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Tag: christianity

Preparing A Visionary Daughter to Do Hard Things (Written in 2010)

When I was 19 I had the opportunity to write out…basically my life story and post it to a website with a lot of readers. It helped me start processing my life and was the catalyst for rethinking all the things I was taught and starting to see my abuse for what it was. I’ve requested the author of the site to take the articles down because I feel the site no longer represents or seeks to aid survivors of abuse like mine – but I still feel like my story – though I have grown and changed massively in the last six years – is important and can maybe still help people like me. So I’m posting it here. It was originally published in 6 parts, but I’m posting it in one fell swoop with handy navigation.

This was my start. I was just out of my parents house and still talking to them, facing a world of unknowns, and clinging to religion and the hope of a healthy family. Where I was then is still important, because it gave me the courage to become who I am now.

  1. Big Girls Don’t Feel
  2. Maintaining Appearances
  3. Critical Thinking
  4. Growing Up
  5. Waking Up
  6. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

 

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On Death (and life)

Cynthia touched on it in the first part of her post “Freeing Self-Deceived Fundamentalists“. My family has glorified death for a really long time. I remember Columbine, like she was talking about – being something almost revered – not remotely tragic. When things were shitty(-er than normal) or if I was making a life choice my mom didn’t agree with she would say “well the end times are coming and we’ll be raptured soon [so we won’t have deal with XYZ]”. Going to heaven was all my parents really cared about, they instilled a sense of life being almost useless into me, unintentionally.

Why bother living here when life will be so much better after you die?

When parents neglect or kill their children because they think god told them to or that they’re saving them.

When parents talk about how brave Abraham was for almost murdering Isaac.

When I remember that my parents coped with my two still-born siblings by talking about how lucky they were that they got to be in heaven while we had to suffer on earth…

I used to be afraid, or worried sometimes……..that something like that would happen. That “god” would tell my parents to murder us, and they would. Or that I would be murdered (martyred) because I was a (true) christian in America, and I WOULD look down that gun barrel at columbine and say “Jesus will save me” or “Get behind me satan” or whatever clever bible phrase I could come up with before my imminent death.

And my parents wouldn’t mourn – they’d talk about how much better off I was dead than alive, how everyone needs to be a christian so they can wait out their miserable existence and go to paradise.

It’s really depressing thinking about it. But it explains a lot about why, I guess, I’ve rarely been afraid of dying and have always just been kinda nonchalant about it.

It’s not a good thing, because it adds intensity to depression: why bother living, anyway? Now that I don’t believe in god and don’t believe that suicide would nullify my non-existent salvation.

But when I was a child…

The emphasis my parents put on dying and going to heaven always bothered me.

It was like they were SO READY for our lives to be over.

They didn’t want to live.

They communicated that living was a waste of time. After all, we’re citizens of heaven, not earth, so why care about the world?

And that always fucked with me because I wanted to live, and I felt guilty for wanting to live, fully, and make the most of my time and help people while I was here, and even, (gaspenjoy my life here. Because some part of me understood that being here mattered, even though I didn’t – and sometimes still don’t – know why.

I was so hurt when my mom would rather I die/be raptured than marry my spouse. She said, hopefully, that Jesus would probably come back before I even had that chance.

I can’t explain to you with words how much that messes with a person. When your parents whole life revolves around the end of their, yours, and everyone else’s life………when rapture is the answer to things that you don’t like…and pretend like everyone who wants to live and love now is silly because obviously they should just be working on getting into heaven.

Everything my parents do is motivated by being the best christians so they get all the heavenly kudos.

I think my parents were really really depressed.

And I think that messed with me in a lot of ways, too.

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Introducing Don’t Panic[k]: Life Beyond The Kitchen Table

I had this idea several months ago, about making a site that’s basically just a compilation of advice, thoughts, and resources for people just leaving/graduating the world of homeschooling and religious fundamentalism.

It takes a lot of work and energy to find resources for life in the real world when you don’t even really know how or where to start, which is kinda why I liked the idea of Don’t Panic[k]. I hope to grow it, with the help of people from similar backgrounds submitting resources and articles and ideas, into something useful for people just leaving their parents kitchen table.

So check it out, share it, submit ideas/resources/etc if you have any, and don’t panic (you’ve got this).

