Victoria NeuroNotes

Into the Gray

How the “Good News” Nearly Killed Me


Neil Carter published a post on Sunday, titled “So Long Self: How Christianity Teaches You To Hate Yourself.” It was one of those posts that described, to a T, what evangelical Christianity does to the psyche of a person who, initially, gets fooled by the facade. If you haven’t already, please take the time to read his post.

god vulnerable

Although I was raised Catholic, I was involved in evangelical Christianity from the 80’s through the late 90’s. I also worked for a Christian radio station, and was constantly exposed to anti-human music and sermons, alhough I didn’t see it that way at the time. It also didn’t help that I was in the music ministry at church, and as Neil noted in his post, heard anti-human (Christian) music in nearly every business (we both live in the bible belt — same state). Over time, the core message took its toll on my mental health, and depression became my constant companion. However, I kept it a secret from everyone.

Published in the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies, Dr. Marlene Winell states:

“Religious institutions have a vested interest in promoting an uncritical view. Mind-control and emotional abuse is actually the norm for many large, authoritarian, mainline religious groups.  The sanitization of religion makes it all the more insidious.  When the communities are so large and the practices normalized, victims are silenced.

Within many dogmatic, self-contained religions, mental health problems such as depression or anxiety are considered sins. They are seen as evidence of not being right with God. God is called the “great physician”, and a religious counselor or pastor advises more confession and greater obedience as the cure.

After nearly 2 decades of devotion, I was losing the will to live. I had no where to turn. Keep in mind that this was before there were online support groups, where ex-Christians shared similar, nearly identical experiences and thought processes.

One of the commenters on Neil’s Facebook page wrote:

“It was crazy-making. Depression is a sin because you aren’t appreciating god’s gift of life. How dare you not value yourself as a unique creation! But don’t value yourself too much, because that’s also a sin. Never forget that you’re nothing. But you’re also so special Jesus died just for you. But you’re still nothing.”

Charity, my friend, and a former WP blogger, wrote this comment today in my last post. Here’s an excerpt:

“Christians live in a system designed for self-destruction. I was suicidal from 10 to 25 years old. I was an abused and severely neglected child at home and in Church. The Bible, worship music and prayer constantly beat me down. It’s all perfectly designed to tear a person down then totally blame him/her when he or she becomes physically and mentally ill.”


Christianity alters your identity to ensure the survival of itself.

I came to the conclusion that I was an utter failure at being a good Christian. I’m not talking about prosocial behavior, because I was an ethical person before I went down this path in pursuit of truth. But after years of dedicated devotion, I wasn’t experiencing what other Christians were proclaiming: joy, and the peace that surpasses all understanding, but I pretended I did. I claimed it by faith. I was certain it was me, not Christianity. It pushed me to pray and study more.

I’ve read the comments from evangelical bloggers (including some Catholics) claiming that deconverts weren’t “true Christians.” I will boldly state that a devout, bible-believing Christian who isn’t dealing with some form of depression, and/or self-loathing, is either a Charlatan, is pretending to be fulfilled, hasn’t grasped the inhumane message of penal substitutionary atonement, and/or is in total denial of reality.

Neil:  “It is very much like living in an abusive relationship. You are taught to see yourself as hopelessly worthless outside of what your captor can accomplish on your behalf. Left to your own devices, you are weak and helpless. Yessss, just keep repeating that to yourself over and over again. That’s gooooood…You are doing sooo well…

This is not good news. This is psychological abuse, sugar coated as it is with the vocabulary of love, and it’s made all the more sinister by its pretty packaging and by its inevitable marketing toward children before they are even old enough to say, “Wait a second, these are awful things to say to a person!”

Child abuse

As Neil noted, when you have a steady diet of that message for years. you’ve got yourself a formula for self-neglect and dysfunctional relationships. He writes:

“Looking back over relationships that have gone badly over the course of my life, I see that one thread running through each one of them is this tendency to push aside—to suppress—any awareness of my own needs in order to take care of everyone else.”

There is a sinister, emotionally manipulative formula in the Christian message, and it begins by teaching you negative self-talk. It “ends up becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy.” This, in turn, makes it easier for people in authoritarian positions to control you.  You also become prone to having an “overly negative view of humanity.”

Here’s how the formula works:

Neil:  “In order to need a savior, you have to feel there is something you need saving from, and that means you have to believe that somehow you are in really, really bad shape. You have to feel that you need saving in the first place. And that means taking whatever your current view of yourself happens to be—no matter how low it already is—and lowering it even further.

At a bare minimum, you have to believe that your flaws, taken together with the flaws of the rest of humanity, are so egregious and offensive to God that someone had to be tortured and killed in your place.”


So, like big corporations marketing unhealthy food and drinks, you’re presented with a clever sales pitch (witnessing):

Neil: “First you highlight the need for whatever it is you are selling, even if it means having to greatly exaggerate how badly anyone really needs what you have. Then you explain to them how easy it is to get what you have, and once you see they want it, you go in for the sale. Evangelism works exactly the same way. It’s a sales transaction, and it follows all the same rules.”

Just like junk food/drinks, there are no warning labels that a steady diet of this will eventually deteriorate your health.  Sunday, after Sunday, and throughout the week (especially if you live in a culture where it’s everywhere), you consume, even subconsciously, this psychological junk food—“a skewed view of yourself”, humanity and the world.

Galatians 2:20  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

John 3:30  “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

To sincere mini-me wannabes: the good news is really bad news:

The Christian god is not in love with you. Period! He’s in love with the reflection of himself in you.


 In Greek Mythology, Narcissus was a man who was obsessed with and in love with himself.


Think about it.

US Copyright Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107


Author: NeuroNotes

Victoria predominately blogs about religion, the psychological techniques used to indoctrinate, and the brain's role in religious-type experiences and attachment.

158 thoughts on “How the “Good News” Nearly Killed Me

  1. You will loathe my comment, but it’s of the ugh variety.

    I mean, why, just why?


    • You will loathe my answer — it shouldn’t be that difficult to figure out.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Indoctrination. But why. Of an intelligent person?


        • You don’t think intelligent people can be indoctrinated or brainwashed?

          Liked by 4 people

        • Aristotle believed that women were inferior to men, yet he was considered intelligent. Still is. We all have our blind spots, even you.

          Liked by 3 people

          • Gee thanks Victoria. It wasn’t me who spent my life indoctrinated though. Your religious belief was not my fault. Yours.


              • Come on. I’m being victimised for not being indoctrinated. Does it never end?


                • NO, RS, you are not being victimized. You are acting less intelligent for being unable to grasp the complexities of indoctrination. It’s not rocket science.

                  Liked by 5 people

                • That’s a nice spin, roughseas. No one said it was your fault that anyone was indoctrinated. No one said you were wrong for not having been. I’m actually quite happy for anyone who has never been.

                  You seemed to be saying that people who are indoctrinated are stupid. You’re not being victimized for not being indoctrinated. You’re being called out for commenting in a way that suggests that you don’t understand the subject at hand and behaving as though that makes you somehow more intelligent than anyone else.

                  I believe it was you who schooled me one day about wading in and making comments about subjects without knowledge.

                  Liked by 8 people

            • That is pretty short sighted. Children all over the world are tricked to this scheme every day. Instead of finger pointing you should be thankful you escaped. Very few do. Not only the brainwashing but the obligation and pressure to believe it or go to hell is a effective technique even you, the smart one should recognize.

              Liked by 9 people

              • Rabbi Adam Chalom is a breath of pure fresh air in this matter. He says:

                “Would you willingly lie to your children? Would you say this is what happened when you know this is not what happened? There’s an ethical question there. They’ll find this archaeological, evidence-based version of Jewish history, and then they’ll say, why did you lie to me?”

                Liked by 4 people

                • Boom.

                  Sadly, people, those adults indoctrinating their children, are often afraid to not believe. Fear is a powerful motivator, and Christianity has strategically ensured that any doubts you have are caused by Satan — “Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

                  Clever bastards weren’t they?

                  Liked by 7 people

                  • When I type out my comments on atheist blogs I am often taken back a bit when I read what I write. I seriously have a hard time understanding that the helpless little girl that I see in such replies was me up until six months before my 40th Birthday! That I did and said those things early on in my childhood up until four years ago. I don’t know Rough Seas as well as you all seem to, but I can understand her sentiment. Presently, I struggle to comprehend the overtly religious community around me even though it was all I knew the first forty years of my life. It must be even more confusing to a person who has had very little experience (if any) with religion to comprehend how anyone could be so severely indoctrinated.

                    Liked by 2 people

                    • You know, I really do understand what you’re saying and I can even understand what she’s saying. Speaking for myself, alone, I felt and still feel really stupid for having believed any of this. I’ve beat myself up over how stupid I was. About this and a number of other things as a result of this one. I nearly let it ruin my life! I can totally understand not being able to wrap your head around anyone being so indoctrinated.

                      I feel really stupid about a lot of things I allowed in my life. I don’t really need any help feeling that way. How is it at all helpful or productive to try to make me say that I’m stupid or to tell me that I am? I feel an immense amount of shame already.

                      Liked by 9 people

                    • Ruth, you were blinded by your love. Because of your compassion religion took advantage of you and used you. You should never feel any shame for being victimized simply because you wanted to believe the best in god and Christians. If there is a god he should be ashamed of himself for what he allowed to happen to you.

                      We both felt shame for every hurt, doubt and “sin” in our lives as Christians. I too have also felt that shame as I deconverted for falling for the “greatest story ever told” for so many years. There’s so much disappointment in wasting so many years on pleasing nothing in the sky and humans who continually hurt me. My road to healing has been difficult and I wonder if I’ll even begin to see myself well. I just have to keep going and be patient with myself and appreciate those who are lovingly helping me.

                      We may not be friends outside of the internet, Ruth, but I am so proud of you for making it out of the cult of Christianity. In spite of the pain you suffered you chose to continue to be the loving person you always were. Only a brillantly strong person can do that. You are no stupid weakling!

                      I love you Ruth and am so glad that you are who you are!

                      Liked by 5 people

                    • It’s taken me a little while to respond to your comment, Charity. I’ve read it over and over and it’s taken me ’til now for tears not to stream down my face when I do.

                      I try to keep a level head and am usually successful. Yesterday was not one of those times. I let my feelz take over.

                      I know it’s incredibly hard for someone who has never dealt with this to understand it. Especially when, as roughseas pointed out, even in a country where religion is state by the state it is not as pervasive as it is here in the US. The irony of the settlers fleeing England for religious freedom and yet the very place they fled is less overtly religious than the country established for the very purpose of offering religious freedom isn’t lost on me.

