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By Cacti ~

Misery. That is the word I use to describe my childhood. Sheer, awful misery. I lived in a house where I was tormented by an abusive stepfather who had it out for girls. My mother has three daughters, of which, I am the youngest. We got in trouble (and beaten) for the simplest things. We cleaned the kitchen, and he'd sit in there and watch us, waiting for one of us to screw up(i.e. miss a small spot while scrubbing) so he could "set us straight". We couldn't go to the bathroom after 9pm. We weren't even allowed to laugh. We all felt as though we walked on eggshells; our world was fragile. My mother would come to our rescue when things got too bad.

Meanwhile, Mike's (our stepfather) own son, Jared, was never touched. Jared wasn't yelled at. Jared didn't have to keep his room spotless. In fact, my oldest sister, Amber, had to clean Jared's room for him.

Then we moved. There was a church right up the road, so my mother thought it would be nice to start attending it. At first, we only went on Sunday mornings. As time went by, we started spending an usual amount of time in church. The teachings scared me. They taught us that everything that Mike was doing to us was actually a good thing. The man was, after all, the head of the household. Women were worthless.

Mike, with his abusiveness validated, upped the anti. He became even more hateful towards us. My mother, however, began to let it happen. We had lost her to God. She had been convinced that her place was not to protect us, it was to serve her husband and thus, serve the Lord. Our hearts were completely broken, and lives that had already been unnecessarily rough at times, grew to be so much worse than we ever thought they could be.

All of us girls were religious at first. We would sing songs with the choir and pay attention in Sunday School. The teachings, however, quickly became nonsense to me. I had too many questions. I didn't understand why so many things were considered evil. I didn't understand why we were to express so much hate and intolerance. It hurt me to know that all of the people surrounding me were actually wishing for the world to end. They were wishing that people all over the planet would die and go to hell. It tore my innocent heart in two, and I didn't even understand why.

Everything was just so backwards to me. God was supposed to love everyone, yet he was willing to let the majority of people burn forever in hell because they didn't believe in him. He thought we all needed to die because the devil tricked Eve into tempting Adam with an apple. He thought that Lot was a good guy for letting his daughters get raped instead of two angels when the angels visited Sodom and Gomorrah. He persecuted Job until he had absolutely nothing left just to prove a point to the devil. God quickly became evil in my eyes, yet I still believed in him.

My mother was completely taken over by her faith. She changed so much in such a short amount of time that she was barely recognizable to me. Everytime we did something bad, she would pull us aside and whisper to us "I don't think you're saved. Do you want to go to Hell?" Being children as we were, it was terrifying. God was, after all, an angry god, as she so often reminded us. Apparently, he was not above letting children burn in hell forever for something as minor as misbehaving in the grocery store. Not that I thought that was stooping low, after his other offenses.

When I was ten, my sister got into a fight with my stepfather, and was kicked out of the house in short order. She was just fourteen years old. After Amber left, the focus started to shift towards my other sister, Kristin. Kristin moved out as soon as she turned fourteen. I was the only one left. I found myself keeping to myself more often than not. I would stay in my room, at war with my thoughts on what I did so wrong that god would decide that I am worthless. Why was I doomed to be nothing but a slave to a man, who, from my experiences, would beat my future children and treat me like a doormat? Why was it good for me to behave that way?

Out of my siblings, I was the most compliant, so I stayed in that hell for the longest. However, since the magic number was fourteen, Mike decided that I needed to go then too. He came upstairs and beat the absolute crap out of me. He kicked my ribs and bruised them. He hit me in the face and my nose was bloody. He hit me across the arms with a belt and I had huge welts all over them. He, in this ass-backwards Bible Belt town, went completely unpunished when my own father tried to press charges. The sheriff actually told us that there were more laws to protect animals than there were to protect girls my age in my town. I stayed silent.

After moving in with my father, things calmed down. I switched schools, and started over. I had a lot of time to think about what I had just gotten out of. I had escaped a life of thinking that reading Harry Potter would send you straight to hell. I had avoided thinking that my place was by the side of a savage man with a serious beef with woman. I had come out of it, but not unscathed. My heart was deeply bitter, and the wonderful memories I was supposed to have of my childhood were all but nonexistent. I still believed in God, however. I clung to hope that he wasn't as bad as the bible said he was. I still prayed on occasion.

I did have major problems forming in my mind regarding religion though. I was disgusted by the fact that every Christian in this area will tell you that "wanting for worldly goods and material possessions is a sin", yet the bible tries to bribe you into heaven with promises of your own personal mansion and streets paved with solid gold. I also can't understand why anyone would be interested in going to heaven in the first place. In heaven, we are doomed to sing praises to God that I personally don't care for. Heaven is supposed to be a happy place, but how can we be happy there? How could we smile and sing praises, knowing that our loved ones who refused to believe in the same, horrible crap that we did were burning below our feet?

Skip ahead in time, if you will, to the time I was twenty. I had married a man named Daniel, and on our honeymoon, I had conceived our first child, a boy. I had, at this point, already fallen into the trap of my mother's religion again. I mean, sheesh, I was married at twenty! I had met Daniel when I was eighteen, fresh out of high school, and from the point we started dating, my mother insisted we were living in sin. We were constantly pressured into getting married, and we finally gave in.

Seven months into my pregnancy, my son stopped kicking. I called everyone I knew to see if it was normal. Everyone confirmed that it was. I was told to pray about it. I waited. After twenty four hours, I broke down and went to the hospital. On January 2nd, 2009, the nurses told me that my son's heart had stopped beating. I gave birth to him on the 3rd. I had so many visitors it was unreal. Most of them told me the same things: That god needed an new angel in the fold, he was in a better place, and he probably had some awful, horrible disease or something, and god knew that and took him home early. I had a preacher come in and tell me that I shouldn't be mad at god. That he had gone through the same thing, god. He sent his son down to die for us, so he had buried his son too. I guess he thought that made everything ok then. He can take my child and get away with it because he killed his own child. Every ounce of faith I had left disappeared instantly.

I held my boy, and he was perfect.

I am now twenty-four years old. I am in the process of separating from my husband. I have a poor relationship with most of my family, as my mother converted the majority of them to baptists years ago. I feel like I can't be myself near them, that they will never know who I really am, and it breaks my heart. I'd be condemned by them all if they knew I've been an atheist for years and that I cringe every time they babble on incessantly about how great their god is. I will never have an open, honest relationship with any of them. How can I? I'd be disowned.

Perhaps one day, a few of them will open up their eyes. I don't have much hope that any of them will though. They are all too absorbed. Some of them are so far gone that I fear for their mental stability.


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