Skip to main content

Escaped the cult, but not the programming

By tekHedd --

I think I'm over it now. I've had more than 25 years to work through issues, and when I started reading books and this site, I made a lot of progress healing in a short time.
Another Look at the Vatican's Large Bronze DoorImage by Storm Crypt via Flickr
At this point in my life, religion is more of a political issue than a personal problem. has been a big help in that respect, and I'm grateful (if cynicism hasn't entirely poisoned that word for you) to all of the people who have posted here. I thought I would share my pitiful little experience for what it's worth.

When you're brought up Christian, you can't entirely separate the religious brainwashing from the completely normal traumatic experience of being a child and having parents. You wash your hands after going to the toilet, you pray before you eat. And so as a child I definitely believed, but what does that mean? At that age you're still having nightmares and pulling the covers over your head for protection when you sleep. I knew there was no Santa, but that's because my parents are terrible liars...not so with God.

For me, getting rid of God was easy, but I'd retained the other programming!Mom is Lutheran and dad is Catholic. We went to the Episcopal church as a sort of compromise. Mom is the minister's daughter who never rebelled. I can see why, because grandpa was a complete saint. The one genuinely great person you'd ever expect to meet. A true believer to the core.

Somehow we still managed to look down on all those Baptists and other lesser churches, not to mention cults. And I believed it. Up to about the age of 12 I was definitely confident that I was better than the kids around me, some of whom were going to hell. They also listened to that rock and roll music, which has no musical value whatsoever. Yes, as a child you believe what you're told.

But I'm a skeptic. I'm probably vulnerable to the "never a true Christian" attack, because I was taught to think for myself and read books. I always had doubts. I hated Sunday School(TM) where we learned stupid fairy tales that obviously had nothing to do with morality. So maybe I never completely believed. I prayed really hard, but God never did anything. And again, so what? What if I never fell for the lie in the first place? Does that make it less of a lie? (This would be a good time to use the "you're an atheist because you are arrogant" attack.)

Going to church was not optional. I sang in the choir, which gave me something to do instead of being terribly bored. I also hated wearing the terribly uncomfortable polyester dress pants on Sunday. Why is it so important to dress in formal clothes for a god who is really only interested in what you believe inside? Church was interminable, and I pretty much spent my whole time in church staring at the girls.

Girls, my downfall! I was earnestly told not to touch myself, and that sex is bad, and that was pretty much the extend of sex ed. Oh, and that if you sin in your mind it's as if you've really done it. Well, that was pretty much the end of my faith right there! What kind of god makes you that crazily pumped up on hormones, and then tells you not to even think about it? The Problem of Evil's got nothing on the Problem of Sex(TM)! It was obvious to me that none of this made any sense whatsoever. So, yes. In a strictly literal sense, sex was my "downfall".

So this leaves me open to lame attack #3: "you are just an atheist because you want to live a sinful lifestyle". Guilty! If you define sin as "occasionally having sex and not feeling bad about it afterwards". But joking aside, that's not the real cause of my disbelief, it's just my first personal experience with the central problem of Christian philosophy. Why are we "corrupt" and God simply can't do anything about it? I didn't think in these terms back then, because I wasn't interested in winning an argument. I was satisfied with my own logic and that's enough for me.

Years and years later, I eventually told my parents--who have become increasingly pushy with the rise of right-wing intolerance. My mother apparently blames herself for my atheism, which may be partly true. After all, she did teach me to read. The endless evangelizing has forced me to read more about Christianity and religion in general. I never wanted to know any of these useful arguments--I don't really care what a "false dichotomy" is; I'm not a debater. But, no, I don't get a choice, do I? It's an endless stream of attacks--my very existence as a nonbeliever challenges their world view. Being an atheist has forced me to learn more about my former religion than I ever wanted to know.

There I was, in my late 30s, reading (of all things) the Golden Compass books--there is a passage that talks about about how the angels really would be blissfully happy if they just had bodies and were alive. And it registered with me: I have a body. I'm alive. Right now, right here, I'm experiencing life, and it's real. Afterlife, praying to an imaginary thing that never answers, this focus on the abstract hereafter has really colored my entire life. So, you see, in the end I did need spiritual guidance: I needed someone to tell me to wake up and live in the present.

For me, getting rid of God was easy, but I'd retained the other programming! "Pleasure in this world is not important, store up your riches in heaven. I should be humble, I shouldn't speak up, I'm not important. Work harder and avoid confrontation! It is wrong to enjoy any aspect of life. Anything pleasurable is probably a sin." It's enough to drive you to drink!

Considering the reason for my initial lack of faith, it's ironic. I'd rejected ridiculous constraints on behavior then, but accepted the equally ridiculous constraints on my emotions! I'm alive and free to en-joy it.

I think it's too late to save my parents, though.


Popular posts from this blog

Are You an Atheist Success Story?