                      Thank you, Charity. *hugs*

                      Liked by 3 people

                    • *religion is established by the state


                    • 80+ percent of the world’s human inhabitants believe in gods — all due to cultural indoctrination, starting from the cradle. If you don’t believe, you get ousted from the group, which can significantly impact your livelihood. Most of us, here in the states, have experienced the downside of unbelief — loss of jobs, social network, resources, etc. So it’s not such a stretch for someone to understand how this happens.

                      Liked by 6 people

                    • Love his videos.

                      Liked by 1 person

                  • “Clever bastards weren’t they?”
                    My theory is that these things were not intentionally designed to be controlling. But the only religions that survive and reproduce are the controlling ones. The nice ones went extinct.

                    Liked by 2 people

                    • Neil Carter writes:

                      Now, I’m not under the impression that the people who cooked up this message intentionally engineered their religion in order to rule over others. But that is in fact one of the off-label benefits of this message, and as a result those traditions which hit this message the hardest retain their members the longest.

                      Go check the stats. Those traditions which push a positive self-image among their members tend to have a higher attrition rate—they lose their members in time because plenty of other traditions offer the same self-affirming message. Not so with the churches that make you feel like a maggot. Those churches are going strong, and will continue in their strength because they have convinced their people that apart from the grace of God (mediated through their denomination alone) people will only collapse under the weight of their own depravity.

                      Even their ability to question and critique this anti-humanistic dogma gets checked before it can even begin because, hey, who are you to question God’s Word, you reprobate?”

                      Because there have been so many things added to these cannons, and skewed, over hundreds of years, I do think their intention was to control the masses.

                      Liked by 5 people

                    • Nice ones? Lol…
                      Like the worship of Quetzalcoatl for example? 🙂


          • Well said Victoria. History is full of believers who were also highly intelligent. Isaac Newton was a big time religious guy and yet he was clearly a genius.

            We are all walking contradictions. We all have beliefs that might seem contrary to other parts of ourselves, but it’s because we have a “believing brain”. It’s evolutionary and it’s part of the reason we have survived. If we paused to critically think about things all the time we most likely wouldn’t have made it. We eat little compared to our body mass which means that we can afford to make mistakes by believing as well and make those type I errors, because normally we can spare the energy.

            And as much as we test things as children as little children, there is also much we imitate without thinking what it means. There is much we’ve learned that we’ve never taken the time to critically assess. For instance I have never actually checked the historical records to see if George Washington was in fact the first president of the U.S. Arguably I have taken a lot of things in as a young person on faith. We are indoctrinated by all sorts of things in society that are related to education, family, culture. Many of these things don’t include a threat of fire and brimstone for all eternity should you stop believing in them. And as you and Ruth pointed out, the emotional side is not often prone to great bouts of critical thinking. There are different parts of the brain activated and once a belief begins the dopamine release by reinforcing those beliefs can be and initially calming and healing feeling when feeling extremely vulnerable, depressed, or fearful. Everybody experiences trauma and pain in different ways, and everybody is therefore susceptible to a belief systems to a different degree.

            Thinking that intelligent people can’t be indoctrinated, would in fact be a belief in of itself proving that anybody can believe something without evidence.

            Liked by 5 people

            • Thank you Swarn. As I’ve shared in other posts, as well as comments, fMRI scans show that when we have an attachment to someone we love very much — whether maternal, paternal, a lover, etc., neural circuitry associated with critical social assessment deactivates, and people get rewarded, neurochemically, when they bond to others. Religion has hijacked these circuitry, if you will, so that people can be rewarded neurochemically when they bond with their cultural god.


              Jesus is promoted as a lover, a bridegroom, and a mother figure, and Yahweh as a father figure. So it’s understandable why people could experience attachment.

              “Neuropharmacological studies generally point to dopaminergic activation as the leading neurochemical feature associated with religious activity.”

              Like having a romantic partner, there’s a honeymoon period, and nearly all Christians have experienced this. But the dopamine eventually wanes. This is because we are rewarded to stay together long enough to ensure the survival of our offspring.

              Liked by 3 people

            • Fear, in particular, seems to override critical thinking. It takes real conscious effort to critically think at a time of fear, our natural response is to act instinctively and to flee or hide.

              As Ruth mentioned above, fear is a big motivator for religious people. Further the religious texts make much of the evils of questioning and doubting.

              Liked by 4 people

              • Well said Peter. Neuroscientists discovered that information from our senses reaches the fear centers of our brain almost twice as fast as it takes to get to our frontal lobes — where critical thinking takes place.

                The speed of these different brain signals means that unless we instantaneously know how to react to the potential threat, we might freeze in fear or overreact while waiting for the frontal lobes to catch up to figure out the right response. If it was that easy to overcome fear, then getting through Navy Seal training would be a breeze.

                Navy Seal recruits are put through special training to change the way their brain’s react to fear and the capacity to control these impulses is extremely important when having to make quick decisions in fearful situations. They go through a rewiring process.

                When people leave a fear-based religion, i.e., evangelical Christianity, they also have to go through a rewiring process. It’s not like we can just fluff it off after being indoctrinated about hell and demons our whole lives.

                Liked by 3 people

                • I was just speaking from personal experience. I have noticed that the fear triggers are still there and when triggered I need to calm myself down and tell myself that I have categorically proved a thousand times over that there is no way the Bible could be a divine book (unless ‘God’ is devious or sloppy).

                  Liked by 2 people

        • I’ll probably write a longer explanation on my own blog, but the short answer is that any mind can get broken and rebuilt to suit others’ needs. It’s the same principle behind waterboarding terrorists. Interfere with rational thought enough, and one can get the subject to cooperate.

          This doesn’t just apply to forcing kids to endure teachings. There’s a reason why churches operate homeless shelters, clinics for drug addicts, crisis counseling, and other things that “help” people in distress. These people are prime targets for accepting any belief that will help them out. Get someone desperate enough, and they’ll believe anything.

          Liked by 9 people

        • So here it is, this question of “why”? It is a question we all would like answered definitively. As a deconvert myself, I’m often offended by this question, but I do believe it is legitimate to ask.

          My career background is in both neurology and psychology. These fields are locked in a never ending debate of whether human behavior can be put down to nature or nurture (with neurology leaning toward nature and how the brain is hardwired, and psychology leaning toward nurture and how our environment shapes us). My guess is the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

          Do I consider myself an intelligent person? Well I’m no genius, but I don’t think I’m stupid. The truth is though, no one can deny that as a devout catholic there were *huge* gaps in my logic. I believe I was both hardwired to have this gap (due to my specific personality type, my natural strengths/weakness, etc), and that my nurturing (environment) reinforced this gap. This is a very general answer to the question of “why.”.

          So as it is with everything in human behavior, we’re going to have to be comfortable with a certain level of ambiguity when asking tough questions. And…those who are less comfortable with ambiguity tend toward religion, which has no ambiguity, because God Did It.

          How’s that for a definitive answer? 😉

          Liked by 4 people

          • I reread Neil’s post asking the same question:

            He also sounded a bit fed up having to explain why deconverts believed.

            I think he hit the nail on the head when he said this:

            Rejecting religion doesn’t cost much when you grow up outside of a deeply devout context. It’s a relatively easy path to follow.

            Which is similar to the vid Victoria posted and picks up on your nature/nurture comment.

            Growing up in a secular faithless community where you know a few Catholics, a few Jews, but most people are nominally CofE but never go to church or talk about religion is clearly worlds apart from the American set-up. Before I joined wordpress I had no idea of the extent of the hold that xtianity has on America. It’s like reading a spooky dystopian novel.

            We’re all impressionable as children and I dutifully believed everything I was told by my parents and by teachers. My school’s motto was ‘Each for all and all for God’, and our school hymn was written by the local bishop. Yet, that was it. Window dressing in a way. There was no pressure to believe. There was no exposure to religion in my community unless you sought it out. Some friends asked me to join the god squad and I politely declined. My refusal had no impact on our friendship, nor did they preach at me. Later I worked in an office with two Catholics and a Metho. The rest of us were CofE (ie disinterested). The Catholics took the piss out of their own religion and everyone rolled their eyes when the Metho attributed the glory of God to something or other.

            It’s interesting to look at the wiki list regarding secular countries:
            The US is listed as secular ie no state religion whereas England has an established state religion (CofE). Yet, it has nothing like the impact on society that I read about in America. It’s not only puzzling, but incomprehensible from my European perspective. Thanks Violet for your explanation/perspective.

            Liked by 3 people

            • Thank you Seas for expanding on your viewpoint, which I think is helpful to everyone. I love Neil’s post…particularly how he explains that learning to challenge your inner core beliefs (if you’re religious) is a totally different skill set than learning to challenge outside beliefs (if you’re a lifelong atheist). It’s so much harder!

              You will notice this question of “why” can be hugely triggering for deconverts and they tend to be easily offended when asked it. I’d like to give my perspective as to one potential reasons for that. First off, when you leave religion you have your entire christian social network of family/friends/community calling you stupid…many of them shun you because you’ve lost the most basic wisdom there is in the universe, the wisdom of god.

              Then you come over to the atheists who are loads more educated and understanding, however, the lifelong atheist has no personal experience with the power of indoctrination. The lifelong atheist does not realize the dangerous waters they’re in when they ask a deconvert “why” they believed; remember BOTH of you know how stupid it is to believe such absurdities. Now the deconvert feels attacked by an ally, and there is nowhere they can turn and not be called stupid. It’s a troubling position to be in, and that’s one reason you’ll see many deconverts lash out when asked the question of “why.”

              Liked by 2 people

              • Thanks again Violet. I don’t think any of us ‘lifelong atheists’ well, more or less lifelong, unless saying Gentle Jesus meek and mild for a few years counts, think any of the deconverts we know are stupid, which is why we ask the question. So whether it’s you, Sirius, Ruth, Victoria or whoever, our confusion comes from exactly that point. Yes, I hope we can be allies, although, we’ll never have the empathy other deconverts can bring. What we can do, is point out that it is possible to live 40/50 or more years of life without a god impacting on our every thought or action. In short, we take responsibility and live the lives we choose. As you, and many others are now doing. Thanks again for your patience.