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Giving Too Much

Ever since my family became devout, they became regular tithers and givers. Before I go further, I should point out there is nothing wrong with giving as long as that giving isn’t negatively affecting your life (or that of your kids/family).

Which, I realized somewhat recently is the case with my own family.

They started out giving 10% (the actual biblical definition of a tithe) all the time. Then, they realized that wasn’t enough, and “god told them” to give more and more and more until the last time I remember was them “tithing” 50-60% of their income and waffling with  giving more, because their faith, at one point, wasn’t strong enough to give 70% because they had hungry mouths to feed.

When I was 10, my family chose to allow our house to be foreclosed on because “god told them” to pay another families’ mortgage, and when my parents couldn’t financially afford to pay both, they decided (knowing full-well the consequences) to stop paying their mortgage instead, trusting that “god would provide” a way to keep our house, or a new place for us to live.

“god’s provision” happened at the hand of my grandparents who noticed the building next door was for rent and the landlords weren’t picky about having a family who’s house had just been foreclosed on (every other place my parents looked turned them down), renting from him. This happened the day we had to be out of our foreclosed-on house and we were looking at being homeless.

My parents refused to pay their mortgage and take care of their family because “god told them” to do that for someone else. 

Not to mention, at this time, we had another family living with us because my parents believed god brought them into our lives so this woman could get her children back from CPS.

Because my large family + this additional family who my parents payed to live with us, so she could homeschool her kids but still say she “had a job” were moving in to this house, my brother’s room was a closet, literally, he lived in a closet. My sister’s all roomed in a portion of the master suite my dad partitioned off from their room, and I shared a room with the other families’ eldest daughter, and the rest of her family had the separated off room/bathroom combination. At one point their cousin came to live with us too, and he slept on the floor outside my room, in the dining room.

My parents didn’t really mind the fact that this mother was taking as much advantage of me as my mother until I had a breakdown one day and they decided everyone should do chores and cooking, not just me. Eventually, my family had to ask the family they invited to live with us for free to leave, because the mother had started abusing pharmaceuticals again after regaining custody (which was part of the reason she lost custody of her kids initially).

At some point between these two events my parents did stop paying the other families’ mortgage, I think because they found out and asked them to stop (how they didn’t know, I don’t know, I was a kid,  this was all foreign to me).

This whole time my parents have been tithing more and more – by the time we moved to GA to live in the house my grandparents bought for their retirement, my parents were tithing close to 50% of their income. After my dad found a job that payed significantly less than the one he had previously, they tithed 50-60% of their income, fully believing that “god would provide” and by refusing to acknowledge that my grandparents are the reason we had a house, food, and shoes that fit, “god” did provide.

There were multiple times, aside from being forced out of our house, that I was worried if we’d even be able to eat, and I remember my mom talking to my grandma, and at one point, there was a series of weeks where my grandparents paid for an Angel Food subscription for us because we couldn’t afford groceries.

At birthdays, and even in-between them my grandparents would buy us new shoes and clothes (which was always really nice because most of what we wore was hand-me-downs from pitying church folk, or old clothes of mine passed down to my sisters) because, really, we couldn’t afford a lot of that either – at least not at the rate that 8 kids grow. I think it was a relief to them when I stopped growing at 15, and had only grown an inch or two between then and age 12 (stunted at the I-can-still-technically-shop-in-the-kids-section size – I’ve since grown curves, so, yay?).

But you know what we could afford? buying and donating a shit ton of everything to the Crisis Pregnancy Center, throwing extravagant donation-only christmas parties, putting together lavish packages for the Shoebox/Samaritan’s Purse group, making a ton of cookies and buying presents for everyone in church (and only keeping the cookies that didn’t come out right for ourselves after slaving in the kitchen for a week), putting together care packages for nursing homes, buying presents and making gift baskets for the entire neighborhood, and since I’ve left: creating the most elaborate easter baskets for all of the church kids (but my siblings only get the $1 chocolate and whatever is cheap and on sale or left over).

My family gets the short end of the stick because they have to support 6 kids-at-home on 40-50% of whatever my dad makes. Everything else goes to churches, people (projects), and random “ministries”, in the name of “god”.


