Facebook: What fears you faced based on religion
by Sean Faircloth
I wanted to cry reading several posts volunteered on our official Foundation Facebook page about childhood experiences and religion. Thank you everyone who told of your experiences. A recent comment in a Catholic publication implied these are isolated incidents. Maybe we all can take a step back, read the comments below, with compassion in our hearts, and face the reality that children are quite often deeply harmed by religious dogma. It is immoral and unacceptable. Under the leadership of our Executive Director, Elisabeth Cornwell, we are working at the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science to overcome this great injustice and do so based on reason, and based on basic human decency. Read the comments below. Some will break your heart. The last one from Amy Milligan breaks mine.
So many of you, by overcoming these horrors, have set an example for those of us who were never religious. If you can overcome, we can support you and work together for a better world in 2013 and beyond.
Thank you so much. It is such an honor to be involved in this deeply compassionate cause. Read on. — Sean Faircloth, Dir. of Strategy & Policy, author of Attack of the Theocrats, How the Religious Right Harms Us All and What We Can Do About It.
You can leave comments here or on the RDFRS Facebook page
The comments below are just a few of the many
Laura Rhodes I was brought up by a conservative southern baptist mother and atheist father. As a child I was indoctrinated into a “hellfire and brimstone” religion that taught me anyone that didn’t accept Christ as lord and savior would burn in eternal damnation. Every night for years I laid awake praying that god would convince my dad to become Christian so when I died we would be together in eternity. I remember having nightmares about his damnation. It wasn’t until high school I was able to leave the church and denounce all the nonsense I’d been fed as a child. To this day I consider myself a recovering Christian and as a result do not allow my child to be involved in Christian churches or organizations. No child should have to suffer the abuse of organized religion and carry lifelong scars from it
Karin Petersson I often looked at the sky, terrified the clouds would part, Jesus return to bring “home” the ones who was pure at heart, leaving me behind…
Amanda Bond Warner I was told to never bring home toys or books that belonged to my school friends and never to purchase things second-hand (like at yard sales, the Good Will, etc) because the owner or previous owner could be involved in spiritistic practices and attached a demon to the object. Once the demon has entrance to the home, it would torment and rape me, my mother, and sister. I was 6 when I was told this.
Trevor Buvyer I was invited to watch a Church production called “Hell’s Fire and Heaven’s Gates”, depicting the deaths of several people. Those who were believers were shown to ascend to heaven where Angels sang, those who were not, were hauled down underneath the stage by a man dressed as the devil with flames shooting up and terrifying music. I accepted Christianity out of pure fear. It was a horrible experience.
John Ashley When I was seven..I was told by a teacher in a Morman sunday school class that my grandparents,who weren’t Morman, could not go to the same heaven that I and other Mormans would be allowed into….so I told the teacher that I wasn’t going if they couldn’t go..She then put me outside the classroom on a chair in the hall and told my father what had happened.When I got home my father gave me a beating..Merry xmas
Susanna Sharp-Schwacke Because of teenage indoctrination, I suffered from absolute terror of the “End Times.”
Anita Wittig I was told similar to what the 7 year old in the story did. Went to church and school at the same damnable place, a church filled with pedophiles, con artists, and perverts..I learned early into my teens that nothing is as it seems, that there is an agenda behind each and every one of these losers, and that heaven and hell are states of being and mind here on earth.
Jacob Wagner It was always, and still is, difficult to discuss being gay (at least between family members, as they are very religious). Back when I was a Christian, I tried to suppress many feelings to stay “normal” and out of Hell. Now that I’m an atheist, I’m much more comfortable with myself and discussing such things as homosexuality.
Melissa Glenn My best friend in 2nd/3rd grade came from a home that didn’t go to church or practice religion. I tried to tell her about jesus and all that but she didn’t believe. I remember being 8 years old, crying, praying on my knees for god to let my best friend take my place in heaven. What kind of 8 year old should have to worry about the eternal torture of her best friend?
Martin Navnihal Lochner Our politics taught us that we are Gods people and that we must suppress the heathen that represent all the other races and orientations..a mix of nationalistic autocratic rule with apocalyptic theology crushed my spirit until I one day discovered a book called ‘ straight and crooked thinking by a Mr Thouless..’ It saved me by my own effort. I have been excommunicated by my family,crucified by our Church and lonely in community because of reason over myth… I am ok…
Samantha Fischer I was raised a Catholic and, though I have long since renounced that faith, I am still haunted with guilt for my supposed life “sins” that are contrary to the Catholic Church’s dogma: divorce, child out of wedlock, promiscuous behaviour, being “mean” and not “polite and respectful” (ie. speaking up for myself), etc. In fact, as a result of this guilt, the mental illness I suffer from often becomes aggravated and I am in some peril when I dwell on what I’ve done “wrong”.
