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How Much Did You Suffer?


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Even if you feel no real pain, the pervasive mind-fuck of being hard core about a religion should count as suffering.

 

One's entire life has blood red colored glasses over it.

 

Christianity is the biggest regret I have in my life.

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This post touches a cord for me because looking back on my childhood as a Christian I cannot recall any happy memories tied to my 'faith'. Because not only was the strict doctrine detrimental by itself, it made me unable to cope with traumatic events. Because even when I was intellectually free from the toxic beliefs, the emotional damage took years longer to overcome. I did however mark that I don't think I have had more suffering in my life than average. Pretty much everyone I have talked to in my life has had significant trials and periods of suffering, sometimes very much like my own. In fact, knowing that I escaped from it young, and had amazing people in my life to help me through it makes my journey still much less terrible than many others. I'd still label my experience with Christianity as one of suffering, but at least that suffering made leaving that much easier.

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Well, at different points in my life we went to a Baptist and a Charismatic church. It was a huge deal in my life and still is because I have to pretend in front of grandma. But what I think ultimately saved me from that was my live of nature, I went to get a zoology degree, and even though in college I wrote a paper trying to defend Noah's Ark... getting that degree showed me how much evidence in Evolution there was, and I was also in an ethics program and that showed me how to make ethical decisions without religion, I thank a professor named Robert Pennock a lot for this, having to read his book on why Creationism was wrong, he was a good teacher too.

 

Growing up, it depended a lot on works actually, it was emphasized I had to be a good little girl. I was afraid of Hell, so I tried my hardest not to do stuff that was bad, but to even tattle on people that were doing bad things. But there were some things I could not bring myself to do, such as evangelize, cause I was too shy.

 

What's funny is people still think I'm as pompous as I originally was, like going to the doctors office and having my Jehovah's Witness aunt argue with the doctor that I would never have sexual activity outside of marriage and he shouldn't have ever suggested I come back to the doctor sooner if I started having sex. That was embarrassing... the doctor was just doing his job.

 

Sometimes I wonder if I should ditch my best friend... she's a Charismatic and can't talk about anything other than

God. She's no real help at all.

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Some of the questions are difficult because they need to be broken down further. For example, the first question only allows one option for type of church attendance, but what about those of us who changed churches a few times? Also, the question about pain inflicted by family members, what about the fact that different family members are different, such as in my situation where my father was a hard-ass but my mother wasn't?

 

Anyway, I answered as best I could....

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:sing:

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen

Nobody knows but Jesus

 

 

:HaHa:

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For German mainline protestantism I was a bit more zealous than the average joe, which translates into "almost total unbeliever" for you US folks :P

 

That said, suffering? How do you spell that? I viewed the church as a social institution, nothing remotely "really spiritual". I guess I had a damn easy life :)

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For the first question, I chose "Other". I didn't feel that any of the options reflected my history with the church: My family attended a very conservative Baptist church (GARBC, NOT Southern Baptist) for the first 16 years of my life. Then we attended a Missouri Synod (read: very conservative) Lutheran church. Then I went to a Reformed Presbyterian (very conservative) church for a few years, then MS Lutheran again, and finally a non-denominational (but very conservative - are you detecting a theme here?) protestant church.

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Closest thing for no. 1 question was "hard-ass Southern Baptist" but it was actually worse than that. It was Independent Baptist. My mother thought the Southern Baptist Sunday School materials were too liberal. She was a member of the Moral Majority in the 80s.

 

Yeah, it was rough. In many ways it continues to be with parents enmeshed in it.

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I had a hard time answering a couple of the questions too, because there weren't quite enough options - I was one of those folks that started out in a charismatic Pentecostal church and later switched to a more mainstream, mellow Presbyterian church, for instance.

 

I remember that when I was born again there were some mitigating circumstances. My alcoholic mother had recently found Jeebus and allegedly been "cured" of her alcoholism; she wasn't drinking anymore, at any rate, and ascribed her sobering up to Jeebus. As a naive and impressionable 16-year-old it was easy to believe her. Around the same time I was sexually assaulted and punished for it, so there was this persistent sense that I had morally transgressed and was badly in need of forgiveness and purification, so to speak. My family was still controlling and abusive despite mom's sobering up, so I was pretty vulnerable and ripe for conversion right about then.