I remember having long devotions about tithing and how you have to tithe to be a good christian (also, the more you give the better christian you are), and how if you don’t tithe, your life will be horrible and “god won’t bless it”.

I’d heard so often that if things aren’t done X way, then your life will be bad. Given my already hellish childhood, when I was a teenager I was actually scared of what would happen when I left home.

I was afraid that I would have to live my childhood all over again, on my own, but worse, because god would be after me, specifically.

Part of the reason I didn’t want to get married for so long was because I couldn’t imagine having to go back and make all the decisions my parents made and live through that all over again.

When Alex and I were getting serious I tried to get him to promise me that we would always tithe. Because if we didn’t, I knew that there would be horrible consequences – because my family was “so blessed” and doing everything right, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if we didn’t. 

I couldn’t imagine how dire the consequences of not tithing would be, after living my entire life in a house that was so other-centric it neglected their own children’s needs. I thought it would be a nightmare. I was just so so afraid of what would happen if I left home, if I didn’t tithe, if I didn’t live exactly the way my parents did, because I knew what that was like and I hoped that eventually it would get better – that they would get their 100 fold, and everything wouldn’t be so scary.

I was terrified at the thought of having to walk that path again, myself, starting from square one.


As an adult now, and learning how the world works…I was lied to so much, and so much fear was ingrained that was completely baseless. Never once have I had any cause to be legitimately worried about food (not to say that I haven’t, because an empty fridge is a huge trigger even if it just because we ate out all week instead of shopping), never once has my life been anywhere near as hellish and scary as it was in my childhood.

“god” has not come after me like the mafia for “his money”, and I have a lot more satisfaction giving what I can to who I want, than giving more than is financially wise to whatever church I’m in that day.

My family could have, at any time, started paying their mortgage, or maybe cut-back on tithe for a month so we could eat. Instead, my family decided to bring financial crises upon themselves because they thought “god told them” and it made them better christians. 

 

And that’s really all that it’s about, isn’t it?

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Out of the (agnostic) closet (and into the fire?)

This has been coming to a head and swirling around for some time and I just need to let it out now:

I. Don’t. Believe. In. God. Any. More.

For so many reasons.

One, I became a christian entirely out of fear. I was terrified of going to hell. I can’t mesh staying in a religion that preaches damnation, operates on fear, and then tells you, simultaneously, to not be afraid of nuthin – because perfect love casts out all fear. I can’t balance that paradox.

Pascals gamble is so so flawed. Pascals gamble is not a reason to become or remain a christian and when I realized that the only thing keeping me in christianity, was fear (and if it’s true I win everything, if it’s false I lose nothing, but if I’m wrong, I’m screwed – fear tactic 101), I realized that living completely in fear of everything, was stupid and not a way to live and certainly not a way any deity I’d want to follow would want me to live.

Two, I can’t take the non-answers, the cliches, the culture, the holier-than-thou, and the unacknowledged hate that pervades much of christianity. I KNOW not all christians are like that (duh), but the truth is – since I stopped living as though I had to be The Most Holy Human, I’ve become a better person. I’ve become more empathetic and compassionate and I can actually be myself – because I don’t have to repress all of the things that may or may not be heaven dealbreakers.

And I have to believe that a truly loving god would want that – not for the people he created to live in constant fear, to live not fully, or to live as shells to save face.

Three, a long time ago, I wrote about how christianity is about love. I feel very deeply that it’s what it should be about (more accurately, that’s what any religion should be about), but from discussions with other people (outside and inside the comment section) it’s clear that it’s not. Christianity is about sin, it’s about being worthless and trying to get better to be worthy of heaven even though you don’t have to do anything but believe to get your pass. The True Christians alter their lives and personalities and values completely to be the best christian they can be, worthy of heaven, because being a christian means you’ll want to change like that.

There are so many contradictory things within the message of christianity that I just can’t take anymore.

Jesus loves you as you are; you are broken and worthless and need to change to bring glory to god.
God loves us all equally; but if you're not straight you're going to hell.
Jesus elevated women; but SHUT THE FUCK UP AND STAY HOME AND HAVE NO PERSONHOOD SO SAITH GOD.
Men and women are equal; men must rule the women, and women must submit to the men, for the glory of god.

There are so many.