                Liked by 1 person

                • I totally understand the confusion. I believe “why” IS a legitimate question to ask, and it’s good to periodically explore the issue for own benefit as well as for others. Remember that it is the person who is being triggered who must own their baggage on the topic, for the world does not tiptoe around anyone. What lifelong atheists can do to help is be careful with their wording and tone, and educate themselves as much as possible about the power of indoctrination. I believe you, Seas, and the vast majority of lifelong atheists I’ve met on WP have already done this work. So just be aware that when you ask the question “why” and get some harsh pushback, it’s because you’ve stumbled across a very common trigger in deconverts.

                  Liked by 2 people

          • Violet I have been watching Dr David Eagleman’s TV series on the brain, He explains that if we do something enough it becomes hard wired into our brain so we then do it almost automatically without even thinking. This is one reason it is incredibly hard to go against indoctrinated thinking. In this regard there is likely a chasm in the brain hardwiring between a person raised in a nominally religious family versus a person raised in a devoutly religious family.

            Liked by 2 people

        • I know I am way late to the party, but read Michael Shermer’s “The Believing Brain” and I think you will find your answer.


  2. It is the normalizing of abuse that freaks me out. And indeed infuriates me. Excellent if v. disturbing post, Victoria.

    Liked by 8 people

  3. Superb post, as usual, Victoria. This quote from Neil particularly struck home for me: “This is psychological abuse, sugar coated as it is with the vocabulary of love, and it’s made all the more sinister by its pretty packaging and by its inevitable marketing toward children before they are even old enough to say, “Wait a second, these are awful things to say to a person!” There’s a friend of mine who fairly recently feel in with a young earth creationist Christian group, and her reason for doing so is, as she’s told me, because the people in the group are SO very nice, and they always smile. To me, that sounds very creepy and scary. Telling people, children in particular, that the earth is only 6 thousand years old and without Jesus, you’ll burn in hell, are horrid things to do. That they’re done with a smile is, to me, even more horrid. My friend has since given up on me as I continually refuse her attempts at getting me to go to church with her so I can see just how wrong I am about it. Typical religious bullshit. All those who are not part of the group aren’t worthy of your friendship. Sad. Very sad indeed.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Thanks Inspire.

      “All those who are not part of the group aren’t worthy of your friendship. Sad. Very sad indeed.”

      I know the feeling all too well. You brought something up that hit home with me — “because the people in the groups are SO very nice, and they always smile.”

      I remember seeing that when I first started going to church as an adult. Most are very nice, but they would never let on that they are miserable inside. You can’t be told over and over and over that you are unworthy, and it not impact your psyche.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Right. Putting a smile on over it, to me, makes the whole thing even sicker. My friend who hooked up with this group is a troubled person who’s suffered from a great deal of abuse in her life. This “church” she hooked up with is like a drug for her. The promise of peace and wonderful things are given as a reason to join, and, for a while, the fake smiles and hugs may dull some pain. But, eventually, the church/drug itself becomes a life damaging thing as it erodes one’s self esteem and teaches that, deep down, we’re all evil and only the loving arms of Jesus, as used by the “church” (fill in the denomination of your choice) can save us from an eternity in fire. The only sin many of us are born with is the misfortune of having been born into a religious family that takes us to a church were we learn we are evil just for being born. That’s a grievous sin that I simply do not forgive christianity and christians for perpetrating over and over again on their offspring.

        Liked by 6 people

    • Rodney Stark studied the moonies in depth and how people converted to that faith. He found overwhelmingly it was social factors that led to conversion. But once people had joined the social group they adopted the doctrine without any real question and then convinced themselves it was the ‘truth’ of the doctrine that had actually been the key factor in their conversions.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Ha ha, I’m a day late and a dollar short, as always…I saw you already posted this article after I made my long ass comment regarding this topic on your previous post.

    Sorry, V.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wally just this morning posted something about a youth revival they’re hosting. He made note of some “sermon” delivered by his stepson. The points of this were:

    Be a clean vessel

    Be an empty vessel

    Be a broken vessel

    That lat one made me shake my head.

    Liked by 7 people

  6. Excellent work again my friend. Enjoy the day if you can daydream your way out of Mississippi for a spell

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I still grimace when I think back at how I told a person who was struggling with worry that the Bible clearly told us not to worry and that to continue to worry was a sin as it showed one did not trust ‘God’.

    I remember being troubled when I said this, it seemed so unsympathetic, but I knew it was what the Bible taught, so I felt I had to say the ‘truth’.

    Worse still I felt like a hypocrite at the time as I am someone who is /naturally. prone to worry.

    Just to make it worse still I told this lady that her unbelieving husband, really knew that there was a ‘God’ in his heart but was refusing to acknowledge this because he did not want to obey ‘God’. Once again I said this because it was what the Bible taught even though I lacked conviction as I said it.

    Liked by 7 people

    • Peter, I know it’s probably not much comfort to know that you’re not alone. I really admire your honesty. I think that most of us who were indoctrinated to believe the bible was “the word of God”, and Christianity was “the Truth”, unwisely counseled others knowing that something was amiss.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Cracking post Victoria. Indoctrination and abusive manipulation are not things we choose, they are insidious, and cause untold amounts of emotional damage to people. I’m glad you’re free of it now.

    – esme upon the Cloud

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Don’t ever forget that you are a dirty, filthy, sinful (yet, wonderfully created?) human being.

    Liked by 6 people

  10. I can hear the excuses coming… I could probably come up with some myself if I were still inclined to defend Christianity. Whether any of those excuses are valid or not, what you describe is undeniably what does happen to so many. That is the message we internalized.

    I see many Christians who seem outwardly quite emotionally healthy, with healthy relationships. Whether they are or not on the inside who knows. My take is that these are people who take the good parts and ignore the bad parts, and don’t really think about the fact that they are cherry picking. They have reached a comfortable equilibrium. But even these folks think that what they have is what everyone needs. What works for them fails utterly for someone with a different background and/or personality. And worse, it fails even more utterly and for even more people when people try to not cherry pick, try to be consistent and follow all of the Bible, and actually orient their entire lives around the great commission to evangelize the world.

    They cannot accept that the solution that seems to be working for them (and probably isn’t for many of them, but they can’t see that) is not universal. They would have to deny their faith to accept the more rational explanation – that there is a wide range of human variation and that their particular religion happens to fit a few particular people well and lots of people very poorly.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Here’s one of my old rationalizations… “No, God does love us, its just that he’s perfect and he is what is best for us. For us to love ourselves would be not loving the best thing. For God to love himself is appropriate, because he is the best.”

    Here’s an answer I’d give my old self… “Sounds like you are just excusing the abuser. Not to mention you don’t have evidence that this being actually exists. You are just trying to make reality fit your book.”

    Liked by 6 people

    • Bingo. What’s interesting is, if you are not a cherry picker, and really study scripture, it becomes appalling clear that this god is full of imperfections — that this god was made in the image of humans. But, the strategy is — you’re beaten down so much, you don’t realize it — and fear keeps you from accepting it.

      “Love me or you will be eternally punished.”

      Stockholm syndrome.

      Liked by 4 people

    • Yikes, Charles, in your rationalization God sounds an awful (and I do mean awful) lot like Donald Trump

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you for sharing this personal side of yourself as well all the additional arguments from Neil’s posts and experiences that you’ve read from other people who have gone through similar things. This post excellently lays out how a system can be designed to effectively destroy our humanity. My mother is a wonderful woman who does a lot of good in this world, but she feels she is doing it because God is calling her to do it. This makes me sad in a way, because it sort of implies that she is only doing it because someone she believe exists is telling her to do so. And that it’s not the goodness in her own heart that drives her. Or that there would be no value to what she was doing to others or herself if God hadn’t commanded it to be so. I see this a lot in really good Christians that I know who I feel are very kind and loving people and aren’t very judgmental. They still act like they aren’t in control, like they don’t matter except as an instrument for another being. There are good Christians out there and religion, as a system, can certainly produce them, but if central to that goodness is that you are not good and you need the holy spirit to fill you to make you whole, to make you good, seems like a great cost, because it becomes so much easier for those that intend harm to manipulate you through that central tenet.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Well said, Swarn. This belief that humanity can’t be good unless a god is working through them has a significantly negative impact on how we view each other. We are conditioned to be suspicious of and look for the worst in people. Dr. Robert Sapolsky stated that humans may be hard-wired to get edgy around the Other, but our views on who falls into that category are decidedly malleable.

      2 Corinthians 5:14 “Do not be associates with those who are unbelievers; for what partnership has righteousness with evil, or what intimacy has light with darkness?”

      Liked by 3 people

      • This from the same Paul who said there was no point getting married because the end of the world was around the corner. Well that proved prescient – not!

        How did I ever believe it was divinely inspired?

        Liked by 2 people

        • Don’t be too hard on yourself, Peter. As optimists we focused only the good in what we were taught to believe. Now, for various reasons, we see the rest of it and recognize that the “good” we latched onto has more to do with human nature and isn’t restricted to the myth with all the stuff we can no longer rationalize.


  13. It seems to me that, given the powerful psychological reasons for wanting to believe in a creator, and considering the motivators for people to conform to popular social norms in very religious areas (like the Bible Belt in the USA) and knowing that we are (the vast majority of us) social creatures; I think the only thing to conclude from the comments on this thread is that the MOST intelligent people end up figuring out the truth and walk away from it.

    Or are all deconversions miracles?? 😉

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Wow. I had never thought of the similarities between the God I was raised to worship and Narcissus. Loving us because of his own reflection seen in us. That’s what I was taught. That applause for your singing? It isn’t your talent, that is God in you. That success in business? It isn’t your hard work, it’s God’s work in you. That failure? Well, that’s you not trusting God enough. Empty yourself and let him fill you. Disregard yourself and let him take care of you. Sacrifice yourself for others. But not for deadbeats who don’t take care of themselves. Don’t worry – god knows the names of sparrows and clothes the lilies of the field and knit you personally in your mother’s womb. But study hard and get a job and put $ in your 401k and buy insurance because you don’t want to be one of those deadbeat heathens who rely on the gov’t. And if you have problems or birth defects, it’s either your fault, the sins of your parents, or god’s way of making you stronger/giving a lesson to the world.

    I can’t believe it took me this long to stop believing. And that I mourned the loss of believing for sooooo long. Yet I still don’t make it public because…. it will totally separate me from the people and communities I belong to. My family will love me and my real friends will love me. I know that. But I also know it will grieve them. I was taught we Christians are aliens in “the world.” But I know I will be the real alien if I admit I don’t believe. Sad.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Nailed it. I remember spending hours rehearsing a song before I did “special music” at church. I would never think to take the glory away from god for all that time I invested. That would be pride. Nope, I was to show up but not be seen. I am reminded of the Keith Green song “Oh Lord You’re Beautiful” — remembering some of the lyrics from the top of my head it goes: “and when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown, for my reward is giving glory to you.”

