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  1. I am a survivor of religious brainwashing and amplified abuse due to religious influences in my childhood household. I was trained from an early age that life was a constant battle between the divine and my imperfect flesh. I was regularly made aware that there would come a day when I might wake up and find everyone I loved gone; vanished from the very face of the Earth. If this happened, then I was obviously a failure in God's eyes and had to face the Tribulation period. I would have to willingly be executed in His glorious name if I wanted to make the final roll call. I was spanked. I was whipped. I was beaten. I was degraded. My faith scoffed at. I was molested, and I was eventually abandoned. All by the time I was sixteen years of age. This type of constant conflict and abuse requires focused recovery. There isn't a self help book out there which will make me feel safe when I wake up every night at midnight, momentarily hallucinating the sound of heavy footsteps approaching with an imaginary belt in hand to beat me. Weekly counseling sessions will not begin to put a dent in my reflexive urges to hide what my plans are for my future because I worry about being laughed at, being told I am a joke, that I am not ever going to be good enough. And there isn't a pill in a bottle anywhere that will eliminate deep seated anger at the irrational fear of everyone I love being taken from me. A fear that has been pounded into my mind since I would comprehend basic language and emotion. No, religious recovery is difficult, and at times, torturous. Professional help is never a bad idea, but seeking that out has its challenges. How easy is it to find a doctor that is even willing to acknowledge the abusive cycle of religious doctrine? It is quite the task. That is why I never fail to offer large online forum information of other religious survivors, in hopes who ever is looking for help, shelter, and understanding, will find a few people to be with them through the process of deconversion. But what about once one has gotten to the stage where a love interest comes along? A desire to expose oneself into the world of another? Couldn't atheism be the tie that binds a couple together? A liaison between two individuals, much like religion does. I am not so sure about that notion lately. There is only one definition for atheism, but like any simple concept, it is applied in many different ways, even in romantic relationships. Some atheists are extremely vitriolic against organized belief. A constant barrage of intense anger filled discussion can wear on a person's good mood after awhile. Then again, the more gentler atheists seem to be humanistic in practice, while others just don't care at all anymore and have no interest in discussing the subject of non belief. For myself, recent dating experiences have been interesting ones. Most I've had meet ups with are recovering from one religious belief or another. Well, except for one gentleman I've been around the past three months or so. And as our time together has continued, where I am constantly impressed with how much we share in common, I realized the other day there is a pretty large elephant in the room that could make or break our romantic relationship, though I doubt our friendship. To the short of it, he never experienced indoctrination. In fact, the whole notion of being fearful of demons, having night terrors about a rapture, losing family over lack of belief, or just being a recovering ex Christian, are completely foreign concepts to him. He really cannot wrap his head around such psychological damage being caused by belief. And with a lack of comprehension comes a shortcoming in the amount of empathy to be given to the victim's plight. This is the first time I have met someone who had no real first hand experience with religious indoctrination, and the resulting psychological damage that can be caused by it. When I recounted to him my father's suicidal phase after Jesus didn't return in 1988, he was at a loss, unable to appreciate the level of disappointment on my Dad's part. It isn't that this fellow I am seeing isn't empathetic to the suffering of others, he just doesn't appreciate the depth of damage that has been wrought against former believers, including myself. If you've never been a part of the Jesus Christ or Prophet Mohammed fan club, how could you know? You are always just a casual observer, watching a weirdly fascinating obsession with ritualistic fantasy. Because you are never participating, you never quite figure out if people truly believe what they are worshiping. And, if you live in a country that only associates positive events with organized religion, then what? You never see the rotting trail of abuse, deceit, and paranoid escapism. In his case, he is not from the U.S., but Europe. A very secular country in Europe. This inexperience on the part of my new found beau is also making me lose confidence in myself and the ability to not scare him off. Not only do I worry about the inevitable occurrence of a night terror during an overnight visit, but what about a trigger event like a street preacher announcing the end of times getting me upset to tears? Additionally, I worry about the fact that I might be too socially active in helping to dismantle religious influence in American culture. I am very big on educating the youth about appropriate time and place for belief. I won't sit by and allow the continued abusive programming of young children to happen