Four, I couldn’t deal with worshipping someone who cursed women with pain for half of their life (and then MANDATED them to have all the babies) and told men: hey, look out for the thorns on those roses, oh, and, it’ll be hot tomorrow. And people wonder why I have issues.

Five, so Jesus’ remains weren’t in the tomb (oh yeah, I’ve read ALL the apologetics books, and I went to apologetics camp, briefly practiced competing in apologetics), that actually proves very little. But what’s to say that the other gods aren’t real (the bible never says no other gods exist, just that this god is a jealous bitch and you better only like him)? All religions have things in common and all religions (for the most part) think that their way is The Only Way (TM) and  who’s to say? I can give you all the meaningless pat answers I learned as a teenager (which basically equates to: But it IS true), but those get old and don’t hold much weight – at least not for me, not for right now.

Lest you assume I jumped into deconversion haphazardly, let me assure you – no, I struggled with this for a long time. It’s HARD to leave christianity, it’s HARD to even be THOUGHT of as having LEFT christianity, it’s harder still to ADMIT to having left christianity because, by the time I hit publish on this, any semblance of normal relationships I had with other christians is going to go down the drain. They’ll tell me how easy it is to not believe, but it’s not true. It’s HARD and it’s hard knowing the fallout – knowing I will suddenly become a project, or a black sheep – knowing that the thread of personhood I had with them will be eradicated.

It’s HARD not having excuses for your behavior (because god), it’s HARD not having someone you can point to to get people to stop pestering you about your life (because god), it’s HARD suddenly not having a handy little good christian girl’s guide to life and living. It’s HARD having to own my decisions, my behavior and my path.

What’s nice, is not having a massive guilt complex every time I think someone may not share my faith, what’s nice is not having to not take bread with those people because they don’t match my version of christianity and may be corrupting influences, what’s nice is being autonomous and being me and not living in fear that if I am myself (the way god, apparently, made me) that I’ll be doomed to eternal torment.

But what about the afterlife? what about heaven and hell?

Honestly, I don’t really care. I want to love as many people as I can, and live as fully as I can while I’m here. If I do that, then I’ve lived a good life, I don’t care what happens next. I take comfort in the thought of nothingness (which I know, bothers a lot of people), I’m fine with the idea of just ceasing. If I’m wrong and I go to “hell”, well, hey, it was worth it to be able to live.

Comments are on, but if you start preaching at me, being concerned at me, or generally overreacting and being a dick, I’ll delete it. I know where to find all the answers you’ll try to give, and I’ve gone through them all. Nothing you can do or say is going to change anything – I have no qualms about your religion and I’m not going to try and de-convert you or stop you from talking about it, but don’t try and shove it down my throat.

 

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I have something to say

I have a story to tell, a story that’s been hanging over my head for months and I haven’t said anything out of fear and now I just need to release it so I can feel better.

This summer, I was cornered by people I trust – put into a situation against my will that triggered an onslaught of PTSD, flashbacks, and sent me back into the past where I was 16 years old, sitting on a couch, being berated and interrogated and told I was a horrible person.  

I’ve been dealing with the psychological and emotional fallout of that since – it’s gotten better over the last month or two, but for what felt like an eternity, I couldn’t write, draw, or even use my voice for fear of it happening again.

I forgot I was an autonomous adult because the situation sent me back to a place where I was powerless, because the people who cornered me kept calling me back every time I tried to escape, because I was already in the middle of a tunneling flashback, I shutdown, which for me looks like this:

 become robotic and stoic, I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore, because I just became a shell running on autopilot, giving the answers that they want to hear as best I can without giving away more than I am comfortable with. Sitting calmly, listening to my accusers, showing no emotion, giving reasoned answers, trying to end the interrogation as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, I am hiding somewhere in a cave warding off nausea, panic attacks, and tears. Somewhere they can’t see. Because I can’t let them see, it’s not safe to let them see that I’m bothered, that will validate their point.

I am well practiced at this. I spent my childhood perfecting this response. This is what my fight or flight looks like, because I was never allowed to express emotions or explode at my parents. 

Note: if I ever become stoic, cold, and reasoned during a discussion that is uncomfortable, I am not there. In general, I can’t talk about anything in any other way than passionately or emotionally.

