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DarkLordPhil

Religion and Abuse

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I've been out of the church for about four years now. I moved out, took a job in another state, and just stopped going to church. Over a period of about two years, I started kind of hesitantly researching different pagan traditions—Wicca, Heathenry, Greek reconstruction—found shamanism resonated with me, and thought that was it. I'd left the church and didn't hold any ill feelings toward it or Christianity in general, and I was happy. 

 

But when I visited my parents (who don't know about my beliefs) this past Christmas, I went to church with them, as usual. They'd changed churches over the past year, and the pastor of this one used the Christmas Eve and New Year services to deliver….not quite fire-and-brimstone sermons, but definitely come-to-Jesus sermons. One of them was a little lighter, more of the "Jesus loves you, please come to him" variety while the other got into more of the "there are eternal consequences if you don't follow Jesus" theology. And I remember feeling just this sense of terror. I'd be lying if I said I didn't seriously consider rededicating my life to Christ right then, just because I was so afraid of what would happen if I didn't. You know those stories you heard in the church, where converts say they felt so convicted over their sin that they dropped to their knees and prayed for God to save them? That's what it was, except I didn't pray. I went back to my parents' house, processed what had happened, and concluded that fear of eternal hellfire was a terrible reason to embrace a religion. 

 

Ever since then, though, I've been thinking about just what I was raised to believe. There was a lot of abuse in my household—emotional, verbal, mental—and I've spent the past few years coming to terms with that. But I also became a Christian when I was 11 years old, after I started crying when this stupid "Biblical womanhood" self-taught course thing I was taking explained why sin is such an affront to God. I felt so guilty, so dirty and unclean, that I just sobbed as my mom led me through the sinner's prayer. It was always framed as a beautiful moment, and I thought of it that way for years, but the more I look back the more I realize how messed up that was. I was just a kid being taunted with eternal torment because I hadn't been following God's rules, and I was the one expected to feel guilty? 

 

But then again, that's how I was raised to see authority. My mom would sit me down at the table and say she loved me, then proceed to dismantle me as a person, as a daughter, as a good Christian. She'd tell me my depression and anxiety were a lack of faith. I think she suspected I was a lesbian long before I even learned what a lesbian was (I was very sheltered) and cut me off from female friends I now know I was crushing on. She refused to let me dress the way I wanted, refused to let me listen to music that wasn't made by Christians, and demanded I get straight A's even when I struggled with algebra. And she had a temper. I can't tell you how many times I'd be talking to her and think we were both having fun and joking, when all of a sudden she'd turn on me and verbally abuse me for my "snotty disrespect." Through it all, she'd say she loved me. The abuse is what stuck with me, but the love is what she wanted me to focus on. 

 

The more I think about it, the more I realize that this is the God I was raised to revere. An all-powerful bully who would send you to hell for making a face he didn't like, cut you off from the people you love because he thinks your love is wrong, and demand you love him with all your heart. And for a long time, I did. Or I tried. I was a devoted Christian for so long, trying to make my love perfect for a God I thought I could please. I look back at who I was then, and I know that Christianity might not have been at the root of my anxiety, but the fear of angering God certainly made it ten times worse. 

 

I apologize if this was rambling. I'm just now coming to terms with all that, realizing that the faith I was raised with was messed up. Which is difficult, because up until now, I'd thought Christianity and I parted on good terms. I didn't have any ill will against it; I just chose a different path. Except now I see that path was one no child should have been made to walk, and I feel guilty. I feel guilty for seeing my childhood faith was toxic. I feel guilty for seeing God as a bully. I feel guilty for wishing I'd been raised with no religion at all. Even knowing that there was something deeply wrong with it,  there's still a part of me that wants to acknowledge Christianity as the only true religion. 

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Let me be the first to say welcome to ex-christian.net. I am somewhat new here myself but I was immediately made to feel welcomed.

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Welcome, DLP. Your story echoes many others posted here — you are not alone. 

 

You close with feelings of guilt. But remember that guilt is something that you can control.  It exists within you and you feel it only because you let it exist. Yes, it is difficult to shed — it takes a lot of work to get to the point where you no longer have those feelings. But you can do this. A useful exploration is the notion of "assertive rights." You have the right to be your own person without feeling guilty or needing to explain it to anyone. You might do a Google search for "assertive rights." It takes time to fully accept and internalize these, but it is worth the time. Here's a link to one variation of the theme: https://www.yrpcs.ca/assertiveness-and-your-personal-bill-of-rights/

 

And we hope you''ll stick around and join in our other discussions.

