris.  He made an interesting comparison of the various religions to the numerous sports we have created.  Just as sports like badmitton and football are incredibly different from one another, religions are also incredibly different from one another.  He gave an example of a religion of peace and non-violence, Jainism, and juxtaposed its beliefs against Islam which claims to be a religion of peace and non-violence.  Despite their incredibly different sets of values espoused, they both still fall under the rubrick of ‘religion’. 

Christianity and Islam have radicaly different teachings on how its believers should view the world.  However, both religions appear to have an incredible ability to engender exclusivity and certitude about end of the world scenarios, and where believers and non-believers will spend eternity.  I find these similarities to be particularly dangerous in any person or sets of persons holding to a belief system. 

On the converse, maybe Christians and Muslims think I am just as dangerous holding my own set of beliefs that we don’t have to fear a supernatural being who is going to judge all of humanity for their ‘sins’ against God.

I’ll leave it there for now.  My thoughts on all of this are a bit muddled and incomplete.  I wanted to merely introduce the reality I am facing now of being much less tolerant than I thought I was of other peoples’ faith.  But, I am human, and like all humans we are flawed characters in this crazy act we call, “Life”. 

Thanks for stopping by,

TRC

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18 Comments leave one →
  1. Rob Archer permalink
    January 19, 2011 7:20 am

    Will share more later about this post, but I thought you’d be particularly interested / disheartened by this story in today’s news:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_alabama_governor_christians

    • Anonymous permalink*
      January 19, 2011 7:51 am

      Thanks, Rob. Yes, quite disheartening. I liked how at the end of the article the journalist states that this governor is ‘dancing dangerously close to a violation of the 1st amendment of the U.S. Constitution’. I would go one racier step further and say that he’s dirty dancing with that 1st amendment and about ready to get tossed out of the club.

  2. January 19, 2011 12:40 pm

    I just wanted to say that you are not alone in your struggles. As was your discussion w/ your mother, mine went on for yrs w/ my dad, until he died @ age 68. I’d like to interact w/ you & others on this topic. I’ve been trying to recover from religion for ~33 yrs now. Shel

    • Anonymous permalink*
      January 25, 2011 10:17 pm

      Thanks, Shel, for your comments. I also struggled with my Dad on the same topics up until he passed away nearly 3 years ago at age 67. His passing and a lunch I had after his death with some relatives are what got me writing about these topics. Check out my first few posts from 2009 and you’ll get a flavor of what I was dealing with in terms of my family. I wish you all the best. It’s such a long road to recovery from all the teachings of Christianity and its ilk, but so worth the taking. Look forward to hearing more of your own story and how you have been recovering from your religion for over 33 years. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Rob Archer permalink
    January 19, 2011 5:16 pm

    Be careful of stating that Christianity and Islam “have radically different teachings on how its believers should view the world.” Actually, because they both trace their roots through Judaism via Abraham, many of their beliefs about heaven and hell and the purposes of this life are remarkably similar; hence, the irony in how much they loathe each other when it comes to their more fundamentalist branches. Islam accepts Jesus as a great prophet, just not a deity.

    That being said, I still agree with you in stating how disconcerting it is that these faiths (and so many like them) engender blind acceptance among its followers with a particular aversion towards questioning and searching. To me, when one stops searching in an infinite universe full of infinite possibilities because s/he has found the be-all-end-all finite answer, then one has become a trivial, closed-minded fool.

    • Anonymous permalink*
      January 25, 2011 10:39 pm

      Good point, Rob. Well taken. ‘Radically’ is a strong word and in terms of how Islam and Christianity view a supreme being in control of the planet, well, they are as you say, ‘remarkably similar’. But in the same light, fundamentalist branches of Christianity would take the fact that Islam accepts Jesus as a great prophet as yes, a radically different way to view their ‘Son of God, The Christ”. I would additionally posit that the concept of a ‘jihad’ or Holy War in Islamic traditions is much stronger than in the Christian texts. And interpretations of what constitutes a Holy War are rather ambiguous at best as put forth in the Koran. Often times interpreations of the Koran reveal a bias toward a more littoral jihad where killings of humans are completely justified in the name of Allah because these same humans are infidels and unbelievers.

  4. Rob Archer permalink
    January 27, 2011 7:06 am

    Excellent points, sir. Real quickly, though, I want to bring up how much our national media has perverted the meaning of the term “jihad.” Actually, it does not mean “holy war,” per se; rather, it means any struggle done in honor of Allah. Therefore, helping build a mosque or battling infidels, either could be jihad. Moreover, a war is never jihad UNLESS it is a defensive one. A Muslim is never allowed to be the primary aggressor. Thank you, U.S. media, for not taking the time to understand and articulate the intricacies of this term; otherwise, we may not have been as quick as we were to judge.

