I decided to write this in order to draw attention to the damage that religion can cause to children. At the same time I want to say that my parents love me very much and have never done anything selfishly or to hurt me. Throughout my lifetime they have demonstrated that they would sacrifice endlessly to supply my needs and work towards my happiness. They are simply ignorant people who have always done what they thought was right.

Not two days ago I saw one of the children that used to be in my Sunday school class. “Do you remember me?” I asked him. Of course he didn’t. That was over five years ago. The memories came back to me of taking on the task of teaching children about Jesus even though I no longer believed in any god, didn’t like children, and the job made me very nervous. Why did I do it? I had become an atheist and was slowly realizing I was a lesbian. I couldn’t stand sitting in church anymore but there seemed to be no way out of it. I took on the class when I was asked to just to get away from all the people and all the preaching. I printed out coloring sheets every weekend and tried to find the most kid-friendly bible stories I could find. Believe me, this was extremely difficult! I ran out of stories in no time and found myself editing the ones I was left with to leave out the sex and the violence. Now and then the story wouldn’t make sense and one of the kids would call me on it. I then had to find some way to explain without explaining that Potifer’s wife had tried to seduce Joseph, or why the men in Sodom and Gomorah were yelling outside Lot’s house. I couldn’t even stand telling the crucifixion story. I sometimes spent less than two minutes on a story and spent the rest of the time just singing and playing around with them.

Skip to me at age three. My parents loaded the family in the van and we drove hundreds of miles across America and into Mexico to become missionaries. In Queratero we had a tiny house. I remember that house in such detail. I hated ever leaving it. Outside the bars of the front gate were people who not only looked funny but they spoke to me in frightening gibberish. They insisted on touching my white-blond curls. I hated even for my mother to touch my hair. I was left in the house half the day with a babysitter I couldn’t communicate with. This place was starkly different. It was dirty and concrete and bleak and I was terrified, constantly wondering when we were going home.
Growing up in a foreign country simply didn’t work for me. Someone once told me that some people are born too sensitive for this world and that I must be one of them. I never learned the language fluently, stuck in a depressive stage of culture shock for years on end. I lived for the long trips to Texas to renew papers and enjoy the wonders of Wal-mart and McDonalds. When we went to the States I had trouble telling all the white people apart. People looked like movie stars to me because that was the only place I ever really saw Americans. And yet, I was still American, wasn’t I? Really, I became a person without a culture at all and I still feel as if for the rest of my life I will only be passing as a regular American woman, doomed to feel like a foreigner forever.
As a teenager I developed severe social anxiety disorder and depression. I know I was born shy but the harshness of the difficulty of language and cultural differences turned me into someone who felt fear almost twenty-four hours a day. But I was home schooled and that made it easy to never speak to anyone at all or try to learn to speak Spanish more fluently.

I rebelled a little. How so? I listened to Christian contemporary music and tried to leave the house wearing pants. I can’t remember how many times music was confiscated from me because it had too much of a beat.

At age thirteen I started questioning religion and stopped believing in god for two whole weeks. Those were the darkest two weeks of my life and I spent them teetering on the edge of suicide, feeling as if not only had I fallen in a black abyss but I had become it. There was no way out. No way to tell my family, no way to escape the lifestyle that was forced on me, no way out the country I had been dragged into. I was trapped, jailed.

Ultimately, I re-brainwashed myself into believing again. There was no other way to survive.
Later that year I began to have panic attacks in the night. I now know they were panic attacks but when I described them to my parents they said it sounded like demonic attack and proceeded to calmly open all the windows of each room and exorcise the house. They were convinced that the house was haunted because the previous tenants had had a Catholic shrine downstairs. A prayer was said over my head that God would place a protective sheild around me and I pleaded with God not to let it happen again. That night, my eyes darting around the room, terrified that there were demons present I, of course, had another panic attack but this time I didn’t call out to my parents for safety. I knew that I must not be a good enough Christian and that was why God wouldn’t protect me. I told my parents that it had stopped and suffered every night after that in silence. For several years after that I lived in terror of Catholic churches and shrines which are everywhere in Mexico. I lived in psychological trauma.

I was about fourteen or fifteen when my family came to the States on furlough which is basically a break from the mission field and a time to visit all of the churches that supported us. The plan was to live in Georgia for a year or so. I was determined I was never going back, even if it meant running away and being homeless.