      Skirt, I understand your situation, as you explained it, and you must do what’s best for you and your family/friends. You are right — you will, indeed, be the real alien, and that often comes at a huge cost. Sometimes it’s just best to keep it to yourself, depending on your circumstances. If we lived in a more authentically secular society, it would be a lot less costly to be more openly secular.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Very interesting article Victoria and from the mouth of one that went through it all as well. If only more people would wake up and realize what this belief does to them and others, the world would be a much better place.

    The church I grew up in, believed that we had to write our dreams down and then the priest will take it higher up and then will come back to you and tell you what it means. My dreams were always used to break me down. Just like you, I became depressed and had anxiety attacks and was told it’s ‘demons’. I told them it’s crap and I am like this because of all the fear they are instilling. They didn’t like that.

    So yes, I would call it emotional abuse because that is what they do. When you stand up for yourself, you are told that you are ‘not from God’ and if you become ill, you’re told that it because you are not giving your ‘life’ to this ‘God’ of theirs and it’s because of your ‘sins’.

    This is what they do. They tear you down, make you feel like you are nothing, because you are the ‘clay’ and ‘God’ must ‘mold’ you. Utter crap! If ‘God’ found it good enough to create you, why want to change you in ‘his image’. When I started standing up for myself, they turned to my husband and tried to turn him against me. We were nearly divorced because of those people who claimed they’re ‘from God’.

    If it were up to me, ‘Christianity’ and ‘Religion’ would be two of the things that will fall under ‘Abuse’, whether it’s Child Abuse, Verbal or Mental abuse, because that is what these people are doing.

    They are like insurance salesmen. Frightening people to turn to ‘faith’ because that will ‘save’ them. More crap! Save us from what? The Zombie Apocalypse?

    When you grow up in homes where certain faiths and beliefs are present, you believe the same. After all, with most of us, as a child you look up to these adults that are supposed to know more than you. Little do you realise they are also just doing what their parents taught them and they never questioned it. Then you get out there in the world and meet people with different beliefs and some with no beliefs and finally you can make up your own mind, whether society likes it or not.

    Liked by 4 people

    • The core message of Christianity (if taken seriously) promotes and nurtures low self-esteem, and divides humanity rather than unites. Sonel, I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through. I’m so glad to read that they didn’t succeed at dividing you and your husband. I thought about something Neil said in his post:

      “Not too long after my deconversion, I subjected myself to a year of weekly therapy sessions with a Christian counselor in an attempt to save my marriage (it didn’t work). I recall this particular issue coming up in our sessions from time to time. I suggested that the faith in which we were raised taught us to think very poorly of ourselves, but he shot back with: “No! Absolutely not! There is no better view of the self than the one we get from the gospel!” I’ll spare you his tortured rationalization for that statement, because it ignored the fact that according to his perspective all human worth is derivative—it comes from what someone else has done for us rather than anything inherent in ourselves.

      I didn’t push back much at all during those weekly sessions, and I regret that now. If I had that time period to do over again, I would have spoken my mind a lot more openly. At the time I was trying to be as cooperative as possible, because I really wanted to make this work. But even in the midst of my own personally enforced gag order, I still had to point out to him at least once that it is highly hypocritical to say that your worldview gives people a positive self-image if it also tells them they deserve to be tortured forever. Those two ideas just really don’t sit well together.

      Oh, and speaking of counseling — Charity shared this with me just a little while ago:

      Tennessee Bill Would Allow Counselors To Deny Services

      “The bill passed 68-22 Wednesday following a rancorous debate on the House floor. If it is signed into law, Tennessee would be the only state to allow counselors to refuse to treat patients based on their own belief system, said Art Terrazas, Director of Government Affairs for the American Counseling Association. The organization has called the bill an “unprecedented attack” on the counseling profession and government overreach.

      Opponents of the measure say it would allow therapists to discriminate against gays and other people who are at their most vulnerable and need therapy.”

      Liked by 4 people

      • Victoria, I didn’t mean to be flippant in my email message to you about this. I guess my take is I don’t need a judgemental person to counsel me any way. You know how hard I’ve searched for a secular therapist and have gotten nowhere. If anyone has ever read any of my comments on your blog it’s obvious as to why I want to take that route.

        However, I understand that a gay teenager kicked out of his home doesn’t have many options. He needs an ear to listen to his pain and to help him connect to practical things in his life to sustain him. He can’t afford to hunt down a therapist throughout the country or even the state.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Charity, I didn’t take your email as being flippant. It’s hard enough to find counselors who are even trained to handle the complexities of indoctrination, much less mental anguish caused by it. As one psychologist stated:

          “In many seemingly secular settings, religious views are still considered ‘normal’ and even advocated in aggressive ways. In medicine and in treatment for drugs and alcohol, professionals assume that pushing religion is acceptable.

          Religion can and does cause great personal suffering, fractured families, and social breakdown. There are many individuals needing and deserving recognition and treatment from informed professionals. We need to let go of making religion a special case in which criticism is taboo. It is our ethical responsibility to be aware and our human obligation to be compassionate.”

          Liked by 1 person

      • One thing I can tell you Victoria. I am glad we had to go through that and for the reason that we were not supposed to believe the crap they were selling. We were lucky in the sense that our love was strong enough to see us through it all. When things like this happens, I see it as experience, learn from it and move on. Just like Neil I refused to keep my mouth shut and I challenged them, and they didn’t like it. In the church it was believed that a woman should keep her mouth shut. I didn’t believe that.

        What’s with these bill passing all of a sudden? There’s something going on. They really have no right to refuse anyone for anything because of their beliefs, race or anything like that. This is totally f-d up!

        Liked by 2 people

        • Yep, the governor signed the bill, which means that Mississippi will continue to remain the shithole that it’s become because of religion being used as a political tool to control and incite hate crimes.

          Sonel, you were, indeed, very fortunate. Many marriage don’t survive, not so much because there is a lack of love, but because one partner chooses to remain a Christian, and listens more to the voices of their fellow Christians. Those believers play a significant role is creating further division between couples.

          I’ve learned a lot from this unexpected turn in my pursuit for truth, so in that regard, I have no regrets. Since I live in the thick of evangelicalism, and see first hand the harm it’s causing to the state I’m living in, it makes it a little difficult to move on, which is why I continue to bring posts that expose the negative impact it can have on children, women, LGBTs, whole communities, and the world. I don’t care if people believe in gods. But, as the saying goes…

          Liked by 3 people

          • That really sucks. Those politicians are just using religion to obtain more power and of course money. Don’t people realise that?

            We were indeed and luckily both of us realised what those people were up and turned our backs on them and of course on religion as well.

            The same here and that is the truth. It must indeed be difficult to live in a place like that. You are a gutsy lady indeed. 😀

            Liked by 1 person

  16. Nailed it. Thanks for sharing.

    Dat kid meme – wow! Moving (toward sadness).

    And the comparison at the end – solid – I gotta use that sometime.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. This morning I was reminded of the Golden Gate Bridge. Years ago when hubby was still in the Navy and our boys were tiny, we ventured from our home in San Diego to the San Francisco Bay area. I remember bumper to bumper traffic a few miles before the bridge. I asked my husband why there was so much traffic. At first he didn’t seem to know. We were surrounded by cars, big hills and nothing else. As we inched forward we began to drive into clouds. I saw signs regarding toll charges and we finally figured out that we were near the bridge. However, you couldn’t see the bridge at all. All we saw was white and gray immediately in front of us. It was thick and it completely covered the bay. It appeared as though there was no Golden Gate Bridge. Once we paid a toll and drove on the bridge, we were amazed at it’s beauty and architecture. It was so ornate. While on it, we couldn’t see the road behind us, nor San Francisco immediately in front of us. All we saw was the bridge structure above our heads and the cars directly in front, beside and behind us.

    A Christian is liken to the Golden Gate Bridge on an extraordinarily foggy afternoon. Inside of that god fog is a beautiful and strong individual who is colorful and unique. However, he or she is drowning in thick clouds of service, scripture, indoctrination, all types of abuse and Christianese. A person outside of the fog can’t see the Christian inside the god cloud, but the person is still there. From the Christian’s perspective, he or she can only see their immediate surroundings. At first, that’s okay with them for they’re “in the world, but not of it”. All they’ve ever known is that bridge. They are taught that the fog is like a soft, cotton blanket swaddling them, cuddling them like a newborn. It is god and his protection. However, there are extreme wrongs and hurts inside that bassinet, the bridge. Often the Christian is wanting out, but doesn’t know where to go or how. He/She has not been away from the bridge, but knows his/her blanket is suffocating him. At the same time too, the good Christian is often reminded that the world is evil and they are evil if they join it. No matter where they go, god can see every sin that they commit and every individual that they willingly become “unequally yoked” with in any type of relationship. If god sees everything someone does and he or she risks punishment for leaving god’s protection, that person usually decides to never venture out of the fog.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. After reading this again, I can only admire your comparison of god to Narcissus…brilliant. I’m thankful we both escaped! Maybe we’ll always have the scars, but being able to set ourselves free from such a steaming pile of shit is a priceless gift.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Violet, I love your concise homilies. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • Glad you enjoyed! Honestly, “steaming pile of shit” was my gentle wording. I would have been banned from WP if I’d left up my initial description. 😀

        On a serious side note, when I was a psych nurse (and a devout catholic) I diagnosed god as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The amount of cognitive dissonance this gave me as a believer nearly broke my mind.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Violet, I cannot imagine Victoria banning you from here no matter WHAT descriptor you used. . . in fact, she probably supports your opinion.

          In fact, I have often read Victoria’s comment to this effect (and said, just recently on someone’s blog) that most of us behave more humanely – and display more morals – than the god(s) we read about.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Well, I wondered if WP has moderators that roam around and ban commenters who use the word “fuck” too many times in a row. I’m paranoid like that! But no, I don’t think Victoria would ban me for my brash descriptors. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

            • That comment reminded me of a recent trip by the RCMP over here a couple of weeks ago. Someone in the community asked a neighbour, “I saw the Mounties driving down your road – what was going on?” The person replied, “I think there were reports of some indoor gardening next door” . 🙂


    • Thank you Violet. I’m sure you are also aware that a plant was named after Narcissus — Poet Narcissus.

      “Socrates called this plant the ‘Chaplet of the infernal Gods,’ because of its narcotic effects. The scent of the flowers is deleterious, if they are present in any quantity in a closed room.”