Jennifer Darden horrible nighmares that if I didn’t “speak in other tongues” from being “filled with the Holy Spirit” that I would spend an eternity damned to hell. along with the ridiculous rules that I couldn’t watch tv, couldn’t wear pants, cut hair, etc. so happy to be out of such an oppressive religion. out of religion, period actually. along with most of my family, who no longer believe in a judgmental god.
Hal Molitor – I remember my sister returning from her Catholic grade school sobbing horribly because our parents were going to Hell because they were not married in the Catholic Church.
Gordo Clayton A woman I used to be very close to was raised in a deeply religious, very harsh, fundamentalist Christian family. Growing up, she was utterly terrified of that one Bible quite that says if you doubt God even for a moment you are doomed to Hell. Of course, tell a brain not to think of pink polar bears, that brain is going to envision pink polar bears. She had an instant of “what if” doubt at a young age and was absolutely traumatized up until she became an adult. She told me when she was a kid she’d lie awake in her room for hours, reading frivolous teen magazines, until exhaustion finally took over and she fell unconscious. This went on for years. This child was abused, without a doubt.
There was also a bunch of Rapture fear thrown in there too, but I gotta keep this thing under a million words. However, I want to say that when she told me her story a few years ago, that’s when I went from being a timid, apologetic atheist to being a militant atheist.
Rachel Wilde My niece (age 12) recently returned home from catholic school in tears because her class mates told her she would burn in hell as she is not a baptised catholic.
Allison Underwood Raised a Calvinist and believing in predestination, I always feared Hell when I was growing up, and the powerlessness I had in my own salvation was overwhelming at times. There’s no way of knowing whether or not you were Chosen until you’re at the Pearly Gates, and you’re either let inside or cast down to Hell. How do you find comfort in those thoughts?
Dan Allford Even now as an atheist adult I still get a pang of fear and doubt: what if the christians are right and I burn in hell for eternity? It’s still an uncomfortable thought for me, aged 38. Then I remember what I’ve seen, learned myself and experienced directly – and the notion of hell becomes rudiculous again. Children don’t have the strength of character to resist these superstitious, religious notions. I feel enormous pity for them.
Angela Darst Blais My mother became a Jehovah’s Witness when I was 5. I grew up thinking the world would end before I grew up. Armageddon would come and I and everyone else who didn’t believe would be killed, our flesh falling off as we watched. Talk about traumatized.
James Willis I had exactly the same speech given to me by someone who resmebled and sounded just like a car salesman. Turns out he was the pastor, I still have a recurring nightmare that scares me awake sometimes of loved ones dying by fire. Please stop this madness towards children. Lets keep them truly innocent by having a “religious” age of consent where it is illegal to have your parents force the archaic religion on you when your not old enough to understand right from wrong, let alone Jesus from Allah, or Krishna from Buddha. KEEP CHILDREN INNOCENT UNTIL THEY CAN CHOOSE FOR THEMSELVES.
Robert Miller We had to take my 5 y. o. brother off of life support after a car accident. A Pentecostal preacher told my grieving mother that because he was so young he was not accountable for his faith, but that my mom’s faith must have been lacking. He told her that if her faith had been stronger Satan would not have been able to take my brother as God promises long life. My mom was shattered.
Jen Martin I felt left out as I had not been “saved” and took the lord’s supper (southern baptist) at about age 9. Two “friends” convinced me that I was going to hell and there was no way out of it, not even salvation, since I had taken of the lord without being worthy (i.e. being saved). The mother of one confirmed this interpretation of the bible, directly stating that I had no hope of salvation. This family justified a lot of questionable teachings to children. On a lighter note, I did find it funny that their daughter, the one in the story above, refused to kiss her boyfriend for months because she was convinced she would get pregnant (we were around 16). I had some laughs over that one. I guess had she allowed her daughter to attend sex education, she would have known (but that would take the “fear factor” out of life, right?). I have many stories similar to this… all in the life of a southern baptist.
Pete Simms I was forcibly exorcised for being gay at fourteen and told that I am going to hell. eight suicide attempts later and at 40 I am still dealing with the fallout so yes understand completely the little girls fears. hell is a scary place to damage a young mind with.