As thrilled as I was to leave Mexico, trying to fit in in the States was more jarring and difficult than I expected. Not only did I suffer from the severe social anxiety but I had to try to fit into a new culture as a self-conscious teenager. I couldn’t tell people apart, couldn’t understand people’s southern accents, and didn’t understand any of the colloquialisms and jokes. I took things literally when I shouldn’t have and laughed at all the wrong things. This is understandable coming from a foreigner but I was a foreigner who was white and spoke perfect English. I was just really weird. I spent the tenth grade in a small Christian school never saying a word to anyone.

Life went on and I ended up in the Christian college my sister was in, following the path that was expected of me. There I relished my psychology and astronomy classes and in those classes I began to question again the logic of Christian theology and the existence of God. The teachers would teach facts that to me presented obvious contradictions to what they were teaching in chapel and bible classes. I looked around at the other students and waited for someone to ask these obvious questions but no one ever did. Too shy to raise my hand and too ashamed to admit I was having any doubts, neither did I. I let those questions nag at my mind, grow, and breed new questions.

I dropped out of college shortly for financial reasons and started to work instead. The questions had built up steadily until it seemed they were literally infinite. I began to fear that there was no God and at the same time that I was about to damn myself to hell for thinking it. At nineteen I went through a dark period similar to that I experienced at thirteen but this time much more intense. I could sense and envision the fire of hell directly under the floor I stood on in my bedroom and couldn’t escape it. I wanted desperately for God to give me answers so that I could stop questioning but there was no response, not in the bible and not in the theology books on my father’s shelf.

I remember the day - the morning - when I knew that I was letting go of it all. I finally felt all of the lightness of spirit, the inner peace, the understanding that Christianity had promised me all of my life. I felt free to be myself and pursue my own happiness and dreams for the first time. My subsequent thought was that this solved the problem I had with the idea of marrying a man. I could have sex outside of marriage, and hell, I thought to myself, I could be with a woman instead if I wanted! I laughed at this idea when it occurred to me but of course, it wasn’t long before I realized it was what was right for me. At nineteen I went through a mental puberty for the first time and found out what everyone was talking about when they spoke of attraction, affection, romance, and the rest of it. I let go of all the rationalizations I had come up with for those feelings.

But everything didn’t fall into place after that. I was still dependent on my family and had no clue how to break free of them. I had to pretend and the pretending took a great toll. I will leave out some details here but the strain of it all left me in the psych ward having overdosed on sleeping pills and unable to explain my actions to anyone. When I came home my psychiatrist told my parents they had no choice but to snoop in my room and make sure I had no dangerous tools or medications handy. My homosexuality was found out and after much family turmoil, forced “Christian Counseling”, and my first relationship with a girl (my first time dating at all) which my parents could not tolerate, I ended up living in my car for a summer and didn’t talk to my parents much after that for about three years.
Even now, feeling alone in the way I grew up and suffered because of the mission my parents dragged me on (a mission they told me was automatically mine also, although I had heard no calling) I remind myself that I am not alone because I once met a girl who seemed to be like me. Her family came to our church in Georgia and her father gave a slide presentation of their fruitless work in a remote area of the French Alps. He explained that people there were unfreindly to outsiders and scoffed at religion, thinking that they were too smart and educated for it. He mentioned that his children had never made friends in the many years they had lived there. The daughter I’m thinking of seemed as terrified of people as me. When she was asked to go out bowling with the youth group that night and her parents told her she had to go she went away and cried before coming back and putting on a strong face. That face was so miserable. I knew just how she felt.