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19 minutes ago, LeiaBryant said:

Let me be the first to say welcome to ex-christian.net. I am somewhat new here myself but I was immediately made to feel welcomed.

 

Thank you! 

 

9 minutes ago, older said:

Welcome, DLP. Your story echoes many others posted here — you are not alone. 

 

You close with feelings of guilt. But remember that guilt is something that you can control.  It exists within you and you feel it only because you let it exist. Yes, it is difficult to shed — it takes a lot of work to get to the point where you no longer have those feelings. But you can do this. A useful exploration is the notion of "assertive rights." You have the right to be your own person without feeling guilty or needing to explain it to anyone. You might do a Google search for "assertive rights." It takes time to fully accept and internalize these, but it is worth the time. Here's a link to one variation of the theme: https://www.yrpcs.ca/assertiveness-and-your-personal-bill-of-rights/

 

And we hope you''ll stick around and join in our other discussions.

 

I think the guilt goes back to the old indoctrination thing—my mom is also a huge theology nerd, the type of person who asks for Bible commentaries for Christmas and her birthday. So I was raised with all of these seemingly ironclad arguments that Christianity is the truth. I found some articles on the main site about the mythololzation of Jesus and Pauline additions and whatnot, and those helped, but I still feel like I'm doing something wrong. I know I'm not, but it still feels that way. 

 

I think I will stick around here, though. It seems like a good community. 

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1 hour ago, DarkLordPhil said:

The more I think about it, the more I realize that this is the God I was raised to revere. An all-powerful bully who would send you to hell for making a face he didn't like, cut you off from the people you love because he thinks your love is wrong, and demand you love him with all your heart. And for a long time, I did. Or I tried. I was a devoted Christian for so long, trying to make my love perfect for a God I thought I could please. I look back at who I was then, and I know that Christianity might not have been at the root of my anxiety, but the fear of angering God certainly made it ten times worse. 

 

I felt this.

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Hi, Phil. Welcome to Ex-c.net. 

 

I see you suffer from guilt. I only had a 10 year stint in Christianity but it left me with some fear , guilt and shame. I consider fear, guilt and shame the three pillars of Christianity, now. It certainly is not based on love. It really is a big mindf**k that programs you to think that weird ideas are perfectly acceptable and make sense. 

 

Unfortunately biblical ideas, which are evil in themselves were presented to by your mom, who sounds like she may have emotional problems to go along with the toxic religion. Sorry you had to deal with all that. 

 

Glad to see you found some paganism (hopefully) to your liking. While Christianity is a repressive system of thought and feeling, I found paganism to be whatever I damn well want it to be . 

 

This is a great place to deconstruct Christianity, meet others who went thru the nonsense that you did, and find some healing if you need it. 

 

Anyway, welcome. :) 

 

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WELCOME!   It sounds like you certainly were verbally and emotionally abused, with your mother using her brand of Christianity as a tool, probably honestly thinking she was doing what she needed to do.  If you had been born in another country, it may have been a different religion/tool.  If you do a little research you will likely find all religions are conceived by human beings, and your mother used the one she had been programmed into. It will take a while to sort all this out, and gain a confidence that you are okay, and can think and reason like a human bring.  This site has a wealth of information, and lots of great people to help you through.  It's like a cafeteria.  Take what is helpful and ignore what isn't.  HANG IN THERE! 

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4 hours ago, DarkLordPhil said:

 

Thank you! 

 

 

I think the guilt goes back to the old indoctrination thing—my mom is also a huge theology nerd, the type of person who asks for Bible commentaries for Christmas and her birthday. So I was raised with all of these seemingly ironclad arguments that Christianity is the truth. I found some articles on the main site about the mythololzation of Jesus and Pauline additions and whatnot, and those helped, but I still feel like I'm doing something wrong. I know I'm not, but it still feels that way. 

 

I think I will stick around here, though. It seems like a good community. 

So which sect of Christianity did you leave? Just curious. I'm ex-NIFB myself .

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Welcome Phil

 

Make yourself at home and join in discussions.

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11 hours ago, DarkLordPhil said:

I've been out of the church for about four years now. I moved out, took a job in another state, and just stopped going to church. Over a period of about two years, I started kind of hesitantly researching different pagan traditions—Wicca, Heathenry, Greek reconstruction—found shamanism resonated with me, and thought that was it. I'd left the church and didn't hold any ill feelings toward it or Christianity in general, and I was happy. 