      Liked by 1 person

  19. I recall reading in some Bible Study notes a few years back the story of a person who sought to share their feelings with their church home group. This person explained how they had been finding life a bit of struggle, but rather than understanding the member of their home group told them they needed to be ‘Victorious in the LORD’.

    This particular person found the advice not very helpful, but decided it was best just to hide their true feelings and pretend all was well rather than seeking help from their fellow Christians.

    Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached a an extensive series of sermons back in the 1950’s dealing with the matter of Spiritual Depression. He recognised that there was the reality of the ‘unhappy Christian’ and this was a significant barrier to evangelism. However his diagnosis of the problem was that it stemmed from Christians being uncertain of ‘their standing in Christ’. Thus in his view it could be overcome by correct teaching of doctrine.

    Actually to some extent Dr Lloyd-Jones was onto something. There is nothing that depresses a Christian like the fear they may have committed the ‘unforgivable sin’, or that somehow they may be found unworthy and in the end be discarded and find their way to perdition. Some fear that they might not be able to stand firm in the face of persecution.

    Personality types and Church teaching can impact significantly. Introverts are far more likely to be troubled by these sort of matters than extroverts.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Peter, I think that when a Christian really takes their belief in the Christian god seriously, and devotes themselves to studying scripture (the foundation of Christianity), including the original languages, and believes what the scriptures promise, they are in for a rude awakening (eventually), Pastors sit behind pulpits every week and in between, who are unbelievers, yet they continue to promote Christianity as truth.

      You can only blame yourself for so long, and swallow the counsel from others that you’re just not grasping the “correct teaching of doctrine.” If you are truly honest with yourself, you will eventually come to the understanding that this isn’t healthy doctrine, especially for children who tend to be deeply trusting.

      I’ve posted this on a previous blog post of mine, and over on SB’s blog today, but I think it’s worth mentioning here. A study was done on clergy who no longer believed. During these interviews, clergy admitted that after attending seminary, having been exposed to academic studies, they had serious doubts about the Christian deity and the inerrancy of the bible. Still, they became clergy and promoted the teachings as Truth. The study was published in the March 2010 issue of Evolutionary Psychology, entitled, “Preachers Who Are Not Believers.” I will quote an excerpt:

      “Still, they all find themselves with a secret: they don’t believe what many of their parishioners think they believe. [… – they recognize only too well that revealing their growing disbelief would have dire consequences for their lives. So they keep it to themselves.

      So, with the establishing of the Clergy Project, we are now learning that many, and perhaps most clergy either no longer believe or have growing disbelief, yet won’t or are afraid to reveal their secret for fear of dire consequences from the Christian community. All the while, people (including children) are being lied to mislead, and told that if doubt creeps in, they just need to have more faith, die more to themselves, and pray fervently.


      • Victoria, I think it is hardest for the fundamentalist.

        The liberal Christian has an altogether different religion (it is not Christianity – though that is what they call it). I remember talking with a minister who was an ex Seminary lecturer. We were discussing the pastoral epistles of Paul. I commented that it was interesting that most academics thought that they were not written by Paul yet 100% of seminary students in my class though they were.

        I, like the other students, thought that it was a ‘line in the sand issue’, that is if they were forgeries then it in essence cast into doubt the integrity of the whole Bible. This lecturer/Minister argued that it need not do so. I still don’t understand the lecturers way of thinking. But then again I don’t understand how Bishop Spong could still believe after discarding much of the Bible.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Pingback: How I Was Introduced to Faith | Amusing Nonsense

  21. Great post. Lots of great comments. I really dont have much to add, just wanted to drop in with my “two thumbs up!”

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Pingback: Feeding Yourself to the Lions – Cloak Unfurled

  23. Reblogged this on Scotties Toy Box and commented:
    Again another outstanding post. I am stunned at how closely the emotional and demanding tenets of the these church experiences are to the childhood abuse I suffered. The people in charge couldn’t be questioned, they were always right, I was wrong Any thing done to me I deserved and should be grateful for as I was responsible , I was bad, I was damaged, I had to be treated this way to make me something other than the horrible thing I was. I was forced to admit I was a bad damaged unworthy unacceptable just plain wrong thing, to be used by my betters. I needed to be punished and hurt, I was not as good as those in charge or their offspring. I was not the same as them in anyway. I was to be grateful for anything nice I was given or allowed. To me this shows me better than anything I have read just how abusive religion is and how damaging it can be. Thanks for the post. It was an eye opener. Hugs

    Liked by 3 people

    • Scottie, another very insightful comment. You are such a courageous and beautiful person. The more I get to know you, the more I see that strength and beauty. I’m so glad you found authentic love and happiness. oxo

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you. I have to admit that before I met Ron I was not the person I am today. I had so many issues, I was suspicious of everyone and thing. I was so angry. I was self destructive. I had no hope, was in a bad place and going down hill. Then Ron came into my life. Even though I wouldn’t tell him anything, he figured most of it out. The first time he met my adoptive parents when we sat to eat my adoptive father grabbed my adoptive mother’s breast than made a show of “feeling her up”, so she stabbed him with her fork, it was sticking out of his arm with blood going everywhere and him laughing. I watched Ron slump and almost slide under the table, some where I went many times in my life. Ron took it on him self to help me with sleep, with nightmares, with people, with so many things. He showed me a much better world, a world with out hurt, harm, with out fear, with love and caring and tenderness and so very much more. Over the years I changed, I became the person I am today, I took a promise to my self that each day I would be a better person than I was the day before, and I learned to truly love, a love with out hurting others, a love that puts the one you love first. I am not sure I would be alive today if not for Ron and his love for me. So you should give Ron credit for so very much. Thanks for letting me share. IF this was too dark for the blog please delete it. You write such grand posts and I love them. Thank you for the wonderful and grand things you said about me. It made me feel great. Hugs

        Liked by 3 people

  24. This kind of article gives me so many reasons to think about what I say to religious people before I say it. I have been struggling with this for a while now. I guess it depends on the tone the religious person takes with me in our exchange but I sometimes bounce around between “this person is a complete moron” to “this person seems to have some kind of head on their shoulders but can’t connect the dots” and everything in between. The extremes I am thinking of on one end are Colorstorm and av8torbob (whom I used to argue with on tildeb’s blog – don’t recall ever seeing him here). Very smug, self-assured, got-the-universe-all-figured-out type people that I just can’t stand. Then you have your UnkleE’s who appear to be just as deluded but may or may not be quite as arrogant and don’t talk in quite such a condescending way. I’m only ever so slightly less annoyed by someone like that. Although I can’t think of her name off of the top of my head, I’ve seen some woman on here who identifies as a Christian who seems much more thoughtful and significantly less self-assured than the other’s I have mentioned. I find it hard to comprehend how people like you and Charity had been taken in by this for so long but that’s because I haven’t been exposed to any kind of serious religious indoctrination and brainwashing so I have no reference point. Sure I went to a Catholic school and was forced by my mom to go to church until I was in my mid/late teens but nothing like Sunday school and there wasn’t much religion talk at home either. This seems to be a very vicious cycle that may never be broken. I think secularism might the first step towards the breaking it though. If only more people would adopt it, we’d all be better off. It would appear recent developments in North Carolina are a setback in that regard.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Trigger warnings: abuse, severe neglect, eating disorders and religious trauma

      Hello Ashley,

      I happened to see your comment recently. I’m glad that I did. I liked it last night and am ready to respond to it now.

      I long to see the day when more people are like you, without religous trauma. The less people there are who suffer through such tragedy, the healthier, happier and much more successful humanity as a whole will be. Personally, I believe there might even be a dramatic decrease in crime, ignorance and all types of abuse. Just imagine the time, emotion and resources no longer wasted on all things religous.

      I think RTS is much more prevalent throughout the US than what we realize. I think it’s just as common in my country as PTSD or TBI is common in the military. The problem is, like those issues, little to nothing is said about RTS. I just found a therapist through an online program who has had much experience in treating clients with trauma: veterans and former religious (LDS, Catholic, Fundamentalism and smaller cults). I found out that she herself suffered from it at one time. It has taken me three to four years of active research throughout the entire US, particularly within a four hour drive from me in all four directions before I found her. I got nowhere with the very few deconvert programs out there. The few secular therapists I did find throughout this country either didn’t reply back to me or didn’t understand RTS. I just came across my therapist for the first time last night. I found her through an internet ad. I wasn’t looking for a particular person, I just honestly answered a questionaire through the service. She is in the same state as I am and is a six hour drive away (one way). However, our communication will be online, several times a week, every week. With all of my errands and medical appointments, this works better for me, especially with my young kids out for summer break next month.

      I’m going to share a bit about myself to help you better understand why I easily fell prey to religious beliefs and was unable to get away for so long. It’s important to know that I grew up in an incredibly neglectful and abusive home. My parents were also hyper religious. My mother was raised Nazarene and my father was Independent Fundamental Baptist. Both of them were born and raised in Michigan. They married in a Baptist church there as well. While I was a baby, they became heavily involved in the Jesus People Movement during the early 70s. I grew up listening to 8 tracks of Tammy Faye Bakker, David Meece, Chris Christiansen and Gary S Paxton, as well as Second Chapter of Acts and Evie. My father had lots of southern gospel LPs of quartets and Elvis’ How Great Thou Art album. We ALWAYS went to Church, usually one to three or four times a week. Home, vacation (holiday) or visiting out of town family didn’t keep us away from church, not even when they visited us.

      When I was fourteen in the ninth grade I had my four wisdom teeth pulled out in my dentist’s chair. My paternal grandparents visited us, coming from their home about a thousand miles away. It was spring break. At the time my family were members of an Assembly of God church. I had to go to church with my family that very night because my teeth were pulled on a Wednesday. I went to youth choir practice and youth service with bloody gauze in my mouth. This was considered normal.

      My mother was the one who led me to salvation at home at three years old. Years later as we lived at another house, she led me into the Baptism of the Holy Spirit while I was eight with the evidence of speaking in tongues. No lie, she told me to say “praise you Jesus” repeatedly. We had a Gaither album playing in the background “my father’s angels all protect me everywhere”. Then I began to babble. At thirteen I was baptized in water through complete immersion at the church I mentioned above. That was also around the time when the Assemblies of God had a huge district group of meetings at my church. Carlton Pearson was the main speaker. He laid hands on me to pray for me at the altar. He told me I had a spirit of “self pity”. Btw, his uber Pentecostal theology has changed DRAMATICALLY since the 1980s. Another big district meeting(s).was at that same church while I was still a teen. David Wilkerson was the main speaker. At the time I was in the youth choir and the church had us sit on stage and sing with the adult choir every night of the conference. While in my early teens I read books like Run Baby Run by Nicky Cruz and Escape From Witchcraft.

