Well I joined this forum for the Life After Fundamentalism group and am glad for the opportunity to connect with other people who've gone through similar experiences as myself. I am still dealing with the fallout of Christian fundamentalism and the effect it has had on me and my family. I grew up in South Mississippi. My mother was a converted Jehovah's Witness, and my dad was Southern Baptist, but not active. They had a huge amount of conflict because of my mother's adoption of the Witness's faith, which further added to their already stressed marrriage.
I think you may understand how it feels if you read Mr. Phelps' speech or watched his videos, about the mind control attempts that are a part of the everyday experience of religious fundamentalism. I was actively taught from an early age that being gay is a sin, that being friends with other non-Witnesses is wrong, that even wearing pants if you're a female is wrong. I have seen so much hypocrisy in my life I am quite bitter about it. I count myself fortunate that all the indoctrination just failed to stick. I didn't believe a word of it even as a child. I saw a Witness's bible study book (with pictures) of two men embracing. I couldn't tell what was wrong with it. I was told men cannot love each other, and the same for women. I just couldn't understand it. How could love be wrong?
I was told that all others who were non-Witnesses were doomed to hell. My mother would tell me my father would be in hell after the resurrection because he didn't believe. He does believe in the Bible, ironically, he just doesn't like church. And he hated the Witnesses. He would spray shaving cream on my mother's clothes to make her late for the Kingdom Hall. Neither of them could be described as normal or stable.
During their divorce, he was very spiteful about many things, but his crowning achievement was getting her disfellowshipped from her own faith. He went to the elders of her Kingdom Hall and told them she'd had an affair. They kicked her out, no questions asked, on the word of someone who wasn't even a member.
I was so glad, because I hated the Witnesses and I hated going. I hated being judged all the time and found wanting, and I just didn't agree, even at age 10. It was then when my older brother, suffering from a lack of guidance and attention from my distant parents, really hit bottom and became addicted to drugs. He would throw me around and generally abuse me while we were alone, he being 16 at the time and mean. I remember sitting on the floor and praying to god, crying my eyes out after being slammed around by him and asking god why was he allowing this to happen to me, and of course no answer came. So I realized even then I was on my own in this world.
I tried going to a Methodist church and foolishly brought my Jehovah's Witnesses version of the scriptures, which is almost identical to King James and I don't know why they made a big deal about it, but the pastor told me not to bring that book back and they quickly gave me the KJV. I suppose it has to do with "OUR" book is the only book... etc. Well they thought I was crazy. I was a girl, I had short hair, and OMG, a tail. They told me I couldn't participate in their vacation bible school because my tail was the devil. I remember the pastor praying over me at Easter when he called people to come down to the front if we didn't know Jesus, so I did. I felt nothing. That Methodist church was as spiritually empty as a seashell. When I made a friend who was black, I asked if I could bring her with me to church. The pastor's wife told me no, and that was it. I was done with them.
I haven't even mentioned how much of a misfit I feel I am, because I went from a farm in the woods with no children about to grade school where we were held apart, different, not allowed to participate. I was invited to parties and such at first, but I was forced by my mother to tell them I couldn't come and to not invite me. So no Christmas, NO Halloween which is just straight devil worship in their opinion, and no birthdays. The birthdays and all holidays are still extremely difficult for me. I don't know what to do with myself. I am over 30 and I still cry sometimes if my birthday is forgotten by my friends. I realize I've tried to supplant my real family with an adoptive one of friends.
In the past 5 years, our family had some setbacks. Hurricane Katrina destroyed my mother and stepfather's house. It impacted everyone I know. My mother, who I had grown to have an okay relationship with, has started to lose it. The stress of rebuilding their house and the whole situation really got to her. Then two years ago, my older sister died. The turn of events has led to a complete estrangement from my mother. The year my sister died, my mother informed us that she would no longer be celebrating the holidays. Now I had nowhere to go for Christmas as we had fallen into the customs of my stepdad who did celebrate. With my sister gone, and my mother out, I felt like our family was destroyed, such as it was.
In this time, I had gone to college, gotten a degree in Cultural Anthropology which focused on religions, mythology, the uses of magic and medicine. I had become an atheist/pagan, which I now consider myself to be a naturalist. I go back and forth about whether I believe in a divine force or not, and it doesn't really bother me. However, my mother went back to the Kingdom Hall and was re-fellowshipped. I understand her motivation, because she went through so much stress and she really believed all the bull crap they fed her. I despise how weak minded and in denial she can be at times. She knew I was not Christian, if not exactly pagan, and we'd talked about all types of things in the years she was out of the Witnesses. Well here she goes back again, and the pushy forced fellowshipping begins anew... she's causing problems in our family by proselytizing and pushing her faith on us. Those who are religious are just regular baptist or whatever. But she's being pressured to convert us.
I was so furious with her for going back to them. You would only have to embarass and shame me by kicking me out once. I would never have gone back. She actually called me on the phone to apologize to me for, of all things, not doing a good enough job teaching me about Jehovah. (She says this to someone who can describe the religions of almost all the cultures on the planet). I told her she could let herself off the hook, because I remember all the crap they fed us and just didn't swallow it. Needless to say she's gotten less and less enthusiastic about talking to me about it, because I challenge her and she can't back up anything they say. I don't live there anymore, so all our communication is by phone. This year my birthday came and went again with out her calling me for my birthday and I just decided to stop trying to talk to her altogether. I can't change her, and I can't get her to accept me. I can't get her to respect my beliefs or lack thereof, so I am rejecting hers. This may not be the right thing to do, and I may regret it one day, but I can't deal with the fact that she is willing to put her "mind control social club" (which is how I really see all religions), ahead of the feelings of those she is supposed to care about. And until that day when she cares as much about how I feel as she does about her faith, then I plan to avoid her.
Looking back on everything I've written, I'm sure you must be thinking wow. But there it all is, what I could put together at this time. That's where I'm coming from and I am actually pretty happy with who I am. I am a strong willed person who is not afraid to think for myself. I don't think I would be here otherwise.