Joshua Torres Demons! This put so much fear in me. I have religious family members to this day said they met angels and demons. As a kid I always worried if one would visit me or attack me. Or even possess me! This made sleeping scary.now as a adult and one who doesnt believe that. No fear
Brian C Findley Being gay, I learned that I was an abomination and for nearly a decade i believed it. Only after my suicide attempt did i learn to love myself again.
Shanta Sultana Horrific fear is implemented on Muslim children, from a very early age children start to imagine the detailed stories of hell fire they have been tought about and its an excellent way to abuse and control children. Little girls especially. However the same fear disables the mind and toungue and Muslims stay in a pack and promise never to speak about the abuse. instead become PR mad nation. Whenever someone points out the truth its propaganda by the west, perhaps Penguin publishing company (figure that out!) or the Church etc.
Eddie Mcclanahan My Father was a Baptist minister, I am gay and always have been, so trust me growing up I had many sleepless nights.
Ross Moorhouse I was a fundie Christian till I saw the light. I am ashamed to say I used to preach about people going to hell. I no longer follow the god of bloodshed and murder nor his so called book.
Fred Akman sorry this is a bit longer than requested.. I was confronted at YMCA camp in Greensboro, NC after moving there from Los Angeles. A Young kid got up in my face when he found out I was Jewish, yelling that I couldn’t just turn my back on Jesus, he had died for my sins and I was going to hell. When I told him I was Jewish and didn’t believe in Jesus, he assaulted me. The camp did nothing about the attack after it was reported by my parents, so I stopped going to camp there. The same kid went to my high school, where he did the same thing to a gay student. This time I got in between and verbally wiped the floor with him and made him look really stupid, I didn’t hear any more out of him during high school. I became an atheist around the same time as the second incident, though I had been one inside since around 3rd or 4th grade (at a religious school). After leaving high school I began fighting to keep religion out of school and maintain separation of church and state, as well many other causes while I work towards my eventual PHD.
Mike Ahern Good Friday Catholic prayers for the Jews. Every Catholic congregation in the world prays for the conversion of the Jews so that they may be redeemed.
Linda Selzer My mother grew up in Austria with a Catholic mother and a Jewish father. In those days religious training was part of schooling, so my uncle went to a Jewish school so he could be Bar Mitzvahed and my mother went to Catholic training, When she was 10 her father died, and the nuns told her she had to pray every day for her father because he was Jewsih and therefore burning in hell. Becoming an atheist at the age of 12 is what eventually saved her.
Kaveh Haddadi I had the same experience, as a kid in my homeland Iran I’ve been told to follow the rules made by religion and it could even cover the rules made by our teachers. Failing to obey those rules, having a doubt about god or even about the supreme leader would lead to hell, I remember how it affected our childhood. fear of thinking and illusion were the smallest consequences of this method for us children. Thank you Mr. Dawkins, you’ve gifted the valuable act of thinking without fear to many Iranians, we owe you a big one.
Ashley Alderman After suffering complications (retroplacental hemorrhage and an incompetent cervix), I had my pregnancy terminated at age 20. I’ve been told repeatedly that I’ll burn in hell for it, even though the complications weren’t my fault. I’ve always questioned religion, but the fear of “hell” was so deeply embedded in my mind that I prayed for “forgiveness” night after night. I am SO glad that I broke free from those chains.
Bonny McCurdy My older brothers friend committed suicide in high school, I was so so sad for such a long time because I was taught that he was most definitely in hell. It was several years later that I realized it was all nonsense. Why do people teach their children such damaging lies? I will never understand.
Lainey Head Kloes I was kicked out of a catholic private school because I believed in science more than mandatory bible class. They called me a heathen at 11 and I’ve been atheist ever since..
Phillip Jones When i was in Primary school, my 5th grade teacher screamed at me about how I am born stupid and i should repent and devote my life to learning the ways of Jesus, or my family and friends would be sent to Hell.
At 23 and an Atheist, I still have re-occuring nightmares about my family and friends burning in a Lake of Holy Fire or dying in all sorts of gruesome manners. I’m on medication for my night terrors and I hope they leave my mind before i shuffle off this mortal coil and my natural materials go back into the universe.
Devin Kennedy Not exactly the same, but I was told as a child that “little boys who ask questions don’t get into heaven.”
