My father was an extremist crackpot of a pastor, and I spent twelve years in christian schools (the last two years in a baptist school, the first ten in a church/school that regularly had Mr. Nutjob Lester Roloff come to preach for our chapel services).
Image by Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha via FlickrThe "fear of the Lord" was drummed into me nonstop. Like many other kids raised in this type of environment, I spent many nights lying awake in sheer terror, worried I would wake up and find that the rapture had taken place without me, or worried about the wrath of god coming down on me for some silly "sin" I had committed, etc...
By the time I was eighteen, I was regularly suffering from depression and anxiety that bordered on full blown paranoia. These conditions went untreated until I was well into my thirties. During these years, I put on an act when I was around people. I fancied myself a comedian, but most people would probably tell you I was just terribly obnoxious.
It was the time I spent alone that my christianity demons visited me. There were exuberant highs, crippling lows, and a never ending cycle of repentance/backsliding. My first visit to a psychiatrist was scary, simply because I knew I was betraying god by visiting one of the devil's priests.
The doctor put me on some meds which made me feel great...at first. Then there was an episode that put me out of work. Got back to work, but the problems didn't go away. Pretty soon, I was doing a completely different type of repentance/backsliding, namely going on meds when I got really bad, and going off them when I got better enough to be irked that they didn't completely "fix" me.
Eventually, I deconverted, which took care of the fear of an angry god. Unfortunately the depression and anxiety didn't go away. I went through a spell where I would come home from work, go straight to bed, and then stay there until I had to go back in (many times without even showering). Of course I wound up losing the job.
There were 3 trips to mental hospitals in rapid succession. There was a period of several months I was convinced I was being followed, and that anybody I ran across talking on a cellphone was letting someone else know where I was and what I was doing. There was depression so deep I would just sit and stare at a wall.
I have spent time in therapy groups, and now I pretty much recognize when my thoughts are getting whacko. They say self-talk is the way to deal with negative thoughts, but reassuring the logical part of your brain does little to rein in the apprehension the emotional part has to deal with. It doesn't stop the thoughts from popping back into your head nonstop over the course of several days either.
I guess the wisdom I have gained is this. You don't take a kid, not even one who doesn't have a family history of mental illness, and start drumming "fear of the lord" crap into his head from the time he can talk. Never mind whether the anxiety is caused by fundamental christianity, or whether it just makes it worse; if nothing else, it definitely teaches that problems of this kind are the result of some personal failing. It masks psych problems for years. Personally, though, I suspect many of my problems originated with the "we must always fear" indoctrination during the critical developmental periods of my childhood.
Me and christianity are through, and I took nothing good from it. Don't want no judgmental god, and that goes double if he's masquerading as a benign, loving liberal-minded jesus just so he can get his foot in the door.
I mock the very idea. Let him kiss my bloody arse.
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