 

But when it comes to religious suffering inflicted on me by others, that's pretty limited. I certainly think that the whole religion is a mindfuck, but my experience is more that people around me were just trying to find answers, not find another way to abuse people. For all that my mom could be a total bitch, I don't ever recall her using religion as a weapon to beat on me - she never told me I was hellbound or a wretched sinner, she never did stuff like burn all my books and records or prohibit me from seeing non-Xian friends. Maybe that means I got lucky or something.

 

I have to say that for the most part, my religious suffering was self-inflicted. I was (and to some extent still am) a rather angsty person anyway, and church doctrine regardless of its source (Bible, church, pastor, family, fellow Xians) lends itself to self-flagellation. There was just so much guilt and shame built into the whole deal that I suppose it was inevitable that it would feed into my already poor self-image. I certainly had conflicts with friends and loved ones over religion, but it wasn't generally a topic that was presented abusively.

 

Over the years I've been hurt or abused by both Xians and non-Xians, ranging from those little hiccups people just have when they're trying to interact with other humans, all the way to terrible things like the aforementioned sexual assault. But the first time a Christian abused me because he was Christian was with the Notorious Bible-Thumping Ex™. I was on the way out by then and that sort of tipped the scales: I stopped fearing hell at that point and that was all I needed to go completely apostate. But for xians to claim I left because I was "hurt by Christians" isn't quite accurate.

 

I don't know if I suffered more than other xians or religious people. Maybe. It felt like I suffered a lot, because I was in this state of emotional panic most of the time, but how do you really compare that with what other believers have gone through? I don't know.

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Yeah, next time I'll probably make the "which denomination?" question have multiple answers possible.

 

Also, were I a social scientist trying to get to the bottom of this, I'd tease everything out by using open-ended interviews instead of a questionnaire. Btw, I actually am a social scientist, though of course I'm not doing actual research on y'all--going about it like this would be unethical, not to mention non-rigorous. This is just for my own curiosity as well as to contribute to the therapeutic aspect of this place (I hope).

 

I have to say that for the most part, my religious suffering was self-inflicted. I was (and to some extent still am) a rather angsty person anyway, and church doctrine regardless of its source (Bible, church, pastor, family, fellow Xians) lends itself to self-flagellation. There was just so much guilt and shame built into the whole deal that I suppose it was inevitable that it would feed into my already poor self-image. I certainly had conflicts with friends and loved ones over religion, but it wasn't generally a topic that was presented abusively.

 

That is a very interesting thing you bring up.

 

I have Asperger's Syndrome myself so I drove myself absolutely fucking nuts trying to keep up with every last rule. (I should mention that the shrinks also thought I might of had OCD. My mom thinks that she has it, in fact.) I swear, once every ten seconds I said "Lord forgive me for [fill in the blank]" for every last tiny little infraction imaginable.

 

I also took it out on other people. If one of you would have been a member of the youth group I was a youth leader in, I would have hounded your ass like a Federal agent had I thought that you were off trying to have sex or smoke weed or whatever. And I would have gotten all up in your face if I perceived that you had expressed an unChristian or anti-Christian sentiment. I often wonder if some of those kids, especially the ones that were forced to go by their parents, secretly hated my guts.

 

But the interesting thing is this: everyone has a tendency, to greater or lesser extent, to make themselves suffer or to make themselves happy. Perhaps Christianity--particularly the "strong" fundamentalist variety that most of us were in--exacerbates this self-afflicting tendency?

 

Oh wait, it fucking gets better!

 

Additionally, we all knew those Christians who were so fucking nauseatingly cheery all the time that they had sunbeams shooting out of their assholes. And of course they were always "praise God, life is so wonderful, praise God! See how joyous He's making me?" Perhaps the delusions of Christianity give these happy-ass motherfuckers a jolt of seratonin so that they become manically obnoxiously happy!? Am I onto something here!?!?! Fuck, that would explain a whole fucking lot!!!!! Arrrrrrrghhhhhh!!!!