Rachel Shockey I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family. My whole life was based on Christianity. At the age of 6 I became “saved”, only because the thought of hell terrified me. I wanted to avoid it at all costs. Throughout my childhood and teenage life I often wondered if I was really saved. And I would pray again to be “saved”. Looking back I now realize those were the start of my doubts about my faith. But it took till I was 16 to really question everything. When I finally told my family, at age 17, that I no longer considered myself a Christian, it was a family crisis. Although it hasn’t been easy being the only nonbeliever on both sides of the family, I’m glad I had the courage to not be influenced by irrational fears.
Bill Melton I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian (Nazarene) environment, and began having anxiety attacks at about 6 years old. I knew I was going to Hell because I had crushes on other boys, among other naughtinesses. One day at about that age, I came home from school to an empty house. I knew that my family had been taken in the rapture and left me behind. I carried the anxiety long after I realized that the myths were just that. Encouraging a child to envision him/herself being eternally tortured for being human is child abuse.
Chris W James In the church I went to as a child, they had a baptism tank to dunk ppl in. Being 5 years old, I asked my parents what the tank was about. After explaining to me briefly it was to “save souls from hell and eternal torment ” I let my mind wander and conjure up horrific images of a horrible place with torture, blood, demons etc. After service we talked in the parking lot, like most do, and a man with a Polaroid camera showed us these pictures of Jesus floating in the sky. My dad bought one for $5 and kept it in the glove box, assured that the end was nigh and we better get our house in order. I had terrible dreams of the devil coming for me, and that her lived in the water tower at my school, which was walking distance from the house. For awhile there I even wet the bed. My uncle finally told me it all wasn’t true, and things were better.
Wayne Stremski Catholic School, 1966, sixth grade, Confirmation time. I procrastinated on the coloring book of Jesus and the apostles I was assigned, not completing it. The lay teacher told me that I would not be confirmed because of that. I sweated through three days, too fearful to tell my parents – or even my friends. I thought the teacher was going to tell the bishop to walk right past me and not confirm me in church on Sunday. But when I was indeed confirmed, and the bishop slapped my face, well that started me thinking. 40 years later I figured it out for good. I am an atheist.
Aimee Eisiminger Sleepless nights….praying feverishly for forgiveness for the smallest of transgressions. At one point I started to believe that I must be a demon because I kept transgressing. I was simply following my nature but religion kept telling me that my nature was evil.
Boris Warszawski When I wasn’t 18 yet I was still forced to go to church. I got out of it by volunteering during the mass by teaching children the gospel in an age appropriate manner. The kids would draw or make crafts after the lesson. I was surprised when a little boy stole a girls crayon and she didn’t mind. I told her it was very nice of her. She replied, “Oh, I’m not being nice, he’s just gonna burn in hell”. The boy cried for the rest of the lesson and I was flabbergasted at how religion is taught to our youth.
Derek Rowe As a child raised in Mormonism, I was taught the following:
There are three different heavens. If I ever left Mormonism, if I did not marry in a Mormon temple, if I drank coffee or tea, if I drank alcohol, if I participated in any sexual act before marriage, if I did not continuously give 10% of my income to the Mormon church, I would be separated from my family members in the afterlife in a lower heaven while they enjoyed the highest level of heaven without me.
Stacey Silverman We live in the bible belt (Texas) and my 8-yr old daughter was told by her classmates on the playground that she would be going to hell since she doesn’t believe in Jesus. Dawkins is absolutely right. This is traumatic for a child to hear and she was upset for several days.
Petra Roesner I was “born into” the evangelical church in Germany, and for many years was told exactly that, that I would burn in hell for eternity and suffer terrible pain if I were to reject the church’s teachings. As if those words were not enough, we (in Sunday school) were shown horrific pictures that depicted human suffering in hell, resulting in many nightmares as I grew up. When I was 14 I was forced to participate in the traditional ritual of being “confirmed,” because it was what was expected from me by my family. Two weeks after that, I rode my bike to the courthouse and filed papers that I was officially leaving the church. As a mother, I have encountered one child in particular, who has told my boys that they would go to hell if they don’t believe in Jesus, had their character attacked for knowing about religion but not being religious (which would ultimately be their choice). As a result of this taunting or religious bullying, my younger son was afraid to go to sleep and had nightmares. Needless to say, they are not playing with this child anymore.
Mary Charles Severinghaus As a small girl, I lay in bed trembling and crying in terror if the sunrise were red. We had been taught by the nuns at our Roman Catholic school that the “unrevealed secret” of Our Lady of Fatima was that the end of the world would be preceded by a red sunrise. My parents wouldn’t listen to me, so I bore that burden by my scared little sad self for years.
Jennifer Bisson My sister died in a car accident at a young age. Afterwards I couldn’t even count how many people told me (@14 years old) she died because my family didn’t pray enough or because my family was not more active in church.
