5/05/2012 | Share this article:By Has-Been ~
I was enamored of the egalitarian ideals embodied in the teachings of one Jesus of Nazareth. I started reading the bible when I was eleven on my own and accepted what was in there at face value because it was the foundation of the religion to which I was born. I didn't focus on the condemnation but the hope. I believed the ideal of peace and tried to live it. In a world as crazy as this one that was no mean feat. Unfortunately it also left me rather alone as my family was somewhat dysfunctional and my friends weren't friends. I have heard some talk about the instant community for believers. That may be entirely true for adults but for a 16-year-old it is hell.
Thanks to my dysfunctional family I had low self-esteem. I managed to make it to college before I began to have a mental meltdown. I just didn't have the belief in myself to make it work. I ran into a guy from "The Way International" in a laundromat. We talked. Then we talked about religion. I thought I had found a home.
The next four years I spent a lot of time studying the bible in ways I never had before under the teachings of "The Way". At first I didn't get many warning signs. Things for the most part seemed normal. Except for a church that preached that all were welcome and could be healed by the power of Christ they were awfully afraid of taking on anyone who wasn't already at least leaning toward belief.
I partook of their "Word over the World" program in 1983 and wound up in Wisconsin. I will say this if nothing else: Wisconsin was the perfect place for me at that time. A unique confluence of occurrences set in motion my release from delusion. The first was how they tried to manipulate us. Especially as WOW ambassadors we were expected to serve at functions and basically were free labor for the church hierarchy. To be honest that didn't bother me so much but U began to notice that I was only included when I fell in line with everything I was told to do. Any time I questioned or hesitated I was marginalized. I recognized it as manipulation but still I considered it a human fallacy and continued as I was. It got worse. Then came the incident that broke the illusion.
As WOW's we were supposed to bring in new people in the hopes that they too would see the light. I had been hanging around with some guys who were friends. I Became their friend. Their lives mostly revolved around drugs but as I was not averse to smoking weed that didn't strike me as a problem. One of them really did need a sense of belonging somewhere. He showed interest in our fellowship. I brought him to a meeting. The entire meeting they spent trying to get him to take the bible study class they offered for a fee of course. When he said he wasn't interested well their interest disappeared too. So did their attitude. Suddenly something I had taken to be a figment of my imagination became very real to me: This was all about the money.
I like to say I went looking for god and what I found was a group of men standing around a cardboard cutout with the name god written on it. They all had their hands out.
For me there was no lingering pain. There was no withdrawal. There was however anger as I realized that all the Abrahamic religions, and very possibly all religions were about power and control. I was angry at the deception and angry at the years I had wasted on this delusion.
I spent the next ten years in a quest for reality. I used many drugs many times. I studied people. I finally realized there is no meaning. There is no rhyme or reason. There is only the meaning we give to life. What is in our hearts. I still remember the teachings of one Jesus Of Nazareth and I still respect their message. I help people when I can with the knowledge I gained on my journey. I feel that is the best thing we can do in this life: look out for each other. A radical concept to be sure, but one of which I am sure Jesus would have approved.
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