 

You can tell my memories of such people aren't very pleasant. :vent:

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I really isolated myself from my peers for sticking to "Jesus". Lot's of fun girls I knew who I avoided hanging out with for fear of "temptation" (yes I am being totally serious here). Some of them were into me, and I am not claiming I would have had sex with them or anything, but it would have been fun just to run around with them and gotten into some trouble or something. I'd hear about other kids my age hanging out all night telling stories about what they did or who was there and I would feel very down because I couldn't relate. I was ostracized from my peers, didn't feel like I fit in, and eventually it made me afraid to try and make friends with new people I met because I thought I'd run into the same problem. They'd want to do fun, "sinful" things like stay out all night and I wouldn't be allowed to, or I would feel guilty about it.

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I had trouble with some questions as well.

The church I went to as a kid was conservative Presbyterian and not abusive. Neither were my parents (who self-identify as fundamentalists), whose apparent perspective is/was that Christianity is comforting, not repressive. They were very serious about it, but loving. But for me, the doctrines of hell and sin alone were enough to produce a lot of fear and guilt in me from a pretty young age, and when my parents got me that book that talked all about demons in the 7th grade, it really, really fucked with my head. In college when I was pushed into an evangelical group in college that also believed in demons, the same mind-twisting fears came right back. So, really, it's the belief I had in certain ideas that caused me so much trouble, not the church I was raised in. And there isn't really an option on the list that is accurate for the college group I was involved with.

 

With respect to self-induced Jesus-related suffering, that changed over the time that I was involved. As a kid the beliefs caused me to suffer "at times," but were mixed with good things, too. During the years when I was so fearful of hell and demons, I was "more self-abusive than not." But when I left, I had such emotional backlash that it would be fair to say it was "nothing but self-inflicted misery" that I could not seem to rid myself of and which seemed uncontrollable. Some of that misery did not seem to be coming "from me" at the time, though as I sorted things out and began to understand the effect that residual beliefs driving fear and guilt can have, I was able to realize that the misery was coming entirely from my own mind. Some of the suffering I went through (put myself through, though as I said it didn't seem like I was doing it at the time) is not covered in the checklist. The worst suffering in this respect was based on the old belief that people's lives fall apart when they leave Christianity. I'm sure many of you have heard the tales of backsliders who get hooked on drugs or alcohol, drift aimlessly through life, make bad/destructive life choices, wallow in meaninglessness, get suicidal, or otherwise self-destruct without God/Jesus in their life. This idea combined with both the guilt I still felt about every perceived "sin" and, indeed, what I believed was my essentially sinful nature, and the intense fears that would come up regarding hell, God's wrath, Satan and demons... well... these created a self-fulfilling prophecy in which I chose some bad (but also very effective at the time) coping mechanisms that were very self-destructive, the effects of which I have to live with the rest of my life.

 

 

Btw, I actually am a social scientist,

 

Are you serious?

 

 

But the interesting thing is this: everyone has a tendency, to greater or lesser extent, to make themselves suffer or to make themselves happy. Perhaps Christianity--particularly the "strong" fundamentalist variety that most of us were in--exacerbates this self-afflicting tendency?

 

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! That is exactly what I found in myself (once I was able to sort it out), and what some authors I read during my recovery also found. William James has quite a bit to say about this when talking about the "sick soul", as just one example. Other authors I read described how manipulative religions produce and then exploit mindsets analogous to James' "sick souls". Reading about this and understanding how this worked in me was one of the keys to stopping it.

 

 

Oh wait, it fucking gets better!

 

Additionally, we all knew those Christians who were so fucking nauseatingly cheery all the time that they had sunbeams shooting out of their assholes. And of course they were always "praise God, life is so wonderful, praise God! See how joyous He's making me?" Perhaps the delusions of Christianity give these happy-ass motherfuckers a jolt of seratonin so that they become manically obnoxiously happy!?

 

LOL! Oh, yeah, I've experienced that frustration, too, but not just from Christians. There was one kid in my dorm in college who liked to blast happy-happy 50's music from his room across the hall from mine. Drove me nuts! Ah, well.

 

I do have a co-worker like this currently, who is exactly this type of Christian. It doesn't bother me now, though.

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Additionally, we all knew those Christians who were so fucking nauseatingly cheery all the time that they had sunbeams shooting out of their assholes.

 

Let there be light, and there was, and God saw it and it was goodness. God then started inserting his dick into the asscrack and the light slowly became darkness.....

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