Vicki Burns-Hufstetler Very similar story- at 9 my father told me my beloved grandfather was going to hell for not believing as we did. They had also terrified me into thinking that Jesus would return at night- and i wouldn’t be ready. Worrying for mine and my Padaddy’s eternal souls caused me to be plagued with middle of the night panic attacks into my late teens. I educated myself and am now free
Buddy Brown Yeah I grew up in Oklahoma, as Christian as possible. When I was younger I wanted to be a missionary and spread the word of God. I used to be terrified of every little thought I had. I used to cry at night fearing that while I dreamed id have a dirty thought and miss the rapture. I used to physically hurt myself to do my best to prevent myself from thinking sexual thoughts. The fear of hell was horrible. It dictated every aspect of my life. The way I acted, dressed, thought, everything. I was as Christian as possible. In my teens I managed to get some time to think for myself. I got into a pretty bad car wreck. I certainly would’ve died were it not for the doctors and medical advancements… Not god. Yet over and over god kept getting the praise for my survival. I was bed ridden for quite a while and did plenty of reading. I had a biology textbook with me and read it as unbiased as I possibly could, and that was that. No more christianity for me. I’m now slowly working to try and become a biologist. And so much happier with my quality of life. Everything is better. Life is sweeter. And knowledge, not dogma, is what I strive for.
Angela Amira Petite A Priest told my infant school assembly that parents who had disabled children were evil and were being punished by god. My sister of course experienced significant brain damage through meningitis and became disabled. I was escorted shouting and crying from that assembly.
Eleanor Tagart I remember being in tears as a child because I was taught in school that unbelievers won’t go to heaven and that meant my mum wouldn’t be there.
Sondra Cevelin I was raised Agnostic, but my parents always let me go to church groups with school friends when I was a child. I remember a youth group leader asking me once why he never saw my parents on Sundays. I told him they didn’t believe in God, and he gave me a big hug and told me “I’m so sorry they won’t be in heaven with you”. I was absolutely devastated. I cried and prayed For them every night. At 8 or 9 years old, my parents were my whole world, and the thought of them burning in hell forever was terrifying. I brought it up with my dad, and he explained to me why I shouldn’t have believed it, but that only made me feel worse. I eventually got old enough to know better, but I vividly remember the terror I felt, and I would never wish that feeling on anyone, especially a child. That is why now that I have kids of my own, they are not allowed to go to church groups with friends. The last thing I want is my children crying themselves to sleep in fear over my soul.
Kirsty Moss I had a christian and atheist upbringing, my mother was a devout christian, my father an atheist. I remember long fitful nights terrified by the thought of my father being sent to hell simply for not believing. Funny thing was, he is a warm gentle beautiful soul with a strong moral compass and generous nature. An awesome nurturing and respectful father and husband. My mother was deeply depressed, volatile, angry and unhappy. The irony only dawned on me when I was substantially older and wiser. Not that I blame my mother. I believe (though I’m not 100 percent sure) that the church made her depression that much worse by its belief that to seek treatment was to admit to not being a good enough christian to fight off the ‘demon of depression’.
Melissa Glenn Idk if there is much to elaborate on.
I was raised baptist. If you didn’t believe in god you were going to hell. My best friend, when I was 8, didn’t believe in god. I tried to tell her about god but she wouldn’t believe. I was terrified for her. I prayed and cried on my knees for god to let her into heaven and I would go to hell in her place. I didn’t want my best friend to burn forever.
* * * * * *
What is really messed up about it is that I think at the time I was hoping that giving up my “spot” would be considered selfless enough to get us both in. Then I felt immediate shame and guilt once I realized that god could read my mind and would think I was actually being selfish and trying to trick him and that we would both go to hell because of it.
Isaiah Copp Raised as a evangelical/pentocostal I dealt with severe guilt and shame, mostly due to sexual maturity. Every time I had an erection, sexual thought, or masturbated I was taught that I was essentially crucifying and breaking the heart of Jesus over and over…Feeling insane with guilt for torturing such a beautiful saviour, I sought counsel and was told that I had demons in my soul fighting for my etenal existense….this is total psycological abuse…
Lm Brown That happened to me when President Kennedy was killed: A neighbor told five-year old me that he was going to Hell because he was Catholic. Christianity never had a real chance with me after that.
