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Hoarding Faith

By Carl S ~

If you channel surf, chances are likely you'll come across a program on TLC called "Buried Alive: Hoarders." Don't watch it if you don't want to be emotionally troubled. Hoarders experience trauma at the very thought of having to separate themselves from their collections. The reasons for discarding years of accumulation are many. Their health is at stake because, for the most part, they live in filth. Sometimes their safety is compromised when their possessions are piled so high, so far, so wide and dense that they could not possibly safely make it to an exit door in case of fire inside their residences.

The hoarders' children become so disturbed by these things that they sometimes threaten to stop seeing them in the future. And they make this clear to them. Despite this, so entrenched are the hoarders that they become torn between losing connections with their real children or losing their "family of children,” meaning, their piles of mostly junk.

As a person who doesn't usually watch an entire program (my wife controls the remote, and from the looks of it, she can't stand watching these cases for very long). I've noticed something: There are traits hoarders share with those who are "buried alive" in religious faiths.

It is a gut-wrenching experience to watch a hoarder admit to having a problem. There are tears and tremors, feelings of helplessness, even hopelessness. The person is overwhelmed, can't comprehend the evidence of emotionally unhealthy conditions which support this lifestyle. The comfort-fortress and the hoarder’s personality are so rooted together that any disruption or discarding of the one is felt as doing the same to the other. It appears they have come to believe that their possessions are what holds them together; that without them, they would be lost.

You might say that those who discard their faiths are going through the same emotional troubles. One author compares leaving beliefs to quitting smoking, saying that smoking becomes an addiction which persists in spite of the fact that it no longer gives much pleasure. It is the breaking of habitual smoking that causes problems. He goes on to make a connection: "Perhaps religious beliefs persist not because they provide comfort, but because, once acquired, discarding them produces acute discomfort."

There's a web site called ExChristian. net. It has amassed quite an accumulation of testimonies from those who describe their own emotional tearing-apart when having to discard hoardings of beliefs. Even when they have found that their beliefs are intolerable burdens and psychologically damaged them, they have deep emotional reactions and misgivings. Some of them are in mourning, you might say, even as they discard former "treasures" they have long gone way past needing.

I've been in the houses of hoarders; they seem to believe their surroundings share a natural connection with neat households: each of them expresses, in the words of home-buyers, "Who I am." And they have a point there. I have also been in the houses of committed believers. One-sided religious propaganda dominates the surfaces. Imagine the emotional tugs-of-war believers would go through if they had to leave their propaganda rituals. Imagine the emotional turmoil and anger such believers would endure at the very thought of having to discard them. And if they had to leave their fortress-churches?

Hoarders create their own environment, and this becomes Reality for them. It comforts them, even as it smothers them. The hoarder builds a fortress to separate himself/herself from the outside world. Churches, temples and mosques are built for the same reason, with the same effects. Likewise, as in a religious environment, the hoarder's fortress creates an inner world where only certain experiences and the chosen connections with them are allowed. Nothing except what is agreeable, comfortable, and piles up this environment will be added to its ever-increasing accumulation. Nothing else.

The hoarder builds a fortress to separate himself/herself from the outside world. Churches, temples and mosques are built for the same reason, with the same effects. Right now, in my state, the Assembly of God has a drive going to raise money to create l0 new churches. For this, they ignore completely the hundreds of thousands of refugees, those victims of wars, who are desperately in need of basic food, shelter, and health services. (Why should they help? Those refugees aren’t Christians!) Their collections won't even help in the state itself to relieve the needs of the poor this coming winter, the needs for heat and food alone. Those large tax-exempt buildings will not house the homeless. That money will be wasted on hoarding time, money and labor for the construction of comfort-fortresses for the few who enter it once or twice a week.

If leaving religion seems like a daunting task, it will be a relief to know the difference between a hoarder and a person who hoards and then drops, faith. A hoarder emotionally chooses to create an environment that expresses who he/she "is." The person leaving a faith is more like someone leaving behind suffocating piles of unsolicited gifts. (You were even told that faith is "a gift.") Those gifts were given by well-intentioned believers, who found them to be "must-haves,” and the ones "you can't live without." Just remember whenever you're pressured to return gratitude for the gifts: don't let yourself feel obligated to submit your own ethical identity to them, or give up your conscience for them.

Some gifts come with strings attached to bind you. The cost for some free things is too high. When possessions begin to possess you, when the pets begin to be parasites, when dogmas begin to take over your daily life, when your inheritance clashes with your moral compass, then you must save yourself. Discard and keep discarding. Get used to freedom.