 

But when I visited my parents (who don't know about my beliefs) this past Christmas, I went to church with them, as usual. They'd changed churches over the past year, and the pastor of this one used the Christmas Eve and New Year services to deliver….not quite fire-and-brimstone sermons, but definitely come-to-Jesus sermons. One of them was a little lighter, more of the "Jesus loves you, please come to him" variety while the other got into more of the "there are eternal consequences if you don't follow Jesus" theology. And I remember feeling just this sense of terror. I'd be lying if I said I didn't seriously consider rededicating my life to Christ right then, just because I was so afraid of what would happen if I didn't. You know those stories you heard in the church, where converts say they felt so convicted over their sin that they dropped to their knees and prayed for God to save them? That's what it was, except I didn't pray. I went back to my parents' house, processed what had happened, and concluded that fear of eternal hellfire was a terrible reason to embrace a religion. 

 

Ever since then, though, I've been thinking about just what I was raised to believe. There was a lot of abuse in my household—emotional, verbal, mental—and I've spent the past few years coming to terms with that. But I also became a Christian when I was 11 years old, after I started crying when this stupid "Biblical womanhood" self-taught course thing I was taking explained why sin is such an affront to God. I felt so guilty, so dirty and unclean, that I just sobbed as my mom led me through the sinner's prayer. It was always framed as a beautiful moment, and I thought of it that way for years, but the more I look back the more I realize how messed up that was. I was just a kid being taunted with eternal torment because I hadn't been following God's rules, and I was the one expected to feel guilty? 

 

But then again, that's how I was raised to see authority. My mom would sit me down at the table and say she loved me, then proceed to dismantle me as a person, as a daughter, as a good Christian. She'd tell me my depression and anxiety were a lack of faith. I think she suspected I was a lesbian long before I even learned what a lesbian was (I was very sheltered) and cut me off from female friends I now know I was crushing on. She refused to let me dress the way I wanted, refused to let me listen to music that wasn't made by Christians, and demanded I get straight A's even when I struggled with algebra. And she had a temper. I can't tell you how many times I'd be talking to her and think we were both having fun and joking, when all of a sudden she'd turn on me and verbally abuse me for my "snotty disrespect." Through it all, she'd say she loved me. The abuse is what stuck with me, but the love is what she wanted me to focus on. 

 

The more I think about it, the more I realize that this is the God I was raised to revere. An all-powerful bully who would send you to hell for making a face he didn't like, cut you off from the people you love because he thinks your love is wrong, and demand you love him with all your heart. And for a long time, I did. Or I tried. I was a devoted Christian for so long, trying to make my love perfect for a God I thought I could please. I look back at who I was then, and I know that Christianity might not have been at the root of my anxiety, but the fear of angering God certainly made it ten times worse. 

 

I apologize if this was rambling. I'm just now coming to terms with all that, realizing that the faith I was raised with was messed up. Which is difficult, because up until now, I'd thought Christianity and I parted on good terms. I didn't have any ill will against it; I just chose a different path. Except now I see that path was one no child should have been made to walk, and I feel guilty. I feel guilty for seeing my childhood faith was toxic. I feel guilty for seeing God as a bully. I feel guilty for wishing I'd been raised with no religion at all. Even knowing that there was something deeply wrong with it,  there's still a part of me that wants to acknowledge Christianity as the only true religion. 

If there is that kind of part of you, then you need to delve into Christianity and read about how it came about. That's what I would recommend. Any books by authors such as Bart Ehrman and others who have written about the Bible and Christianity in a more historical perspective,  in a more unbiased way. Have you done this? 

Often people think they have fully devonverted when they have not intellectually dismantled their former belief system and don't really know what they think of it. Or then there's residual fear simply because the brain washing was that effective. Time, and lots of reading, helps that. 

I'm sorry for the abuse you suffered, for some reason it appears authoritarian abusive parents are too common within these belief systems. 

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8 hours ago, LeiaBryant said:

So which sect of Christianity did you leave? Just curious. I'm ex-NIFB myself .

 

Assemblies of God. My parents went to Baptist churches until I was 10 (my dad was raised Baptist; my mom converted later in life) and then switched to Pentecostal churches after some theological disputes with their pastor. 

 

2 hours ago, TruthSeeker0 said:

If there is that kind of part of you, then you need to delve into Christianity and read about how it came about. That's what I would recommend. Any books by authors such as Bart Ehrman and others who have written about the Bible and Christianity in a more historical perspective,  in a more unbiased way. Have you done this? 