anymore. It has to be stopped. Even if one child at a time. Yes, an activist girlfriend, one who lampoons cause after cause that you hardly can relate to, can make for a difficult time. I haven't worn down his tolerance of religious discussion.....yet. I still think our being together is a truly wonderful thing, and it has reminded me just how insidiously quiet American culture is with the dishonest portrayal of religious faith and the side effects it has had on our country. This is something he does seem to acknowledge. Being from out of the U.S., he never sees any major news discussions about how unhealthy it is to program our kids with preset guidelines from the Bronze Age on how we are supposed to behave and think. You can watch two hour long documentaries on the horrible results of Islamic radicalization, but nothing on Christianity. On top of all these musings, I admitted to myself that I am incredibly jealous of his irreligious upbringing. All his exposures to church were simply perfunctory in nature to appease an old relative, and his parents never made it mandatory. To have such freedom! To be raised without the constraints of dogma governing every aspect of your being. Thinking on it makes me want to cry in frustration sometimes. Luckily, my own children are being raised much the same as this man I've met, and knowing they have the open expanses of free thought to explore possibility after possibility as they see fit is a huge boon against my struggle with melancholy. Knowing I managed to bring mentally repressing dogma to a grinding halt in my children's lives is so rewarding. I would pay with my life if I could guarantee everyone else in the world could have the same, and this type of thinking will probably cost me a truly inspiring lover, but certainly not a friend. Fathoming not wanting to live anymore is yet another aspect of recovery that he will never be able to identify with, as my children will not either, and that is truly a huge relief in my heart of hearts. I know that as far as recovery goes, I'm only a little over a decade in now. I didn't really start dealing with all the abuse I was subjected to until I was thirty years old. The reality is that I will never regain what I have lost over the years. Forgiving and moving on are two very different beasts to deal with. While moving on isn't as difficult for me as it used to be, forgiving is an in the moment process that keeps being repeated over and over. Every time I face the gaping chunks stolen from my innocence, I am having to acknowledge that those chunks are gone forever. There is no restitution for what is gone, and I have to decide in the moment I am faced yet again with what is lost how I want to process the pain. Dating someone who doesn't have a similar background, or at least hasn't even been exposed to this type of damage will have a hard time dealing with that aspect of who I am. Especially with the fact I tend to embrace the depression anymore, and also try to be creative within its gut wrenching waters instead of drowning in sorrow. Irreligious or not, it's a tough thing to watch a friend go through. Though, experience has taught me that the irreligious person will likely not offer empty platitudes and consoling prayers which are insulting beyond words. Here I am, damaged and dating, and hoping I've reached a state of being that which is tolerable enough to find the right person to call mate at some point in my life.
  2. I used to be involved with a guy that liked to point out all my flaws, offer to work on our relationship, and then would do the exact opposite. Would avoid working on the relationship and blame me, screw around with many other women, and insist it isn't fair he has to change who he is since he likes himself as is. I was the problem, not him. God is pretty much the same. "You are a screw up. You need to do all this to be with me successfully, and I will do this for you in return." Then God turns around and does nothing, and supposedly blesses everyone else who isn't trying nearly as hard as you are. And of course, it is all your fault, because God is above needing to change. It is you that isn't trying hard enough. Yeah, religion is definitely inspired by man. Misogynistic ones in particular. Is it a wonder why so many are walking away from a shitty relationship like that? For some reason, many evangelicals do not understand the distaste for an emotionally abusive relationship with an unseen deity. Forever in love with the idea of suffering for attention, they cling to their abusive ideology, gaining self satisfaction in their personal martyrdom. To suffer, within the religious world, and to do so with a head held high and little to no complaint falling from their mouths, is an esteemed way of life. Especially when dealing with an unfaithful spouse or shaky marriage. Nothing makes a woman more noble than to suffer such treatment with an undying loyalty to her faith and her man. In reality, when you take off the religious blinders, maybe these women could see how actually pathetic they are for tolerating such treatment, let alone enabling it, and even being stupid enough to perpetuate such a mindset in their own children's perceptions of what relationships are supposed to be like. For at least a decade now, I've read, watched, and listened to many news reports and sermons where various religious groups cry that the traditional family is being ruined by liberal agendas. I never truly bought in to that analysis, of course, since the logic was seriously flawed behind