Views: 3

Replies to This Discussion

I actually identified with a lot of that. We grew up really restricted and isolated from popular culture, so that to this day, I often miss jokes and references of anything from the 1980s. Also, my son and I lived in our car for awhile last year after telling my family I was going to a therapist for my eating disorder (which they pretended I didn't have for 15 years). I hope you continue to grow in your independence and form really strong bonds of friendship and found-family all around you.
Yeah, a lot of that really rings a bell with my past, too. I was raised to believe that the Anti-Christ would arise in my lifetime, and I would see the New World Order, and help Christians hide from persecution in the woods around my home, and probably be martyred in my early teens. Because of the extreme preparation and paranoia my parents lived for, I was taught that pretty much any of the things we held important must not be revealed to outsiders, even other church goers, or Them would come for us. Them were a paranoid vision of the government controlled by the supreme secret society, more secret than Skull&Bones etc. They must never know about our illegal composting toilet, or unregistered weapons, or bomb shelter in the side of the hill...
My parents claimed they couldn't afford to send me to any of the more social events attended by my other homeschooled peers, so I had nothing in common with even the most similar peers in my churches...yes, plural...we church-hopped constantly most of my childhood. No pastor or preacher ever agreed closely enough with my parents' extremism.
I was precocious, and encouraged in that, which resulted in my learning sex ed from medical texts at age seven. By age twelve I was masturbating to internet porn of all sorts, and convinced I would go to hell for it. I cannot describe the emotional turmoil and torment I put myself through, pleading with God to take away the desire and addiction. I didn't even know the word masturbate, but I mentioned it to my mother once, and she confirmed my belief that it was Sin.
Finally I grew sick of the game, sick of the layers of masks I had to wear in public to hide our extremism, and the growing disillusionment I had with it all. We were supposed to be the perfect family with the only true beliefs about the End Times, yet there was always fighting and anger and resentment, and as I started thinking about college and career futures, I realized how unprepared and ignorant I was for those.
My mother got tired of teaching me, so she simply stopped, and I was left hanging my junior year of highschool.
I taught an evangelistic after-school club the school year I turned 19, and found that the shallow churchy religion I was teaching disgusted me. I felt like a hypocrite, so I re-brainwashed myself into believing, without really realizing I'd quit.
I left home to get a summer job, and met a boy. I was lonely and naive about emotions like that, and couldn't see his immaturity at first, so I fell passionately in love. By the end of that summer job, I was still broke, and in deep shit over fornication and "unequally yoked" for dating this guy. I went home, and faced the darkest winter of depression, confusion, and religious mind-games I'd ever dealt with. My family and friends all tried to get me to break up and repent, but treated me like a permanent outcast. I tried to brainwash myself into being happy to give him up for Jesus, but couldn't do it. Finally my parents issued the ultimatum: break up, or move out. They contended they couldn't support sin by feeding, housing, or clothing me. I left.
I lived in my car for three months, with little to eat, no friends, and nothing to do, while I taught myself to get a job, to get foodstamps, to file my taxes, etc. Finally I joined the military as a way out.
Since then, I've gradually worked through the psychological damage left from my childhood and teen years, and joyously discovered Atheist Nexus and my new-found belief system / worldview.
I still have a lot of skeletons to clean out of my closets...I have come close to suicide thrice, and am back from Iraq early to work through that. I've been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, and am getting good therapy for it. But I'm retainable by military standards, and I consider myself a fighter. I'm still making goals for my future military career, and fighting to get what I want. And I will win.
I am eagerly awaiting a shift in my career plans that will allow my marriage to my fiance, who is stationed half a world away now; and dream sometimes of raising unbrainwashed, freethinking, happy children of my own.
Wow what a story. I really regret not keeping up with this group for quite a while. I've had a lot of stress lately and distractions but maybe I can participate more now. I hope your plans for the future will work out and good for you for getting out of all that!

RSS

Support Atheist Nexus

Donate Today

Donate

 

Help Nexus When You Buy From Amazon

Amazon

MJ

Latest Activity

Pat commented on Edward Teach's blog post Are we Dancing Bears?
7 minutes ago
Randall Smith commented on Edward Teach's blog post Are we Dancing Bears?
27 minutes ago
Randall Smith commented on Sentient Biped's group Food!
35 minutes ago
Corey commented on Jeff's group Secular Freemasonry
39 minutes ago
Randall Smith commented on Richard C Brown's group learnerscoffeeshack
42 minutes ago
Edward Teach posted blog posts
56 minutes ago
Loren Miller commented on Stuart M Rees's video
1 hour ago
Stuart M Rees posted a video

Alternative RE School Teacher - A Bit Of Fry And Laurie

Would you send your children to this school? A Bit Of Fry and Laurie's mockumentary about this alternative religious education school teacher may just be the...
1 hour ago
Plinius commented on Ruth Anthony-Gardner's group Hang With Friends
1 hour ago
Luara replied to Luara's discussion Saw a groundhog this morn
2 hours ago
Pat commented on Sentient Biped's group Food!
2 hours ago
Luara commented on Bryan McDowell's blog post Proving a Negative
2 hours ago

© 2014   Atheist Nexus. All rights reserved. Admin: Richard Haynes.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service