    Keep up the fight, brother! I love your stuff!

  5. Joshua permalink
    February 7, 2011 10:47 am

    Hi,

    I too was raised with religion as a child. For me, converting to atheism was at first hard and painful. It started with the realization that the bible didn’t make sense to me on a personal level. I did not relate in any way to the teachings, and I was actually filled with negative emotions because of the bible. I started developing bipolar disorder and OCD around age 11, and because of the religion I was indoctrinated into I developed severe delusions based on my irrational thoughts. In my 14th year I was convinced that the devil had possessed my soul to think such irrational and destructive thoughts, and because of this I must be the antichrist. I feared hellfire, but I also feared the repurcussions of what it would mean to be the antichrist. It wasn’t until my symptoms got so bad that I finally heard an explanation of mental illness, though the wrong mental illness. I thought I was schizophrenic based on the delusions that I held, and so I shut myself away from people and strongly considered suicide as a way out. Then, like a pack of cards falling down, questions began popping into my head which challenged the bible. One that I really thought about was: If the Antichrist is prophesied in the book of revelations, does that mean that god has fated a certain individual to be the antichrist? If this is true, than does the antichrist have a free will, or is he fulfilling the will of god. And if this is the case, how is it that the antichrist of the book of revelations is responsible for his actions? If he’s not responsible for his actions, what about me? Am I responsible for my actions? Years later I realized that I was experiencing a depressed episode of bipolar disorder, after receiving a diagnosis. This was abruptly ended by a manic episode, right when I turned 15, in which someone presented to me a manifesto of anarchism, which professed religion as the cause of alot of the evils in the world. I agreed with it wholeheartedly based on the delusional thinking that religion had led me to.

    Now, my point of all this is, that religious indoctrination of children is child abuse. If you tell a child things that constitute absolutist dogma at a really young age, you are setting them up for a host of problems later in life. Social anxiety disorder is the fear of being watched and judged at all times. The bible teaches that god is watching you and judging you at all times. Teaching this to children is teaching them how to be mentally ill, and how to justify it as a part of their ‘culture’. Christianity is the opposite of culture, because it has spread like a parasite and has systematically erased cultures across the globe, replacing valuable cultural histories with Christianity.

    Basically, what I want to say by all this is that you SHOULD feel angry at the people who did this to you. They did something selfish and wrong in indoctrinating you, and you don’t even owe them a second of your time. They took the most valuable years of your life, and used your impressionable state to manipulate you. The Christian faith was founded by a murderous lot, some of whom can be compared with Adolf Hitler in the sheer evil of their actions (ie: the Apostle Paul). Anyone who blindly follows this faith and advocates teaching it to children need to be made aware that they are spreading the very evil that they preach against. It is an inhuman form of hypocrisy that risks setting our civilization back many thousands of years, because of this anticipation of the end of the world. If there is a massive global war looming, it is most likely going to be started by Christians, Muslims, and Jews.

    I’m not bigoted in any way. I have embraced cultures from around the world that spread peace and creative inspiration.

    People are certainly entitled to their opinions. They are not entitled to manipulate their children into believing their opinions before they reach an age where they can question things. I feel not only entitled, but responsible to call them out on being evil, bigoted, child abusers when that’s exactly how they portray themselves to the rest of the world.

    • Anonymous permalink*
      February 10, 2011 9:43 pm

      Thanks, Joshua, for that very honest and very real depiction of your own recovery from Christianity. From what you’ve written it seems that logic and your own inquisitive mind won out over bad ideas and false premises. I can’t tell you how inspiring it is for me to hear that someone, who by all accounts would have been written off as just being under the influence of Satan and left to the devices of the church to rid them of their demonic possession, turned the entire argument back on itself squarely out of sheer intellect, and, in essence, hurled that proverbial ball of negative energy that represents religion and dogmatic thinking right back in into its, proverbial again, collective face. Bravo, Joshua!

      While I agree that I should be angry, it is hard for me to walk away from some of these relationships with people; especially when they are your immediate family members. I try (operative word being TRY…very much not successful!) to look at the whole interaction in a broad context that these people who are still very much steeped in the Biblical story of Jesus and heavily invested in his deification are most likely deluding themselves, and if firmly pressed on the issues at hand would admit that these stories in the Bible are just that, stories.

      Granted there are some good stories, but for those like you and I who have gone through the rigors of Christianity, the Jesus story is fraught with quite questionable and often times just plain bad ways to live your life. I really don’t want my children being brought up to believe that the Jesus story is something worth emulating. I don’t mind them learning about Jesus when they are old enough to understand the entirety of his supposed existence on the planet (very questionable at best if he ever did exist in the way the 4 gospels in the New Testament attest he did). I would think that age to be sometime in the early to late teens.