Often people think they have fully devonverted when they have not intellectually dismantled their former belief system and don't really know what they think of it. Or then there's residual fear simply because the brain washing was that effective. Time, and lots of reading, helps that. 

I'm sorry for the abuse you suffered, for some reason it appears authoritarian abusive parents are too common within these belief systems. 

 

I haven't. I would appreciate recommendations for more neutral works on the history of Christianity. I do think that's the case with me—I walked away from my faith, but I see now that the idea that it's the only truth is still programmed into me. I have my own practice and haven't gone to church in years, but as soon as someone says "You're going to Hell," my first reaction is panic because I think they're right. 

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Hi @DarkLordPhil. That wasn't rambling at all I hear you and yeah it's hard to process how messed up it is even after you're outside of it. The level of fear and anxiety they put kids through is just not humane. I've gotten so much gaslighting and emotional whiplash from the back-and-forth of "god loves you" and "you are depraved, disgusting, and worthless". None of it makes any sense it's just tactics to batter you down emotionally so you will submit to authority.

 

Good to hear you got out. I hope you find much fulfillment and healing from your newer spiritual pursuits!

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Hi. 

 

You could also ne helped by books by experts on mind control and mind bending tactics. I started reading Alexandra Stein. Don t agree with all of her premises but she does have a detailed description with many examples and presents a compelling argument. There are others. Indoctrination Podcast by Rachel.Bernstein. Steve Hassan, Jon Atack. Search International Cultic studies association. Some great pointers for considering and reflecting on ANY spiritual group experience. Kathleen Taylor Brainwashing I heard good things about but have not read. The psychology of belief and religious practices in general could also be intersting. 

      Also , this might seem weird but try reading the Koran. Sufficiently similar and sufficiently different so you could see abrahamic religiin with some distance and how you feel about smth like it. Pls do not convert to Islam though :))

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2 hours ago, Myrkhoos said:

Hi. 

 

You could also ne helped by books by experts on mind control and mind bending tactics. I started reading Alexandra Stein. Don t agree with all of her premises but she does have a detailed description with many examples and presents a compelling argument. There are others. Indoctrination Podcast by Rachel.Bernstein. Steve Hassan, Jon Atack. Search International Cultic studies association. Some great pointers for considering and reflecting on ANY spiritual group experience. Kathleen Taylor Brainwashing I heard good things about but have not read. The psychology of belief and religious practices in general could also be intersting. 

      Also , this might seem weird but try reading the Koran. Sufficiently similar and sufficiently different so you could see abrahamic religiin with some distance and how you feel about smth like it. Pls do not convert to Islam though :))

 

Ah yeah, I'm somewhat familiar with Steve Hassan's work. He's appeared in a couple of podcasts I listen to—all of them on cults, no surprise there. I'll check out the other resources you mentioned, too. 

 

Oh no, I have zero interest in converting to Islam. When I was moving away from Christianity, I think I considered looking into Islam for maybe 0.032 seconds before I remembered that I wanted to get away from religious restrictions. :P 

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10 hours ago, DarkLordPhil said:

 

Assemblies of God. My parents went to Baptist churches until I was 10 (my dad was raised Baptist; my mom converted later in life) and then switched to Pentecostal churches after some theological disputes with their pastor. 

 

 

I haven't. I would appreciate recommendations for more neutral works on the history of Christianity. I do think that's the case with me—I walked away from my faith, but I see now that the idea that it's the only truth is still programmed into me. I have my own practice and haven't gone to church in years, but as soon as someone says "You're going to Hell," my first reaction is panic because I think they're right. 

I can recommend any work by Bart Ehrman he has excellent work on the Bible. He has a whole new book coming out on heaven and hell. During my deconversion I also read Godless by Dan Barker (Dan is a former pastor), Dawkins' the god Delusion, Valerie Tarico (trusting doubt). By far the most helpful was Leaving the Fold by Marlene Winell. This is about the psychological process of leaving xtianity, understanding your trauma and abuse, and healing yourself. It was a lifesaver for me in understanding just how toxic xtianity had been for me, and why and how I needed to heal. Marlene also operates an online community for extians with resources on religious trauma syndrome, including a support group. https://journeyfree.org/

 

When you digest and understand that xtianity was created to control the masses (that's what purpose the invention of hell served - it was a "new testament invention", hell isn't even in the old testament.  There was great disagreement in the early church over what should make it into the new testament as it is. When you realize you are venerating and wasting precious mental energy on a ridiculous concept invented by a bunch of power hungry men thousands of years ago to control the masses and get $$ for the church, you get mad as hell and decide to live life instead of cowering in fear. That's what deep brainwashing does, and why Winell's book is so important in particular - so that you can understand your past and recover from it. I understand, I was there. I was an indoctrinated fundamentalist of the wackiest types. But I educated and freed myself mentally and you can too. 

