I spent the first 17 years of my life being a Catcholic. At 17 I was brought into the non-denominational Christian culture and was "born again." I spent the last five years, then, meeting fellow Christians, exploring the different sects of Christianity, studying and writing worship music, and reading the Bible daily. In all of my times, both good and bad, I always believed that I had "god" looking out for me.
I was taught
- to be fully and completely dependent on him and nobody else.
- that if I was feeling anxious, I just wasn't trusting "him" enough.
- that if I was still single, then I had to wait for "him" to bring the right one in.
When I did start dating my secular humanist boyfriend, of course religion would come up frequently in our discussions. They were never heated discussions, though if we hit points of strong disagreement, I remember at times feeling that Christian mindset of, "Well, he doesn't believe, therefore he just doesn't understand."
Flast forward to the present -- I'm now a somewhat-closet agnostic who's skeptical of any sort of idea that cannot be grounded in reality with evidence. Though the transition out of religion has not been an easy one. When I was still a Christian, I would often tell my boyfriend, "If I didn't have "god," then I would have no purpose of living." But of course, Christians constantly brainwash each other to believe ideas, like how "god" is their everything, "god" is their life purpose, "god" is the reason they are alive.
What, then, would happen if you take "god" out of the equation?
When I stopped believing, I was amidst several huge transitions in my life -- starting my first, corporate full-time job, moving states, moving in with my boyfriend, being away from close family and friends for the first time. Add "losing religious identity" to that list, and you can bet I pretty much fell apart for a few months while trying to transition into my new life. I found myself breaking down regularly, being terrified of simple daily tasks such as driving due to my intensified fear of dying without the hope of a lifelong-promised "eternal life."
And purpose. Christianity, particualarly the hardcore, Bible-believing sects, drive the purpose of living for "god" and "god" alone deep into one's mind. Especially when you are preached to and "saved" during an extremely difficult emotional time (speaking from experience). Your source of hope, love, purpose, everything then comes from "god" and "god" alone.
Losing purpose was probably the hardest, and still is. It's only been about 6 months since my separation from religion. I still could not tell you what my purpose is.
During the initial stages of my deconversion, I would often tell my boyfriend and if it weren't for him, I doubt I would even be alive, that if anything ever happened to him, I would have no purpose of living. And then it dawned on me yesterday upon self-reflection of this thoughts, mostly past thoughts but sometimes recurring -- Christianity programmed my brain to have such a dependence on someone, something, else, that without it, I'm not sure I know how to be fully dependent on myself for once. I mean, I've never had to depend on myself. In fact, religion told me otherwise -- don't trust yourself because you're sinful; don't rely on yourself -- you need to let "god" have full control.
I remember once reading an article that equated a person's relationship with "god" with that of a human, significant other. For some reason, this complete dependence on an imaginary being is completely okay in today's culture, but complete dependence on another person is unhealthy. I mean, think about it. What if you knew someone whose boyfriend/girlfriend (let's call them Person A) treated their partner (Person B -- your friend) in the following ways:
- told Person B that they should not hang out with anyone outside of their way of thinking/religious way of life
- demanded Person B's constant and complete dependence on them
- demanded Person B's time, money (10% of every check, minimum), and even thoughts
- outlined a list of "do's" and "don't"s and would punish Person B (or deprive them of blessings) if they "disobeyed"
- constantly reminded Person B of their faults (aka sinful nature) and expecting them to "turn away" from several human tendences (being homosexual, having premarital sex, etc.),
- when Person B makes a mistake/falls to sin, Person A demands that they show "true repentance" in order to be taken back into their "loving graces." Otherwise they'll make their eternity a "living hell."
I could go on and on, but I think you catch my point.
It's no wonder my mind has reached the "dependent" depths it has -- it's been trained to do so my entire life.
I joke with my boyfriend, now that I am an agnostic, and say, "How did you even date me back then?" And he'll respond by saying, "Honestly I felt like your belief made you a victim and that it wasn't your fault." He also, knowing the depth of my belief, knew that if I ever did lose religion, it would be beyond difficult to overcome.
He was right.
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