      I liked your last comment about people not being entitled to manipulating their children into believing their opinions before they reach an age where they can question things. Well said, and I believe our world would be a much better place if this simple rule was practiced.

      Again, many thanks for your honesty in the comments you shared. I am continually amazed by the persons who post to this blog and share their experiences. It helps more than you know.

      Thanks for stopping by,
      TRC

      • Anon permalink
        February 19, 2011 11:41 am

        I must say that I wish this site was more popular. More people need to be aware of people like us. I personally would have loved it if I could have been raised belief-less and simply been instilled with a sense of rationality, logic, reason, scientific investigation, etc.

      • Anonymous permalink*
        February 20, 2011 9:39 pm

        Thanks, Anonyous, for your comment on this post. I feel like you, that I wish there were more sites dedicated to helping former Christians. It was such a huge part of my life for such a long time, that I do find myself longing for that time back when I could have been devoting myself to scientific pursuits. Oh well, I guess we just have to make the most of our time left and try to help as many folks as we can with the knowledge we have now. Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to further discussions. Sincerely, TRC

  6. March 14, 2011 3:38 pm

    Hello Anonymous, Shel, Rob, Joshua et. al.,

    What a great tone and attitude set here for this important discussion about the effects religion has on us as we grow and mature intellectually. I just published my first book, “A View from the Back Pew: God, Religion & Our Personal Quest for Truth” which addresses many of the same questions you discuss here. I noticed the name because the working draft of the book was actually “The Recovering Catholic” but the word Catholic in a book title is too charged they tell me. My audience is definitely not Catholics but those who struggle in the aftermath of that particular brand of religious indoctrination.

    My book is on a “virtual book tour” this month being reviewed by different blogs and websites. I’m finding it very interesting how people who are open to asking questions and challenging what we were taught to believe appreciate the book much more than those who remain tied to the doctrine they were raised in.

    I applaud your courage to step out of the box and be intellectually honest about your indoctrination. You’re all invited to check out the reviews the book is getting and see some of the videos I’ve posted at the website. I’ll check back to see new posts here – the idea of this blog is right on the money as far as I’m concerned.

    Tim

    • Anonymous permalink*
      August 15, 2011 9:08 pm

      Thank you for your comments, Tim. Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond back. I hope your book is doing well. Will definitely check it out! Sounds interesting.

  7. Closet Atheist permalink
    May 6, 2011 9:08 am

    I’m a new Atheism,I’m not sure if I can phrase it that way.Christianity teaches that imperfect and ugly in the sight of God or alteast implies .God should destroy you but he is merciful ,People literally have fear out researching certain subjects.In the bible,The greatest sin is to call holy spirit evil,but in reality disbelief is greatest sin.Many Christians know atleast on some level that they can be discouraged from faith,they believe it is great gamble.

    What if there faith is destroyed,will they go to heaven.When Christians fight,it’s for there own survival because the concept of hell.I was very religious,reading different parts of the bible.I avoided reading different books on evolution and biblical criticism because I didn’t want sow of a seed of disbelief.

    I once told a long-time friend about my disbelief,he told me this” umm wow,I don’t want to know about what happen.I’m struggling to believe,if it go you disbelieve then I don’t want to know”

    • Anonymous permalink*
      August 15, 2011 9:12 pm

      Thank you, Closet Atheist, for your comments. I really appreciate your honesty. I can relate so much to your experience with that one friend who simply didn’t want to have to deal with your disbelief. It’s a lifelong struggle to rid yourself of the brainwashing that Christianity teaches, but it’s SO worth it. The alternative is to live in a state of disbelief in reality; a much harsher sentence in my book so to speak.

  8. Hilda hancock permalink
    August 24, 2014 11:14 am

    I too can relate very well to the postings here on Recovering Christian. I was raised in a Pentecostal home and indoctrinated at early age with the teachings of the Bible. Much of my life I have lived in fear of Hell fire and damnation. Of not being good enough to go to Heaven. I am only now at 61 years of age realizing at all of these teachings are bullshit. It’s all about power and mind control. I still believe that there is a Supreme being, but certainly not the one I was brought up to believe in. Organized religion is a curse.

    • Anonymous permalink*
      October 25, 2014 6:28 am

      Thank you, Hilda, for your comments and sharing your experiences here on the TRC blog. Sorry so late in responding. I think you really cited the main problem with organized religion, mind control. Most people are too scared to think outside of an organized religious box. the cosmos is too frightening to think that we’re all stardust and we’re all alone for the most part on this pale blue dot of a planet. I’ve gone through some major changes lately that I need to share on this blog and plan to do soon. Will keep you posted and thank you again for your comments.

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