When that finally ended, I was sick. We went to the lighthouse – as far away from the cottage as we could – and I curled into a fetal position and bawled and screamed for what felt like an hour.

I can’t really put into words all of the ways it hurt. My mind is a minefield and they tripped on all of them. Everything exploded in a dozen different directions – trying to figure out how much is PTSD and flashbacks from the past, how much of it happened, how to deal with the feelings of betrayal from people who “are just concerned”. Even writing about it now, almost 4 months later brings back all of the complicated feelings that are still a tangle of wires.

I made a point not to give them answers to their questions, and in the process a lot of very hurtful things were said and assumed in their own right.

I threw up all night that night, after everyone went to bed, assuming I was fine.

I told them it was food poisoning, but I lied. It wasn’t food poisoning, but I didn’t want to deal with more questions and “worry” and weird apologies-that-aren’t-apologies when I just wanted to be left alone. I am good, too good even, at telling people what they want to hear – often at the expense of myself and my own preferences. You could say I was trained to do so.

I was asked questions about my lifestyle and faith from a place of fear and worry, I was asked who my friends were and if they were christian (because you don’t want to get answers from the wrong places and they didn’t know who I was friends with). As if I were a 14 year old starting high school with friends doing drugs and they (complete outsiders!) were entitled to know.

At various points, even on autopilot, I did somehow find enough mental capacity to reiterate that I am an adult and I don’t have to tell them anything and I have no obligation to them. I’m proud of that.

They admitted(?) I wasn’t obligated to tell them anything as they continued to pry and confirm whether or not I am indeed a christian (or good person) and tell me that I should have come to them with questions (they don’t know where I’m getting answers!) because they’re pastors and know all of the things.

But the thing is, I didn’t have questions – I knew the answers, and ganging up on me, forcing me into a conversation and berating me, making wild assumptions and accusations and saying things that just show how misguided and misinformed they are about the world and how it works doesn’t make me want to talk.

I didn’t expect to have to deal with this kind of situation as an adult, I wasn’t prepared to feel trapped, again, and the fact that it happened bothers me.

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Depression and Spiritual Abuse

Looking back, it’s no wonder that all of the feelings and self loathing that lead to my depression, brought depression. I was taught that I was worthless, that I should never think well of myself, that I needed to be humble, I was never allowed to show any emotion that was not a plastic smile. Perfection was constantly demanded, and perfection is what I was incapable of. I am, and was keenly aware of my failings, of the places I don’t measure up, where I don’t meet parental wishes or requirements – those were held over my head, brought up in arguments to coerce me further into being my family’s slave.

I remember times when my parents would sit there and berate me for hours (under the guise of “concern” and wanting to “help my [spiritual] walk”) and tell me that because I missed doing laundry one day, misheard or misunderstood a demand, that I was a bad sister, a person going down a path of destruction, away from god, if I kept up this “rebellious” attitude.

I remember being bragged about to people (when convenient) only to be later pulled aside in private and told to shape up. I remember dismissal and invisibility. I was a pawn, a tool, a broom. I related strongly to cinderella and everyone thought it was cute, but they didn’t realize that I felt as worthless as the dirt she was mopping. That I believed I WAS as worthless as the dirt she was mopping – to know and be told in actions that I am only loved and approved of when I DO things in a certain way, with a certain demeanor regardless of feeling, ill, tired, or stressed. When I was imperfect (as all humans are) I was punished – verbally, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, mentally. I internalized their words of my failures and believed that I was a failure, who didn’t deserve any good.

This was not aided by the fact that my family explicitly believed and taught that it was better to live a life of suffering (by gods hand, of course) than to live a happy life. That god did not want us to be happy (and by unspoken extension, wanted us to be miserable or persecuted).

It’s no wonder that between the bullying because of my imperfections, and the toxic theology of my parents, that I internalized at the most impressionable ages, my total and utter worthlessness and the only way to deal with that, was to hate myself as much as I perceived I needed to be. It’s no wonder that it escalated. It’s no wonder I shut down, became numb, stopped feeling, and felt robotic. It’s no wonder I was and at times still am, utterly ashamed of being a woman (someone who is less because of different anatomy)*.

*by people like my parents, the tendency of republicans in positions of power, and people who perpetuate the theology of “equal but different” where differences justify belittling.

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