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Diseased by Religion

By tothemorning (formerly known as HickoryGrove)

My journey began 30 yrs. ago at the tender age of 14. An invite to a youth service resulting in a trip to the alter where I repented of the evil that I was and accepted man's defined plan of God's salvation. Here in this Assembly of God Church the process indoctrination of guilt ridden salvation that left scar tissue. Through all the traumatizing years my young but mature mind would rationalize the Godly leaders immoral self-serving leadership by passing it off as being part of the human-factor. My only desire was to have a heart after God's own heart: to serve him in a most excellent way. But the years of a heart burning with a fire of pure sincerity for God was finally blown out by the winds of truth and deception. The following is a simple time line of incidents that finally took their toll and lead me to freedom. Here we go...

Following my salvation I became very involved in the youth ministry. The main theme that the youth pastor seemed to preach on was the sins of the flesh. At youth camp in Humble, TX guys and girls were separated for morning teaching services. It was during these services that the sin of masturbation was preached with wild-fire to us sinful boys. Guilt and shame was the prescription of the day. (What a way to jack-up a teens mind while they have yet to establish their adult identity). It is my firm belief that these preachers are culpable and should be held criminally and civilly accountable for their gross religious ideologies that they inject into young people's minds; it is truly abusive.

"The pain of the Spirit" Following high school I attended an Assemblies of God College. Being "caught up in the spirit" was the goal of every daily chapel service. During a service over a hundred babbling tongue talkers were either convulsing "in the spirit" or rolling on the ground in an uncontrollable manner after having been slain in the spirit. This experience was always referred to as receiving an "extra blessing". To receive this extra-blessing was to denote that the receiver was closer to God than the others who were still sitting in the pews. Definitely a feeling of spiritual superiority was derived from this extra-blessing. As I would sit through these services in a reserved manner (rationalizing that I was worshipping in spirit and in truth) students would come to me and encourage me to go to the front (the alter) and receive a "blessing." I would respectfully say that I was o.k. and would continue to assess all the hoopla while trying to focus on "God". During one chapel service a student who was in front of his pew was jumping up and down in a hyper-erratic manner. He slipped, his legs went out from under him and the middle of his back struck the wooden backrest of the pew. He went to the floor for the ten count. I watched carefully and then determined to render aid. As I began my approach to him, he slowly stood to his feet and walked out of the service...head hung low with a look of disillusionment and pain on his face. I couldn't help but observe all the other pseudo-spiritual self-absorbed lemmings caught up in their own moment not to notice their brother who took such a bad fall. I then knew something was not right...but my pursuit for God continued.

My perfect hearing has now been healed: One Wednesday evening my college friends and I went to the evening service of the Assembly of God church that was around the corner from the college. There was a visiting evangelist. He preached and attempted to stir the emotions of the listeners with his sensationalism. This is what they call "The move of the spirit" or "Feeling the presence of the Lord". He also had a "word of knowledge". As he walked down the center aisle he spotted me...pointed at me and called me out to the aisle. He then proclaimed to all that I had been partially deaf since I was baby. (This was news to me.) I then began to say, " Excuse me sir I am not deaf". By the time I said "not deaf", with a look of astonishment he overpowered me with his voice and declared me to be healed in the name of Jesus while pushing my forehead with his healing hand. He then immediately began to walk backwards away from me and compelled the congregants to praise the Lord for my healing. The praise party then began in pseudo-spiritual splendor...all for what the Lord had just done for me. I remember it like it was yesterday...standing there in those people's midst thinking "what is going on in here?" I was in shock and awe over the manipulation and deception that this man was performing. After pondering, I made biblical concessions for this man's bad behavior.

Reflecting on all my incidents reveals to me that rationalizing people's bad behaviors was a coping mechanism. It was a needed one to survive in the only environment that I knew. At that time, I had no confidants other than the foolish.

First youth pastorate at the age of 20. Strike one: One Sunday morning in Dallas TX I was turning on the lights of the church at the Assembly of God church when the pastor walked up to me, greeted me and then asked me, "So what did you do last night?" I replied that my girlfriend and I went out for dinner. He elbowed me playfully and asked "So did you getcha any?" I just looked at him shocked and said "Excuse me?" I knew something was not right. Strike two: Following one service there was a get-together at his house. His house was adorned with thousands of dollars of furnishings much of which was gold or at least gold in color. He pulled me aside, referenced his high dollar furnishings and told me so proudly that if I followed his lead that I too could have all that he had. I knew something was not right. Yet my pursuit continued. I left this position out of consciousness. Strike three: Upon leaving this position the pastor called me a thief for accepting a salary (for pastoral services rendered). He then chuckled and told me that the elders had been placing bets as to whether or not I would make it as a pastor. This revelation only confirmed that my decision to leave was the right one.

Following a hard break-up with my girlfriend I returned to my home town in Tyler Tx for the summer. She called me a month later wanting me to go visit her for the weekend. I did. We rekindled our relationship on that Fri and Sat and then on Sunday morning I attended her A of G church with her. Following the service, she and her pastor were across the sanctuary from me and were in a quiet conversation with one another. I felt uncomfortable as they were discreetly glancing at me. She finished her conversation with him and came to me. I asked her if all was ok. She looked and acted as though she was without thoughts. (Come to find out, she was not allowed to think for herself.) We then went out to eat with her mother and siblings (as all good Christians do). Before going into the restaurant she told me that her pastor had advised her that God gave him a word of knowledge that I was not the one for her and a spiritual darkness and for her to be with me was an invite for a life of pain. I was totally disillusioned and disturbed by such a statement made against me. (I knew something was not right about this pseudo-realm that I was dwelling in). Following lunch we returned back to her house and she then told me that I needed to leave. I then retrieved my overnight bag, got in my car and drove away...once again in pain...never to see her again...holding on to my faith, with a hurt and pissed-off my pursuit of God.

Fast forward: 2nd Youth Pastor Position at age 30. Inner turmoil amongst the leadership of the church, pastor allegedly having an affair. Two adult leaders get into a fist fight while chaperoning at a Petra concert. The church ultimately collapsed and no longer exists.

Still holding on...

One last shot: Approximately 7yrs ago I went to a church that was breaking-ground in the community. Here I would see if there was a place for me to serve. I met the pastor and we talked for about two hours. He then told me that it was God's will that I accept the associate pastor position of the church. During our conversation he told me that he was the only voice of God in the church and that all leaders would heed his words. He then shared with me the many miracles that God worked through him such as a 10 yr. old child that levitated by the power of the Holy Ghost. I then respectfully got the hell out of there.

Over the past 5 years I have processed my religious journey and have seen where this dogma and experiences have dynamically effected my life in such a negative manner. I am now partially released from the burden of this horrible weight. I guess you can now say I am no longer spiritually oppressed. (Sound familiar anyone?) Brian Tracy says we are all responsible for everything we think and do. Because of this new outlook I can have and be anything I want to be. People...religion is not a is an injury.

The aforementioned are experiences that played a part in my release. My journey is not dictated by these experiences alone. (Believe me there is a lot more I could share.) There is also the intellectual assessment of the unexplainable and the non-sensible part of religions that led to my escape.

My journey now continues for my family and those I care about...not just for me.