      I remember my first panic attack. I was five or six years old and I shared a double bed with my sister. (The one after me in birthing order.) One night was really scary as thunder boomed and lightening repeatedly flashed in my room. It woke me up in the middle of the night. I looked up and saw a witch like figure standing in the doorway, screaming and laughing at me. I immediately peed the bed and laid in it until morning. For a couple of years I often peed the bed. That was when my insomnia began as well. Years later I found a picture from around that time frame. It was taken in the morning and it showed that same sister and me sleeping on our bed. The caption on the back read “kids swimming”. It was in my father’s writing. I remember constantly being afraid as a child. I still fight it at times now. I was exposed to Bible verses, songs and movies about the crucifixion, hell, heaven, the rapture and salvation at a very young age. I remember a lot of talk about the devil, demons and possessions for years to follow. My parents even dealt with Ruth Cornforth, a woman who wrote The Children’s Bread. They were working with her, hoping to be apart of her deliverance ministry. That blasted ugly, thick green manual followed our family for years. I bet my folks still have it.

      I became my mother’s emotional toilet when I was eight. That was around the same time that my sisters and I began to have lice. We ended up having it in the family more on than off for the next 20 years. She went on for about a solid decade and once in a while for years after that, about how horrible her mother was, cold and distant. Mother blabbed on about her marital woes with my father and how rotten he was/is throughout that entire time as well. She didn’t bathe my sisters and me. We bathed ourselves and I helped wash and comb out the lice in my sisters’ hair. She rarely fixed our hair. She did pick out lice and nits once in a while out of our hair. We bathed only three times a week while we lived in that awful, humid south Georgia heat. We often (I think always) slept on used mattresses we bought from dad’s co workers or found in the free newspaper classifieds.

      Off and on throughout my childhood we had family prayer meetings and Bible studies. I remember going through a deliverance personally in one of them while I was a preteen. We also began to listen to Integrity/Hosanna praise and worship cassettes regularly. I was anorexic (at 11 years old) because my father continually criticized my weight and body shape. I was 10 when he put on a tight sleeveless shirt that made his nipples bulge through. He jumped up and down and said “look at me, I’m Charity!” I didn’t have my first bra until I got a $2 Wal-Mart one at 11 years old. He also mocked me a little bit during my first period at 12. At least it stopped his weekly/bi weekly spankings over every little thing. My parents rarely paid for my personal hygiene products. I remember wearing bulky baby cloth diapers (nappies) quite a bit during my periods for about a year, even all throughout my very first one. For years most of my six younger sisters and I paid for all of our own products by pulling together fives and tens (bills,notes) that we received from one or both sets of grandparents in the mail for our Birthdays, babysitting and actual jobs as teenagers.

      Ashley, I will leave it at that. I’ve shared plenty. That was just some of the drama of my childhood. I don’t have time to go into my adult years, but I believe that I’ve shared some of that with you in the past. My serious doubts about my faith began while I was studying for my theology degree in Dallas. However, I didn’t deconvert for another two decades. I’m posting this all here so that you and others who have pretty much always been non religious can better understand how a person becomes a wounded animal in the trap of religion. I’m also laying so much of myself out there for people who suffer from religous trauma, especially those who won’t realize it until they read this blog, with the hope that they’ll leave the system behind for their betterment.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Charity, although your comment was directed at Ashley, I want you to know that I read it and have tears in my eyes. I feel sick that this happened to you. I say that very sincerely. I am sorry for what can rightly be called neglect and emotional abuse. (And probably physical abuse, as well) I think stories like yours are important ones to be told — many people don’t realize the terribly detrimental aspects to religion, and the negative effect it has on children, in particular. That must have been difficult for you to tell; I am so glad you’ve escaped the often inescapable. It says much about your character; all positive. Good for you, Charity. Your children are growing up in a completely different environment and you should be proud of that fact.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you for the kind words, Carmen. I’ve come to the place where I don’t always cry when I talk about those things now. My triggers and panic attacks are less frequent than what they were while I was a Christian. In fact, last autumn was when I had my last attack. Rightfully so, at the time I became overwhelmed knowing that I needed a hysterectomy. I followed through with my decision to have one two months later.

          When I moved away from home at 18 I had just called off an engagement and survived a deadly car accident. I went to Bible school a thousand miles from my family. CFNI Dallas was extremely legalistic and overbearing just like my parents. However, in some ways it was worse because they expected virtue, modesty, beauty, and perfection 24 hours a day, every day from me. It was the early 90s and female students were still required to wear skirts and dresses (keeping knees and shoulders covered) in class and services, as well as during conferences. The emphasis was purity and holiness so that we could be virtuous women and some day make good wives and be honorable mothers. I began a bible/prayer journal there and continued to do so until my deconversion at 39.

          While studying for my theology degree I began having serious doubts as I actually sat down and read the Bible. I went beyond memorizing verses like I did for my parents and for churches as a child and teenager. I really studied the Bible and read several chapters at a time. I often cross referenced various texts in it to study a particular subject. I did a lot of phone prayer counseling for CBNs affiliate there, street evangelism and was a part of the moral issues student ministry at the school as well. One semester I was the ministry’s leader.

          My father pushed for me to go to that blasted school. Personally, I wanted to attend the Art Institute in Atlanta or the Fine Arts College of Miami. I loved art. I loved design, color, texture and using my hands to make something beautiful. My parents paid next to nothing for my tuition, books, room and board at CFNI. I paid for pretty much everything. While I was there my father wrote me horrible letters of anger, disappointment and belittling. They were long dragged out letters full of tiny writing and his constant disgust with me. I got them at least once a month my whole two and a half years there. One time he sent me an even longer letter than usual. I didn’t know what to expect when I had to bum a ride from a friend to go to a post office in a really shady area. The postmaster had left a notice for me at my apartment’s mailboxes. I brought it with me to pick up and pay for an overstuffed envelope full of my father’s criticisms.

          I make no apology for being an anti-theist atheist. The centrality of the Christian message is Jesus. However, he’s absolutely horrible. People need to read his words in red and white in their precious Bibles. I swear, I am tired of atheists telling Christians to be like Christ, that’s the problem because they already are.

          Liked by 2 people

      • Charity that is a very moving story. It is particularly sad when parents don’t treat children with love and kindness. My parents were very supportive and I could not imagine them ever criticizing me in the way you describe, but what I do know is that if it had happened I would have fallen to pieces, it would have hit me very very hard.

        It is a real testament to you that you managed to survive such an experience in your formative years and at the same time appear to be such a decent caring person yourself.

        Well rest assured many of us appreciate you.

        When there are many comments on a blog post I often scan them to decide which I should read. I always make time to read yours, they always add so much to the discussion.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I have to admit Peter, I do the same with your comments. I may not even comment, but I’ll read and truly think about things that you post. The world needs more people like you, calm and sensitive. We are such a hyped up and angry society. You’re a great example of keeping your wits to stand back and look at the whole picture.

          You all are really sweet. I am no angel. I have a long way to go in my recovery. I’m jazzed that I finally have an amazing therapist who has dealt extensively with RTS, including her own. She’s a rarity and I have searched for a counselor like her for years.

          I’m sorry I’m not involved with everyone’s blogs right now. You all have covered beautiful photos and have written interesting articles. For now my focus is on deconversion and childhood indoctrination because it coincides with my current therapy. It’s time consuming, especially as I am thoroughly dealing with my medical health as well. That is why I’m just sticking to Victoria’s blog for now.

          Thank you for the kind words, Peter.


          • Whilst I was raised by a devoutly religious mother and was involved in Church activities from a young age, it was a milder form of Christianity that you faced. The more harmful impact of religion I faced was in, my case, mostly self inflicted at various times in my life when I became more ‘zealous for the Lord’.

            I hope the therapy works out for you.


      • Hi Charity,

        I am sorry I didn’t respond until today. I forgot to come back and check to see if anything was said to my original comment.
        I read through your story and I can say that it absolutely breaks my heart. I might have been inclined to say that I hate your parents for putting you through that and I think part of me still does. However, after doing some reading and listening to conversations about free will, I also realize that your parents were likely treated the same way in their childhood and that they had no choice but to act the way they did. My view on free will is that we don’t really have any. It’s an illusion and that everything we do is deterministic and the result of influences that are beyond our control. Religion is one of those very pernicious influences. It’s a vicious cycle that is very hard to break free from. From what I have read, it took you over 20 years to free yourself from it.
        At this point in time, I think I am more disappointed and annoyed by people, who are of no faith, who make excuses for Religion. I can understand religious people for defending their faith vigorously and with great passion. That makes perfect sense to me. What I don’t understand is the non-religious person arguing that this phenomenon is in any way good. Not for them mind you, but other people need it. The Ben Afflecks and the Cenk Uygur;s of this world annoy me to no end. Instead of exposing the bad ideas and pernicious effects of religion, they either make excuses for it, or refer to the people making criticism of it as racist or bigoted or other baseless charge. Not only are they abandoning the people who need their help the most, they make it easier for the kind of abuse you endured to continue by sheltering it from criticism.
        I can only offer my condolences on your lost childhood and my congratulations on your new found freedom from this toxic poison. Thank you very much for sharing. I hope to chat with you again sometime, under more pleasant circumstances perhaps.


        • In all honesty, Ashley, both of my parents had at least one amazing parent each. Yes, my mother had a domineering mother, but her dad was absolutely non religious, quiet, non-judgemental and easy going. My father’s dad was verbally and physically abusive, but his mother was an ooey-gooey, loving and caring southern woman who had horrible hardships throughout her life. I used to make excuses for their behavior all the time, then I stopped doing that when I deconverted. I began to realize while they were shit parents to me, they at least had one great parent each. One would think that they’d let the good override the bad, but they CHOSE to do otherwise. A year after deconverting, I cut all contact with them. They still send my kids Birthday cards and Christmas cards in the mail with very brief inscriptions. They finally stopped sending little bits of money and crappy presents because we kept sending it all back. I was trying to give them another shot by allowing my kids in their lives before that time, but they continually let me down in how neglectful and careless they were with my kids under their care. Add that to comments that they both made regarding one of my sisters’s sex life, I had enough. My sister was in her mid 30s and it was disgusting how they continue to think that they can still hold their daughters’ sexuality hostage. All these things showed me that they have not and will more than likely not, change their ways.