PS there's several threads on hell in this forum with more info on how the concept came to be created by the early church

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About Hell. Isuggest a new book by Illaria Ramelli a church historian and a book by orthodox christian scholar david bentley hart on universalism, that all shall be saved. They argue that, actually,  a huge chunk of early christians, including ascetics believed in universal salvation but that view staryed to be marginalized later, second half of the 5th century and onward altough can be found even later like issac the syrian 7th century so it never really completely died out but usualy went underground. Both this authors have interviews free online about the subject. I say this so you may know the variety of views of eschatology of the early christian churches, and I say churches because it was way more diverse in theology and practice than we sometimes think.

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Illaria Rameli -  A larger hope, that is the book. :)

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Hi Phil! It's great to have you here!

 

If you are still having doubts about leaving the faith, In addition to the books others have mentioned I recomend checking out some of the youtube atheists such as DarkMatter2525 Jacklyn Glen Nonstampcollector and The Thinking Atheist, Their vids helped me alot during my deconversion.

 

I hope you stick around and I look forward to hearing more from you!

 

 

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Hi and welcome Phil...nice to meet you  :) 

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Hey, welcome aboard! Your story was interesting. I hope that you can overcome the guilt and fear.

 

My suggestion -- read some good science books, especially ones dealing with human evolution. Also read some comparative religion and anthropology books. Pretty soon you will come to see that fundamentalist-style christianity is a fraud. Oh, and don't forget biblical criticism. Someone has already mentioned Bart Ehrman. He's great!

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Welcome! I struggle with guilt, too. I still feel scared to post on here because I remember verses like “if you disown him he’ll disown you” and so I think “here I go sealing my fate in hell!” and yet it’s also liberating. It’s a strange journey for sure. 

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9 hours ago, SarahJaneSmith said:

Welcome! I struggle with guilt, too. I still feel scared to post on here because I remember verses like “if you disown him he’ll disown you” and so I think “here I go sealing my fate in hell!” and yet it’s also liberating. It’s a strange journey for sure. 

It sounds like you still believe in hell? That's basically what controls xtians. Some reading as mentioned in the above discussion could help that. 

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25 minutes ago, TruthSeeker0 said:

It sounds like you still believe in hell? That's basically what controls xtians. Some reading as mentioned in the above discussion could help that. 

Yes and no. Intellectually no, but the fear is still there. “Yeah, but what if?” I will check out the invention of hell. That will probably be a big help. 

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On 3/21/2020 at 11:11 PM, TruthSeeker0 said:

 

I can recommend any work by Bart Ehrman he has excellent work on the Bible. He has a whole new book coming out on heaven and hell.

 

 

Here's Bart Ehrman talking to Michael Shermer about Heaven and Hell. Some of the topics covered:

  • Ehrman’s personal journey from Christian to nonbeliever
  • the earliest writings on the afterlife
  • why the Old Testament says nothing about Heaven and Hell
  • what the New Testament says about Heaven and Hell
  • early pagan influences on Judaism and Christianity
  • who invented the afterlife and why
  • what Jesus really said about the afterlife, souls, and immortality
  • what commoners believed about the afterlife in Greek, Roman and biblical times
  • myths, stories, and parables: their original meaning and use
  • the real meaning of the resurrection
  • Is the Kingdom of Heaven within us all?
  • What does a nonbeliever say to a believer about the (non-existence) of the afterlife?

 

https://www.skeptic.com/science-salon/bart-ehrman-heaven-and-hell-a-history-of-the-afterlife/

 

I haven't listened yet - or read the new book - but I'm really looking forward to both.

 

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I listened to the entire segment. Ehrman basically confirms the Bible is man made theology that is filled with contradictions, inconsistencies , and folklore. It consist of a lot of different cultures beliefs that were incorporated into Christianity, and these beliefs have changed and evolved over time, and continue to do so. I didn’t really learn anything new, but it’s definitely worth listening too for those that are still questioning.

 

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