Monday, March 5, 2012

Deconstructing Religion


When I write I see my father in me, especially when I feel angry about an injustice. He used to write letters to people with whom he was angry. I was afraid of my father. So afraid I ran away from home when I was sixteen after he had predicted my death.
 
Well, I outlived my father. He died in 1993 and that is when I began therapy. My father could no longer hurt me, I reasoned.
 
Except that I had internalized his horrific teachings. Almost twenty years later I look back to see how being a terrorized child had produced a terrorized adult.
 
Religion was the key. Everything in the Bible was true and would have a literal application, according to him. And ever since I was little, Armageddon was on its way—any day. God was watching me and I could never be perfectly obedient, after all, I was an imperfect human. Surely I was one who would be destroyed at Armageddon by such a punishing god. He was at least as fearful as my father, but way more powerful, after all he was god.
  
I left the family religion in the year 2000 and have been slowly dismantling the belief system ever since. Religious beliefs are among the most dangerous beliefs because I felt powerless against such religiously-induced terrors.
  
I needed a plan. Move far away and get a job. Then get involved in something I loved. For me, it was dancing.
  
My first breakthrough occurred when I moved out of the province and away from the prying eyes of the religious community I left. Three provinces away were about right.
  
But how functional could I be, having been raised a terrorized child with a god who watched my every move, waiting for me to slip up.
 
I had been set up to fail, I realized. This is the point where many ex-Jehovah's Witnesses self-destruct. Some have nowhere to turn, so they commit suicide. I; however, was determined to succeed.
  
The task ahead was to deconstruct my belief system, one terror at a time, until I could function as a normal human being. No therapist could help me because most of them did not understand the concept of how religions operate—in the name of god—leaving their flock full of disempowered victims in the wake of their fear-based beliefs. Sadly, many therapists are in awe of religion. Even worse, many therapists are terrorized by religion, just like me.
  
I met a wise woman of First Nations descent. I have been spending time with her. Her courage in the face of religion has emboldened me to stand up. "Stand in your power," she told me many times. What does that mean, exactly? What works for me these days? She speaks what I call "simple truths" which are undisputable. I just know in my heart and soul the truth of her words.
  
"We are all human." Who can dispute that? We are all equal as humans, even the JW elders in suits who judged my faith as defective. Humans do not have a right to treat one another disrespectfully, by pretending they are superior.
  
I figure the world is divided along religious lines, with each religion thinking it is the only "true" religion. With a belief system like that, it keeps the world divided. Perhaps the powers that be prefer all of us to be in a divided state. It prevents ones from standing up for our self or for a cause. The "Occupy" movement is one such example, where the government could just move in with an army and shut the movement down. People are conditioned to "obey authority." People gave the government their power, after all.
  
So, here I am writing down my thoughts, gaining clarity, and healing my religious wounds inflicted in childhood.
  
"Create a 'sacred ceremony' that has personal meaning," the First Nations woman said. "It provides connection to your sense of the Divine." So, I selected a low wooden table that I could sit at and meditate. I light a candle, rub a stone, listen to some music, or bang on a drum—and all kinds of great ideas come to me—ideas that break down the religious childhood fears and help me to live as a grown-up, to face my daily challenges and let go of all the fears.
  
"Love yourself, be gentle with yourself—the lesson of the deer," is another beneficial teaching I have learned. I read Ted Andrews books and feel connected to the earth and my surroundings. This helps to heal the isolation I felt after being judged harshly, subsequently disfellowshipped, and rejected by a religious community—supposedly being "thrown out into the dark" discarded like so much garbage. Religious instruction is all about "doing more" and "giving till it hurts." That is not how I choose to live. I like the concept of being gentle. Staying in bed on Saturday morning feels positively luxurious after the years I spent as an unpaid marketing agent, door-knocking, looking for converts for the Jehovah's Witnesses.
  
Deconstructing my belief system, proving to myself there is a better way to live, has given me the courage to pursue healthy new avenues. Activities that provide pleasure, rather than produce pain are preferable every time!
  
I feel safe now to thank my father for the lessons he taught. I will take what serves my highest interest and I will leave the fear behind.

Visit "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir. Follow on Twitter: _Phoenixoffaith Copyright © 2012. Permission is granted to copy and re-distribute this transmission on the condition that it is distributed freely.

7 comments:

  1. How sad it is that you have had to endure such pain. I am grateful that you are exorcising that pain and that the pleasures of life are slowly beginning to overtake the pain.

    I am also grateful that I was encouraged as a child to believe in myself and feel that I could accomplish anything I put my heart to. EVERY child should have that opportunity.

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    1. Thanks for your kind comment, Doreen. Yes, I agree wholeheartedly with you that EVERY child deserves the opportunity to be and do ANYTHING they choose!

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  2. You make me confidant that the path that i chose for my life is the right one. I left the religion very early at 12 and never looked back. I never felt guilty as all the facts you said about it are true. i smile and knod when my parents talk about it, just to humour them. After all i love them and know that , unfortunatley, it is all they know. I know better, I know how to enjoy my life and give and recieve love. I thank my sister for alot of that , she showed me that there is a better way to live your life.
    I am so happy to see you have laid it all out there for the world to see. I want you to know that i am so proud to call you my cousin.
    Thank you for letting the world know your story.

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    1. Thanks for writing, Tricia. I appreciate hearing your clear-headed view of the situation. Writing is an important aspect of educating those who care to know. People have a choice these days to choose healthier ways to live, thankfully. I intend to keep writing and speaking my truth!

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  3. Very few people will deny you the truth of your experience. Bravo for bringing it to public awareness. Lots of people, however, have had a positive experience of religion, and may even stay with the faith group they were born into. On the other hand, many people nowadays see the situation as a conflict between science and religion. Indeed, some folk reject religion in favour of scientific empiricism (SE). SE, atheism and materialism are, to me, pretty stony places to live, with nothing to say about soul, the purpose of a human life, authentic miracles, dreams and ideas, etc. You seem to have changed your faith to one which is positive and healthier, rather than to outright rejection of all religion. Good. So be it. Fundamentally every human is entitled to his/her own unique faith journey, and nobody is entitled to interfere with that. Parents have to leave their offspring to their own individual journeys once they have reached mid/late teen years. There is an interesting account of a debate at Oxford University between an exponent of atheism and the leader of the Anglican church on Reuters news service:

    http://blogs.reuters.com/john-lloyd/2012/02/28/god-richard-dawkins-and-the-meaning-of-life/

    There are many religions. The ones that try to control you, squeeze you for more money, and snuff out doubt or open-minded scepticism, are the ones that likely contain less "Truth", and certainly are the ones to avoid.
    Cheers!

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  4. The part of your comment that concerns me is the following:

    "Parents have to leave their offspring to their own individual journeys once they have reached mid/late teen years."

    Much psychological damage can be done in the formative years. How many parents use the fear of god to terrorize their children into obedience and submission? Very disempowering to a child. I believe that children need to grow up feeling loved, safe and supported --- NOT terrorized.

    Thank you for your comment, Anonymous. You certainly are entitled to your opinions.

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  5. One more comment to Anonymous about religion:
    It seems I have rejected organized religion, where beliefs are squeezed into one tiny box where everyone believes the same---they must! I will not allow myself to be squeezed into a religious box again---a new choice I now make supports life, love, freedom of choice and expression. More blogs that explain my reasoning may be found at http://hey-whichwayisup.blogspot.com/search?q=church

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