          Exactly, I went through a 20 year deconversion process with a big push of inquiries the last two years of it. The problem with Jesus, the deeper you search for him, the uglier he is. That’s the truth. Like you, I get tired of the excuses from atheists defending religion. It’s toxic like my parents. It’s layered in complications, mysteries, contradictions and disillusion. Quite frankly, if there was evidence for said god, I’d kindly tell him to go fuck himself. You don’t get to be all powerful and all loving, as well as all knowing and leave people on the earth to hurt and rot. You just don’t do that to people you create.

          Freewill, choose god-heaven, don’t choose god-hell. Doesn’t really sound like free will, does it?

          I thank you for your kind words, Ashley. They truly mean a lot. I thank you for your understanding, it means so much! I was just telling Victoria today about driving from Tennessee to Mississippi to my TMJ specialist and as soon as I walk in I hear something I’ve never heard before in his office, a contemporary Christian radio station played throughout his entire business. The very first song played is one that was really personal to me years ago “Amazing love how can it be? That you my king would die for me?” Yeah, triggers galore!!!!!!!!

          Liked by 1 person

          • I was just about to say that I had no frame of reference for “triggers” but then I just realized that I think I do. About 10 years ago, I went snowmobiling with some friends where we ended up on a lake. We went way past where we supposed to go and ended up very close to the dam – where the ice was much thinner. I ended up sinking my snow machine and luckily enough, I managed to pull myself up onto a solid patch of ice. I was also lucky enough to get to shore without further incident and then luckier still to get down the lake a little and make it to some strangers cottage where he had an outdoor sauna that had the kindling all stacked and ready to go. It just required paper and a match (that was right there) at it was lit and I was finally able to get warm. Every time I think about it (which isn’t very often) I find my legs twitching, I am unable to sit still and have a sense of dread at how bad it could have been (drowning) until I stop thinking about it. I still go on frozen lakes during winter trips with friends and ride on snow machines but I have given up the sport myself – although that’s because of economic reasons – I don’t feel like spending 10’s of thousands of dollars on a machine I can use 3 months a year.
            Is that what it feels like to be triggered by something?

            Liked by 1 person

            • Hi Ashley, yeah I think you are on the right track there. I’ll go back to my trigger of hearing that religious song at my doctor’s office to better explain it.

              When I heard the above mentioned song it took me to a time in my life that involved visiting the Brownsville Revival in Florida while I lived in Georgia. Then I moved near Nashville where I was actively involved in a cult like church. I then went back to Brownsville Assembly of God as a resident in the area, later moving to Hawai’i. This was a period of time from my mid twenties to my very early thirties. I’m going to be honest, I haven’t thought or talked too much of that time. Usually when I share experiences it involves childhood, Bible School and my little family. There is a reason why I skip that five to six year period from around 26 to 31 years of age. The brain has this amazing way of coping with trauma. (First, let me say I’m not a scientist, biologist, neurologist nor anyone of any position within the medical and mental health fields. This is from what I know and see. ) Since having a therapist who deals with RTS recently, those years are becoming more vivid for many reasons. Hearing that song reminded me of that time because it was one of my Jesus jams. I didn’t even kiss a man or romantically date anyone from summer of 1998 to about spring 2004. That fell into that same time period. My focus was Jesus, ministry, prayer, worship and most disturbingly, being the bride of Christ. Now, I’ve done that before, but this time it was more consistent and for a longer period of time in my life. I was also what other Christians might call a “meeting chaser”. I was consistently looking for the supposed glory of god and just couldn’t seem to grasp it and stay in his presence regardless how many personal bible studies I had, how often I went to church, how much I tried to mend my relationship with my parents and no matter how hard I tried to keep a strong relationship with Jesus. I felt that I was a failure, that I failed god in all of this, no matter what I did or didn’t do.

              Walking into that man’s office and hearing that song at the front desk just made me stand still and fight back tears. I finally got myself to sit down, but first I thought “where do I go to get away from it?!” I found a chair directly under their huge, flat screen TV in the waiting room. I emailed Victoria and text my husband. I had just driven an hour in the pouring rain in horrible traffic to walk into a situation that quickly multiplied my stress. By the time I got in the big dental chair I felt like I had no life left inside of me. I was bewildered and confused. I kept talking loudly to my specialist’s assistent to help drown out the loud contemporary Christian radio station that played throughout the building. I couldn’t handle it. I didn’t know what to do or say. I couldn’t find my words and I felt overwhelmed with fear. I dreaded any pause in the conversation between my doctor and me. Then he began to tell me how the arthritis is not doing well in my jaws and how I needed rest. Somehow we ended up discussing my insomnia that I’ve had since five years old.

              I told my therapist about the incident. I couldn’t take it. My husband came home yesterday and I just boo hooed like crazy. My therapist said something amazing to me. She said if I were a woman of domestic violence and I had escaped my capture and was trying to start a new life and I heard a violent song against women on the speaker…Wouldn’t it be appropriate to walk up to an employee and say “I am a domestic violence survivor and this song is setting me on edge. Can you please change the music?” I immediately knew that wasn’t unreasonable at all and she said that it wasn’t unreasonable for my situation either. The truth is I couldn’t reason at the time. I was so taken back because I had been to this guy three previous time and he always played R & B and adult contemporary music. Then there was another person in the waiting room. I was also rushed by the time I got there that I was trying to find a way to calm down, I was afraid I’d cause a scene. Next time, I’m going to address the Jesus music if it’s still on there. If not, I will address this recent time. I will say to a worker or the man himself. “I suffer from religious trauma. This music is setting me on edge. Could you please change the music?” Because I thought about that situation and it was wrong of them. Insurance pays next to nothing for TMJ issues. I’m on a payment plan with that office and I paid them $200 before I left their office in northern Mississippi. That’s not right. I told my therapist and my husband that I’m nervous about their response from me raising such a question. They both unanimously agreed that if they react that way I just need to leave and find another specialist. My therapist made a good point, if he is trying to help my health then he needs to try to help my health, not ruin it.

              Liked by 1 person

  25. Understanding Religious Trauma Syndrome: Trauma from Religion (Part 2) by Marlene Winell PhD

    “The kind of religion that causes damage is that which requires rigid conformity in order to survive in the group or have hope for the afterlife. Such a fundamentalist religion has a closed system of logic and a strong social structure to support an authoritarian worldview. It can be a comfortable environment as long as a member does not question.

    Children learn very early to repress independent thinking and not to trust their own feelings. For truth, believers rely on external authority – Scripture and religious leaders. With the consequences of disbelief so severe, leaders are able to demand acceptance of farfetched claims at the expense of personal observation or scientific evidence. The culture rewards individuals who contribute in religious ways. Proselytizing is generally expected, even for children. Obedience is the highest value and personal development truncated.

    Clearly, psychological problems can develop long before the additional trauma of leaving the fold. I’ll use the example of Bible-based fundamentalisms. True to the definition of trauma, survivors of these report feelings of terror, helplessness, and horror in facing death and injury – the horror of Jesus’ death (along with other atrocities in the Bible), the terror of hell for oneself and everyone else, and the helplessness of being a frail human in a wicked world, a tiny player in an overwhelming cosmic drama.

    There are different churches in this category with beliefs and practices that vary but core doctrines are consistent.

    Foundation of fear

    The first key doctrine is eternal damnation or annihilation for all unbelievers. This is the terrifying backdrop for the salvation message presented to all newcomers and all children born into the faith. The Bible is quoted, including the words of Jesus, to paint a horrifying picture of hell as a lake of fire, a fire of eternal torture impossible to quench despite any pleading. Mormons describe a hell of ‘outer darkness’ that is cold and just as terrifying. Jehovah’s Witnesses threaten the horror of dying forever at Armageddon.

    Small children can obviously visualize these things while not having the brain capacity to evaluate the message. Moreover, the powerful social context makes rejecting these teachings impossible. Children are completely at the mercy of religious adults.

    The salvation formula is offered as a solution of course, but for many, it is not enough to ward off anxiety. How does one really know? And what about losing one’s salvation? Many adults remember trying to get ‘saved’ multiple times, even hundreds of times, because of unrelenting fear.

    A variation on this is fear about missing the ‘rapture’ when Jesus returns. I have heard many people recount memories of searching for parents and going into sheer panic about being left alone in an evil world. Given that abandonment is a primary human fear, this experience can be unforgettably terrifying. Some report this as a recurring trauma every time they couldn’t find a parent right away.

    Finally, believers simply cannot feel safe in the world. In the fundamentalist worldview, ‘the World’ is a fallen place, dangerously ruled by Satan and his minions until Jesus comes back and God puts everything right. Meanwhile it’s a battleground for spiritual warfare and children are taught to be very afraid of anything that is not Christian. Much of ‘the World’ is condemned at church, and parents try to control secular influences through private and home schooling. Children grow up terrified of everything outside the religious subculture, most of which is simply unfamiliar.”

    Cont. next comment

    Liked by 1 person


      I heard this song when it first came out in 1979. My family had the album. I was seven years old. It was in my head as soon as I got up yesterday until bedtime late last night. Listen to the words. What is wrong here? The emphasis is anyone can be whatever GOD wants them to be. There’s also a clear cut message that you can hear god’s voice, but you have to listen out for it then do what it tells you to do. This is what’s wrong with religion. It’s horribly complex enough as it is for a grown man or woman to understand. Yet, it’s regularly wrapped up in bubble gum and puppy dogs in an attempt to appeal to and be embraced by children. I left a message with my therapist last night with the lyrics to this. It didn’t make me all yelly or boo hoo woo hoo. However, it did annoy me to realize even further just how easy peasy it is to indoctrinate little children with matters that are even too complicated for adults to comprehend.

      BTW, guys, I thank for the kind responses, love and hugs. I just want to clarify that I’m getting so much better. I don’t think I cried once on this post nor your previous one, Victoria. Please, don’t worry about me, I’m getting better every day and now I have endless opportunities to succeed and evolve. I’ve posted comments on this article, as well as the previous, to inform, not for pity. I thank you for this platform, as well as your other blog, Victoria. When I first deconverted four years ago I had no clue as to where to go. I didn’t know what to look for on line. It took me about a year or so before I encountered your other blog through Jonny’s blog. This is why I put myself out there. I know someone is digging, researching and crying out for some understanding. So often they have no one where they live.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yep, I wholeheartedly agree with you, Charity., and children are always their first target. You remember that article you shared with me a while back from a Baptist minister who was talking about the importance of indoctrinating children within in specific age range? It just so happened to be the age range where children are in their prime stages of synaptic pruning and brain development.

