Does Religion Make You Crazy Or Are You Crazy To Begin With

     In my case I'd have to say both. My grandmother, who was a certified nut herself, always insisted that whenever anything bad happened to me, such as falling down the stairs (I'm not kidding), God was punishing me for something. Right, at three years old. My mother was always bragging about her near-death experience as a child where Jesus appeared at her bedside and smiled at her---which she insisted meant she'd live longer than anyone else. Well, she did make it to 94, but her sister is 99 so I guess Jesus liked Aunt Emma better. Having a nutty family helps, of course, but being sent to Catholic school really ups the ante.

     Nuns believed in a hands-on method---both hands coming at you from every direction---and mistakes were often taken as moral failings. These jilted-at-the-altar spinsters were ugly enough to fool Darwin, especially as so many of them had hairy paws (one even had a mustache!). Indeed, we were never too sure what gender they were. Any questions they couldn't answer were automatically stupid and a waste of their and everyone else's time. For emphasis they would often give their hands-on education, just to make sure you didn't ask questions again. I learned that a little slower than the rest of the kids but, unlike them, I never stopped thinking. Catechism was taken very seriously, and we were taught not to associate with Jews, Protestants and other non-Catholics (who only wanted to get us to eat meat on Friday and miss Mass so we'd go to Hell). Our pastor was strict---no singing Christmas Carols by non-Catholics, which didn't go over very well (think Silent Night and White Christmas). And we prayed, oh how we did pray! Every morning, and daily trips to church for religious exercises such as the Stations Of The Cross---where we were alternately kneeling and standing, kneeling and standing, for all twelve stations. I wonder how many of my classmates needed knee replacements years later?

     After six years of physical/emotional/mental abuse I was able to escape to public school (which we had been taught would be bad for our morals, especially sexually) where I now became fixated with all the hellish religions we'd been warned against. To be sure, even public school had its pitfalls. This was before the Supreme Court struck down prayer and bible reading, so the daily recitation of the Lord's Prayer posed a problem for Catholics. It seems the evil Protestants had added "For thine is the kingdom..." onto the end of it which we weren't allowed to say, so covering one's mouth at that point (we said it while seated) could be construed as a yawn. Jewish kids were "yawning" throughout the entire prayer, naturally. And the bible read from was the King James Version, which confused me as I had no idea who this "King James" was.

     It wasn't long before I had lots of non-Catholic friends, and I spent much of the rest of my school years going to their churches. My parents screamed, but not nearly so loud as when I finally went to a friend's synagogue. I was in heaven! Here were all the things the Church had appropriated for Catholicism---the vestments, the hanging lamps (but not the idols---that came from paganism). You can imagine my thrill when I read that the rabbis, in the 1st century BCE, had declared "The righteous of all nations (goyim meant religions as well as nations) have a share in the World To Come" Of course, I hadn't yet met grumpy old Moses Maimonides, who exempted the majority of those righteous goyim---typically homosexuals. But I knew I had finally found a faith that didn't automatically send to hell those who disagree (except for the homosexuals).

     At 21, which unfortunately was still the age of majority back in 1972, I took an Orthodox conversion so nobody could say I'd snuck in illegally. Then I had the misfortune to run into a dynamic ultra Orthodox rabbi who convinced (tricked, actually) me that only bundling myself up in long sleeves, skirts, dark stockings and a wig was the real kosher Judaism. No, it wasn't Satmar or Lubavitch, but it functioned very much like a cult (I'll get into that later) and nearly wrecked my marriage. My husband was a Jew, but not a "kosher" one, and so many of our friends had their marriages broken when the woman "got religion" while the husband didn't. Worse, these rabbis didn't give a damn. Lots of poor women were forced to bring up their kids alone with nary a penny from Orthodox charity organizations. Nice, huh. But you have to realize that God is more important than anything else. Parents were told by their now-kosher kids that unless they changed their pots and dressed with "tznius" (modesty, which meant the wig, etc) they would no longer be able to see the grandkids. I got fed up and left.

To Be Continued...

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Comment by Tom Sarbeck on February 11, 2014 at 2:42am

Right on, Fran.

My dad sent his five kids to Catholic schools and before he died he knew we had all quit. Nice revenge.

Now retired, I know several elderly Catholics and something strange does happen in their minds. They switch between needing an authority they can obey and being an authority that others must obey.

I studied math, not psychology, so I'm unable to identify it.

I am so glad I got away early.

Which reminds me. As I was quitting, I realized one day a reason for Catholicism's ban on birth control. If Catholic adults have enough kids, providing for them will keep them [the adults] too busy to question their faith.

Comment by Richard C Brown on February 8, 2014 at 9:40pm

Good Write.

From reading your write I remember something my Mother said when I was a child.

Too much religion will drive U crazy.

Looking forward to reading more from U.Thanks.

Comment by Joan Denoo on February 8, 2014 at 1:16pm

Fascinating! I look forward to more. 

Comment by Sentient Biped on February 8, 2014 at 12:50pm

Great reading!  Thanks for posting!

Comment by Idaho Spud on February 8, 2014 at 11:45am

Fran, your post is interesting.  My idea on your question is that not all children that are indoctrinated into religion are crazy, but it seems to me those that are not, but get religion after becoming an adult are crazy.

By the way, my first name is Francis, and some people used to call me Fran. 

Comment by Anthony Jordan on February 7, 2014 at 6:06pm

Fran: I must say that you are very well spoken, and display great intellect. I got a few laughs also from reading your blog post. I believe I agree with you, that religion can make you crazy if you become religious, and you have to be crazy to begin with to become religious.

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