IT'S BEEN THREE YEARS SINCE I LAST SET FOOT IN A CHURCH
To quote the Apostle Paul from the Aramaic Bible in Plain English, “When I was a child, I was speaking as a child, I was led as a child, I was thinking as a child, but when I became a man (or woman as in my case), I ceased these childish things.”
As a child and throughout my adult life, I was indoctrinated with extreme Christian fundamentalism that emphasized a god who meted out fear, judgement and merciless torture for all eternity the most evil being could ever devise. This included new born babies whose parents weren’t Christians or weren’t baptized into the right faith. A belief system that categorizes a new born baby as sinful and then scares the hell out of the child right into adulthood, to any normal sensibility, is despicable. This is one of many biblical discrepancies that flies in the face of the “God is love,” teaching.
When certain religious extremist groups murder their daughters in honor-killings, normal human beings are repulsed by such an action. But Christians blithely accept this belief of unspeakable torturous punishment in a fiery furnace. This smacks more of a schizophrenic god than a loving god to me.
While most Christians derive meaning, safety and eternal security from their belief, my experience was in fact detrimental to my mental health. Over the years dwelling in Plato’s “Cave of Ignorance” in which I was spit roasted over the flames of sin, blame, guilt, self-loathing and masochism. Hmm. Does that place sound familiar?
“Oh, but Jesus takes that all away,” the faithful say. “You must have FAITH.”
Oh yeah? How come I’d go to church, Sunday after Sunday, bowing and scraping and taking the cracker, and drinking the grape juice and still feeling crappy afterward? I remember, one Sunday, after going forward for prayer, a “prayer-team” member asked me what I needed prayer for. I said, “I just feel so frustrated that I can never, ever please God, however much I want to.” She prayed, “Lord, you hear Jennifer’s heart. Show her your love and grace.” I could never conceive of this ‘”love relationship” with Jesus and God who delight in playing hide and seek with us mortals. And if we can’t find them, we’re to blame. Such childishness!
It's been three years since I set foot in a church for my last dose of indoctrination when my sensibilities could no longer accept the scolding from the pulpit about being sinful and disobedient. I could no longer say the confessional prayer,
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
maker and judge of us all
We acknowledge and repent of our many sins and offenses,
which we have committed by thought, word, and deed,
against your divine majesty,
provoking most justly your righteous anger against us.
We are deeply sorry for these transgressions.
The burden of them is more than we can bear.
Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father…
For me, enough was enough. I figured out there’s no way I could win this lark. Which leads me to the late great Christopher Hitchen’s brilliant line of reasoning in which he quotes nobleman, Fulke Greville: “Once you assume a creator and a plan, it makes us objects, in a cruel experiment, whereby we are created sick and commanded to be well…” Hitchens went on to say, and I paraphrase, “Because it’s demanded of you to do the impossible, you'll always be guilty, will always fall short, will always sin, will always confess and will always be in the claws of the priest.”
This kind of scraping and bowing was psychologically not a healthy way for me to live. It was through seeking authenticity in my life that I took to heart the words of Jesus, “Seek and you will find.” I sought long and hard. I once sought help (paid help I might add) from a Christian” prayer coach” who was praying for healing for me to be cured of clinical depression. He asked me to visualize my painful childhood memories. Then he told me to close my eyes and visualize Jesus with me there when I was molested. “How does Jesus feel about the situation?” I knew the answer he was expecting, but I wanted to be real and not parrot bullshit back to him. I replied in heartfelt honesty, “I don’t really KNOW Jesus.” “Of course, you do!” he replied. “You’re thinking too much.”
Ah-ha! Thinking – the cardinal verboten Christian rule. Thou shalt not think. Was this the forbidden fruit the god was talking about in the mythical Adam and Eve story? In thinking, you’ll become as wise as god! In seeking you have to think critically. And the seeking must be unbiased, outside the confines of sixty-six books of Iron Age literature. It must take into account scholarly biblical history, archaeology, natural sciences, biology, modern neuroscience and all modern academic disciplines that offer logical and evidence-based explanations of our world, and how we function and survive as a species. Seeking truth strictly in the confines of the bible is like working out a mathematical problem but only being allowed to use an abacus.
I feel happier and mentally and emotionally healthier since I ditched the religion malarkey.