By Avangelism Project ~ F acts don’t spread. Stories do. It’s how (good) marketing works, it’s how elections (unfortunately) are won and lost, and it’s how (all) religion spreads. Proselytization isn’t accomplished with better arguments. It’s accomplished with better stories and it’s time we atheists catch up. It’s not like atheists don’t love a good story. Head over to the atheist reddit and take a look if you don’t believe me. We’re all over stories painting religion in a bad light. Nothing wrong with that, but we ignore the value of a story or a testimonial when we’re dealing with Christians. We can’t be so proud to argue the semantics of whether atheism is a belief or deconversion is actually proselytization. When we become more interested in defining our terms than in affecting people, we’ve relegated ourselves to irrelevance preferring to be smug in our minority, but semantically correct, nonbelief. Results Determine Reality The thing is when we opt to bury our

So Just How Dumb Were Jesus’ Disciples? The Resurrection, Part VII.

By Robert Conner ~ T he first mention of Jesus’ resurrection comes from a letter written by Paul of Tarsus. Paul appears to have had no interest whatsoever in the “historical” Jesus: “even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, we know him so no longer.” ( 2 Corinthians 5:16 ) Paul’s surviving letters never once mention any of Jesus’ many exorcisms and healings, the raising of Lazarus, or Jesus’ virgin birth, and barely allude to Jesus’ teaching. For Paul, Jesus only gets interesting after he’s dead, but even here Paul’s attention to detail is sketchy at best. For instance, Paul says Jesus “was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” ( 1 Corinthians 15:4 ), but there are no scriptures that foretell the Jewish Messiah would at long last appear only to die at the hands of Gentiles, much less that the Messiah would then be raised from the dead after three days. After his miraculous conversion on the road to Damascus—an event Paul never mentions in his lette

Christian TV presenter reads out Star Wars plot as story of salvation

An email prankster tricked the host of a Christian TV show into reading out the plots of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Star Wars in the belief they were stories of personal salvation. The unsuspecting host read out most of the opening rap to The Fresh Prince, a 1990s US sitcom starring Will Smith , apparently unaware that it was not a genuine testimony of faith. The prankster had slightly adapted the lyrics but the references to a misspent youth playing basketball in West Philadelphia would have been instantly familiar to most viewers. The lines read out by the DJ included: "One day a couple of guys who were up to no good starting making trouble in my living area. I ended up getting into a fight, which terrified my mother." The presenter on Genesis TV , a British Christian channel, eventually realised that he was being pranked and cut the story short – only to move on to another spoof email based on the plot of the Star Wars films. It began: &quo


By David Andrew Dugle ~   S ettle down now children, here's the story from the Book of David called The Parable of the Bent Cross. In the land Southeast of Eden –  Eden, Minnesota that is – between two rivers called the Big Miami and the Little Miami, in the name of Saint Gertrude there was once built a church. Here next to it was also built a fine parochial school. The congregation thrived and after a multitude of years, a new, bigger church was erected, well made with clean straight lines and a high steeple topped with a tall, thin cross of gold. The faithful felt proud, but now very low was their money. Their Sunday offerings and school fees did not suffice. Anon, they decided to raise money in an unclean way. One fine summer day the faithful erected tents in the chariot lot between the two buildings. In the tents they set up all manner of games – ring toss, bingo, little mechanical racing horses and roulette wheels – then all who lived in the land between the two rivers we

Morality is not a Good Argument for Christianity

By austinrohm ~ I wrote this article as I was deconverting in my own head: I never talked with anyone about it, but it was a letter I wrote as if I was writing to all the Christians in my life who constantly brought up how morality was the best argument for Christianity. No Christian has read this so far, but it is written from the point of view of a frustrated closeted atheist whose only outlet was organizing his thoughts on the keyboard. A common phrase used with non-Christians is: “Well without God, there isn’t a foundation of morality. If God is not real, then you could go around killing and raping.” There are a few things which must be addressed. 1. Show me objective morality. Define it and show me an example. Different Christians have different moral standards depending on how they interpret the Bible. Often times, they will just find what they believe, then go back into scripture and find a way to validate it. Conversely, many feel a particular action is not

Why I left the Canadian Reformed Church

By Chuck Eelhart ~ I was born into a believing family. The denomination is called Canadian Reformed Church . It is a Dutch Calvinistic Christian Church. My parents were Dutch immigrants to Canada in 1951. They had come from two slightly differing factions of the same Reformed faith in the Netherlands . Arriving unmarried in Canada they joined the slightly more conservative of the factions. It was a small group at first. Being far from Holland and strangers in a new country these young families found a strong bonding point in their church. Deutsch: Heidelberger Katechismus, Druck 1563 (Photo credit: Wikipedia ) I was born in 1955 the third of eventually 9 children. We lived in a small southern Ontario farming community of Fergus. Being young conservative and industrious the community of immigrants prospered. While they did mix and work in the community almost all of the social bonding was within the church group. Being of the first generation born here we had a foot in two