such a claim. The supposed downfall of the traditional family, at least within the religious community, has to do with the fact that many people take life more seriously than just praying on Sunday. The availability of the internet has made knowledge about other places, experiences, and cultures so readily available, that many families have shifted their priorities as far as life goals. This includes perceptions on relationships and marriage. Many have learned that the whole "suffer to receive Heavenly rewards" doctrine doesn't have to be that way. Why stay in a relationship with someone if s/he clearly cannot commit to the responsibility? Unlike sixty years ago, it is not as difficult to branch out on your own, single with children. Unlike sixty years ago, wanting to be happy and make the most of the singular lifetime you get to live doesn't sound overly selfish. Especially with all the easy access information out there on how to accomplish said happiness. One is not limited to the small pool of potential mates in their home towns and church vestibules either. The advent of affordable travel has made such long distance relationships become a feasible reality. To stay in a non salvageable relationship is almost like giving up on life. What is to be admired about that? Martyr type behavior in a relationship not only enables the abuser to keep right on expecting that perpetual second chance, but it leaves the would be martyr in a constant world of "Poor me" and "You did this to me, and this to me, and this to me, and this to me..." diatribe. The same goes for those who suffer from depression and are waiting for their chosen deity to come heal them, or irresponsible families up to their eyeballs in debt just praying away for a miracle while everyone stands around watching their house be repossessed. This is a sick cycle of attention seeking. A constant tidal wave that echoes,"Look at what I am going through." Religion does not teach proactive behavior. Everything that a doctrine teaches one to do is reactive. The old saying about an ounce of prevention does wonders is often not repeated enough. In the case of religious proactive behavior? Why not encourage some accountability within the flock? Instead of Mrs. Jones walking in every Sunday, fake smile pasted on her face as she holds on to her lecherous husband's elbow, taking humble pride in how tough she is to stand up in public under such a scrutinized embarrassment, why not encourage her to be proactive and actually hold her husband, and herself, accountable for the break in the relationship? Because to do so puts God on the hook, as well. I normally do not dissect deities and their subsequent obvious lack of action, but this is a topic that has always held me in the most severest of attitudes when evaluating idols and their worshipers. The main reason for this lack of discussion is due to the fact the most common rebuttal is,"Well, God doesn't operate the way we do." Famously known as "God works in mysterious ways." Folks do not like hearing miracles being relegated to mere instances of good odds or just flat out dumb luck, but it is the truth of the matter. When one prays for their puppy to show up after being lost, or for a relative to make a journey safely home, and it actually happens, it is simply a matter of good odds that the puppy was not that far away to begin with, and that Aunt Martha had a very slight chance of 1 in 1,000,000 that her plane would crash. It has nothing to do with having prayed hard enough, or having been righteous enough in His word, that this deity extended a blessing. Folks managing to survive a car crash in the foot lands of Oregon without extra water for five days? That is determination, luck, and maybe genetics. Faith healers and psychics are never found working their trade in hospitals, and the same can be said of an unseen deity in the every day world. Yet, relationships are based around the promise of rewards from these deities anyway. "Pray harder." "You must have true faith (whatever the hell that means)." "Don't overthink it, and just trust Him." "God rewards those who suffer." All of this translates in to the religiously based relationships too. When a husband loses his job? "Pray harder." When a wife cheats? "God rewards those who suffer." When a child dies? "Don't over think it, just trust His wisdom." Where is the accountability? Husband lost his job? Why and how to avoid it next time? Wife cheated? Why and what can be done now? Child died? Why and can you help prevent such a loss for someone else? This isn't over thinking. This isn't showing doubt. It is finding accountability. Religion and accountability have a hard time reconciling with one another. In religion, accountability is fault finding. In a secular world view, accountability is reason finding. That is what I had to do when I cut ties with my now ex. It wasn't all his behavior that made me leave, it was my taking accountability for the direction my life was going and I realized he just wasn't going to be able to be a part of it. I either had to tolerate the continued shifting of responsibility of the relationship on to my shoulders as the unreasonable girlfriend who wanted his loyalty and communication issues to be rectified, or I could move on, and enjoy life without him there. I opted for the latter. We both can find happiness now, though sometimes, it is still a bit of a sour remembrance of wasted time. Always remember this when confronted with turmoil:
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