        As Dr. Winell states, children are taught that to think you are good or wise or strong or loving or capable on your own is considered pride and the worst sin of all. Anything good you do is credited to god and anything bad is your fault.

        It’s psychological child abuse.

        “Victoria. Please, don’t worry about me,”

        Charity, I’m not worried about you. You’re one of the most courageous people I’ve ever met. The symbolism in the video I posted, which is part 3 of M83’s trilogy, is indicative of that. Beating the odds, the little girl, who was once imprisoned in an asylum (authoritarian religion), breaks free from her manipulated trance (indoctrination), induced by controlling adults who judge these children as being poisoned by the system (original sin). She walks away from the vultures, the destruction, the bloodshed, the dying, the dead, and recreates a new world for herself.

        Liked by 1 person

  26. Self as bad

    “Second to the doctrine of hell, the other most toxic teaching in fundamentalist churches is that of ‘original sin’. Human depravity is a constant theme of fundamentalist theology and no matter what is said about the saving grace of Jesus, children (and adults) internalize feelings of being evil and inadequate. Most of these churches also believe in demons quite literally, some to the point of using exorcism on children who misbehave. One former believer called it ‘bait-and-switch theology — telling me I was saved only to insist that I was barely worth saving’.

    Believers are always in the crazy-making situation of a double bind — having heavy personal responsibility to adhere to religious rules but not having the ability to do so. Never is God blamed for not answering prayer or empowering the faithful as promised.

    To think you are good or wise or strong or loving or capable on your own is considered pride and the worst sin of all in this religious worldview. You are expected to derive those qualities from God, who is perfect. Anything good you do is credited to God and anything bad is your fault. You are expected to be like Him and follow His perfect will. But what if it doesn’t work? Fundamentalist Christianity promises to solve all kinds of personal problems and when it does not, it is the individual that bears the paralyzing guilt of not measuring up.

    Cycle of abuse

    A believer can never be good enough and goes through a cycle of sin, guilt, and salvation similar to the cycle of abuse in domestic violence. When they say they have a ‘personal relationship’ with God, they are referring to one of total dominance and submission, and they are convinced that they should be grateful for this kind of ‘love’. Like an authoritarian husband, this deity is an all-powerful, ruling male whose word is law. The sincere follower ‘repents’ and ‘rededicates’, which produces a temporary reprieve of anxiety and perhaps a period of positive affect. This intermittent reinforcement is enough to keep the cycle of abuse in place. Like a devoted wife, the most sincere believers get damaged the most.

    Don’t think, don’t feel

    Fundamentalist theology is also damaging to intellectual development in that it explicitly warns against trusting one’s own mind while requiring belief in far-fetched claims. Believers are not allowed to question dogma without endangering themselves. Critical thinking skills are under-valued. Emotions and intuitions are also considered suspect so children learn not to trust their own feelings. With external authority the only permissible guide, they grow up losing touch with inner instincts so necessary for decision making and moral development.

    Abuses of power

    Added to these toxic aspects of theology are practices in the church and religious families that are damaging. Physical, sexual, and emotional harm is inflicted in families and churches because authoritarianism goes unchecked. Too many secrets are kept. Sexual repression in the religion also contributes to child abuse. The sanctioned patriarchal power structure allows abusive practices towards women and children. Severe condemnation of homosexuality takes an enormous toll as well, including suicide.

    So while the religious community can appear to offer a safe environment, the pressures to conform, adhere to impossible requirements, and submit to abuses of power can cause great suffering, which is often hidden and thus more miserable.”

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Victoria, I don’t know if you have come across this talk? It is from the Thinking Atheist, hosted by Seth Andrews and is entitled, ‘Religion: The Mind Virus’ and is a discussion with Dr Andy Thomson, Dr Valerie Tarico and Dr Darrel Ray.

    The discussion is here; the actual talk starts a few minutes into the broadcast.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I partly mucked up pasting and formatting the link. It does work, but takes one to the 17 minute mark not the start.


      • Fixed. I’ve got it cued at 42 seconds into the broadcast. I appreciate you bringing this to my attention. I’ve read Darrel Ray’s book “The God Virus”, and watched several of his lectures. I look forward to listening to this trio.


        • To some extent I found the talk depressing as it brought home to me how difficult it will be to eradicate religion.


          • Just finished listening to the podcast. It was excellent. In regards to your comment, I think it was Thomson who said that it’s only been recently that the public has become privy to books and lectures of this nature, and he’s right. I certainly don’t remember anything like this in 1999/2000 when I first started seriously questioning. The internet has also been enormously beneficial to multitudes.

            Religion may not ever be fully eradicated, but if it doesn’t adapt to new knowledge, it won’t survive. Thanks again for sharing.


            • It is not so much Christianity that concerns me at present, but Islam.

              To see how things are deteriorating, Bangladesh is a good place to start. I used to comfort myself with the idea that the majority of Muslims would eventually come to see that it was the Muslims themselves who were causing most of their problems, not the non Muslims. But as I come to see how the religious virus operates (especially the focus on in and out groups) my confidence in logic prevailing has abated.


      • Correction — I have it cued to 4:01.


  28. Jim’s phone interview with the ACLU regarding my kids’ public school passing out Bibles is for half an hour today at 11.

    Holy fuck! I’m watching a Memphis local show all about the national day of prayer tomorrow. I’m not even hearing about interfaith. These broads are clearly rambling on specifically about Christianity and Jesus Christ. One chick actually has the balls to say “Memphis, with all its issues, is still a great place. We don’t have a Ferguson here or any other type of rioting going on. I truly believe it’s because of the power of prayer here.” WTF! That statement would have offended me even while I was a Christian. I wish I could flip the script on her and say “you’re clearly stating that your God doesn’t care about Ferguson. He, as usual, is playing favorites. Either he’s petty or you’re arrogant, or both. Which one is it?”


    • Hey Charity, hoping the interview went well. About the prayer thing, I am always disheartened that Christians don’t realize how insensitive or ignorant they come across when they say things like what you mentioned. Also, I wonder why the “power of prayer” hasn’t curtailed the violence in Memphis. The FBI’s crime report ranks Memphis as the second most violent city in the United States.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed, Victoria. We were number 3 just last year. I just thought it was such a smug and insensitive comment.She said it so “matter of fact” like.

        The ACLU told hubs that they will send him a few links to different groups/faiths. They said he is to contact them and they are to contact the school to inquire whether or not they are allowed to pass out their literature at the school. If not, we have a case. I told him that he needs to put the Satanic temple at the top of the list. They have a coloring book about Baphomet just for this reason alone.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yep, fair is fair. If the Judeo-Christian Bible is allowed to be handed out in public schools, so must the Qur’an and the Satanic Bible.

          Fucking idiots.


        • Oh, and much respect to you and Jim. Takes a lot of courage to stir up a bed of fire ants.


          • The school has done questionable stuff for years and we overlooked it for about 4 years post deconversion. This was just flat out crossing the line altogether!

            I don’t think that we’re brave as much as disgusted and worn down. I’m starting to think that not addressing some of these bigger issues these past few years have caused my triggers to build mementum. I think that’s why when something triggers me now I just let it loose.

            I had my first massage session a few days ago and I’m about to have another. The woman is an acquaintance and I was clear with her days before our first session that I suffer from childhood trauma and religious trauma. She told me she could help me with that tension. She briefly brought up RTS not long into our session. I calmly told her I just couldn’t talk about it yet. Later I said something positive about her work and she said. “I know you have had some issues but this is why the good Lord brought me in..” I snapped half naked on her table in my living room and said “NO! YOU DON’T DO THAT! YOU CAN’T SAY THAT TO ME!!” She shut up after she told me to relax. I very briefly told her about my recent TMJ specialist visit. She says “it’s that bad?” I firmly told her “Yes!” No more inquiries after that.


            • “and she said. “I know you have had some issues but this is why the good Lord brought me in..”

              So, is she a psychic for “the good Lord”? Perhaps the next time someone says that to you, Charity, you should ask them “how do you know this — are you psychic or just psychotic?”


              • I think she’s just a southern cultural Christian. I think it’s cocky for anyone to think that they’re on a mission from God. I knew where she’s coming from. There’s the implication that she’ll restore my faith in God. I may have been hurt but God sent her to me to make it right. Ugh small g. Damn phone. As if! Btw, she doesn’t know I’m an atheist.


                • I figured she was a Christian, cultural or otherwise. It’s just that so many of them act as though they are psychic — they are “in the know” about what their cultural god’s motives are on behalf of others.


                  • I just finished my second massage with her. It was so much better than my first one. I know I was horribly stressed with that one because it was my first one EVER.

                    I think a lot of what Christians say is just echos of what they’ve heard other/older Christians or spiritual leadership say. I also think it’s a defense mechanism because if they really thought about faith and all of that other stuff, they’d realize how horrible it all really is. As much as I love the idea of religion dying, I am concerned about all of the followers. What would happen to them? I went back and forth for two decades. I especially struggled the last two years. Think of a Christian who rarely questioned suddenly having the rug pulled out from under them. As much hell as some of them put me through, I still want better for them than what you and I experienced in the deconversion process.

                    My liberal therapist is awesome! She considers people like you and me as fighters. She also thinks that because of our passion for god at one time, we are passionate for the cause of others and ourselves now. She has a lot of respect for RTS survivors. She’s always telling me how proud she is of me.

                    I know, I bitch about religion, but I try not to distance myself so far from its followers that I forget that I was once like them. It’s a CONSTANT balancing act for me. It really is. All I know to do is breathe and take baby steps at this point. I’ve been abused and neglected for so long that I’m just trying to take care of me for now.

                    BTW, I’m wearing my insurance provider down. They’re at least trying to make deals with me. Nope, I want all that they should provide for me. And I shall have it.

                    Have a good night, Victoria. You are on my mind and I hope you are getting much rest.


                    • Personally, Charity, I don’t think there are a whole lot of Christians out there who take Christianity really seriously, even the fundamentalists. Those who do will be the ones whose neural circuity will reactivate after the bonding hormones significantly decrease due to the new information. They will take it hard — the ones who come to realize they were betrayed by their own culture from people they trusted — those who didn’t really take it all seriously, but indoctrinated others anyway, especially children.

                      About your massage, as I told you in an email, I’m so glad you’re getting them, and that you are finding benefits. As I also mentioned in an email, getting massages really helped me decompress during and shortly after deconversion.

                      Hope you have a good night, too, my friend. ❤

                      Liked by 1 person

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