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Religious Indoctrination: The Good Old Days in the Bible Belt

By Marty Hamrick --

A big thanks to the creators of this site. I grew up in the heart of the Bible Belt southeastern US. My parents were very popular gospel singers who had a local TV show that aired in the Charleston, SC area in the 1950's and 60's so I grew up on the BUSINESS end of fundamentalist Christianity.

My story is too lengthy to go into here, but suffice to say that even though I was never physically abused or sexually molested, religious indoctrination was a big part of life.

At the time I was growing up in the 60's and 70's, fundy religion controlled everything from business practices (think Blue Laws) to education. It was an odd dichotomy to have an education standard that in many ways was very high (Language Arts and Math were big in the schools I attended, though Science was severely lacking) and in other ways stuck in the Dark Ages. I remember once in 3rd grade, we had a series of studies called SRA, forget what it stood for, but it was educational material that dealt with all subjects and one science packet had a chart that showed the ascent of man. I remember that myself and several other boys caught a glimpse of the chart and one said, "Cool, ape men." A teacher's aid quickly hid the chart away and we were told that the SRA packet was the wrong one and had been sent to our school by mistake. I would not see anything in public school that mentioned evolution until my senior year in high school and then only superficially( we had a brief mention of it in 7th grade and the local church groups had a fit about it, so that was crushed as well). Later that night, I mentioned the chart to my sister, who is 5 years older than myself and she turned milk white and told our mom about it ,who quickly told us that this chart was a lie and we were to forget all about it.

As the son of gospel singers who traveled all over the southeastern US playing churches of various denominations, I was exposed to all of fundy Christianity's many versions of insanity from mellow soft sell Baptists to tongue talking Pentacostalists. I remember during one performanance at the First Pentacostal Church of Mt.Pleasant, SC, my parents were playing a particularly fast song ( I think the title was "He will set your fields on fire," a tune made famous by Bill Monroe) a middle-aged man jumped up and began rolling in the aisle like he was having a seizure, and I was puzzled as to why no one was calling an ambulance to a man who obviously needed it. When I asked my parents about the incident, they told me that it was normal for them and they called it being "slain in the spirit." I was about 10 at the time and became convinced that these people were mentally ill.

I don't know if I ever really believed in the madness, though at various times in life I tried. AS Will Smith once said in a movie, "I have a strong allergy to bullshit"so that's probably why it never took on me. The indoctrination took many years to completely shake, I had nightmares of being carted off to hell by demons as late as age 12 and similar dreams of the tribulation as late as age 14. I credit the influence of brilliant scientists and friends who were freethinking scientific types for offering sanity in the midst of madness. Arthur Clarke was a big influence on me when I was an adolescent as was Darwin which I studied as a kid in secret, my sister aquiring a copy of Origin of the Species for my 6th grade book report that the school wouldn't let me do at the time. I have another story about that science project, but I'll save that for when I hear back from you guys. Thanks for the opportunity to let me vent. The world is in a stae of intellectual and moral emergency, I believe, as it is still dominated by Abrahamic madness.