Desiree Nicole Maslen Being told a friend was going to hell was the least of our worries as children of my parent. That fear was just normal every day pain that we would never know the people around us when we went to heaven because none of them were as good christians as my mother. Our torture was being molested and beaten, if you can call it beating when you black your childs eyes and touch them and verbally bludgeon them into submission and fear every day…then you clench the deal by telling them baby jesus will cry if you ‘lie’ to the police or the school teachers so they think your mother is doing bad things.
Jessica Lynn-Lato As a child my Sicilian grandfather told me that anytime bad things happened to me – a cut or bruise, disappointment, death of loved ones, etc – God was punishing me for something bad I had previously done.
Kenneth Jones I feel ashamed to be subscribed to the Richard Dawkins foundation for reason and science. I hate this religion bashing.
Shouldn’t we be promoting reason, science and tolerance.
Also I am sick of comments like “god is bullshit” shows just as much intelligence and reasoning as those with unproven faith.
Elyse Schuler-Cruz I was raised Catholic, and went to Catholic schools. I was afraid of physical intimacy until I was in my mid 20s. Even after I stopped believing that kissing with tongue was akin to premarital sex, I still had trouble becoming comfortable with sexuality. Sometimes, I find myself feeling guilty about things I do with my husband even though I know better. Hell, my husband and I are pretty vanilla by any standards except religious ones.
Sam Jacob Simply put I lived in fear as a child, I was never clear on what might send me to hell and what not. I had a friend who went to vacation bible school with me and he woke up screaming for months because he was having dreams that he was burning in hell. I felt so bad for him. Religion is CHILD ABUSE.
Mackenzie Maxwell I grew up Mormon. When I was 6, the Sunday school teacher told me that people who smoke would not make it to Heaven. My grandfather smoked back then. I had nightmares for weeks. Then I decided that if the people I love aren’t going to Heaven, I don’t want to go to Heaven either.
Daniel Villalobos I was told by the pastor of my baptist church that God can see me everytime & everywhere. That’s really fuck me up when I come to that age when kids start to masturbate. Sounds funny: IT WASN’T.
Gary Harmon I have a mental disorder which makes me paranoid, anxious, prone to mood swings and delusions. As a child, my religion both fed and subdued my mental disorders: God is always watching you. Thirty years later, I had to be hospitalized due to a mental breakdown. I told the doctors that my greatest fear was going to Hell, despite being an Atheist. But there’s no such thing as Hell. Some childhood monsters follow you forever.
Thema Modisi When I was a kid I we carpooled with this family that were Jehovah’s Witnesses. They gave me these Watchtower booklets to read. I remember reading a story about a girl who forgot to bless her food before she ate. Unfortunately for her there was a demon curled up in a piece of lettuce on her plate and after eating it she became possessed. I remember praying everynight after that for God to bless everything i would eat the next day. I was terrified the same would happen to me. One day when I was 13 I got tired of being afraid and I embraced atheism.
Chelsea Leah Johnson I had a lot of insomnia when I was ten because I was afraid of hell. I couldn’t bring myself to accept that any of the bible stories or god or jesus were real. I thought I HAD to accept it and I really tried, but I just couldn’t.
Phil Peron I have many childhood memories of being awakened by horrifying nightmares of hell and damnation. Felt more like terrorism. Even if God exists, It wouldn’t be worth worshipping. What an abhorrent being. Needless to say I won’t be subjecting my own children to this rubbish.
Hiroki Burke A belief in God made my adolescence a lot more confusing and frightening than it needed to be.
I had an interest in Biology and Evolution, and struggled to reconcile what I learnt about those with what I was being taught in religious education class. I was also struggling with my sexuality, which my religion teacher taught was a way for God to test our faith, and that God would still love us, so long as we never acted on any sexual feelings towards other men that we may have had. I interpreted this as God’s way of punishing me for having doubts and I would need to get rid of my doubts in order to get rid of my attraction towards other men and become ‘normal’.
Eventually, I got the courage to ask…why was God punishing me, and did he have good reason? Sure, I was having doubts. But how could I not? Everything I was learning about God simply didn’t match what I was learning about the real world. I was trying to reconcile it, I was TRYING to believe in God, I WANTED to believe in God. Was it really just for God to punish me when I actually wanted to serve him?
It finally occurred to me that, even if God did exist, he was a being that was not kind, was not just, was not something I wanted to spend eternity with after my death, and certainly wasn’t worthy of worship. It gave me the freedom to look at the world and myself with clear eyes and question my morality. Rather than just accepting that being Gay is wrong because my religion teacher said so, I was finally able to ask… “is it? If so, why? How is my being gay harming anyone else?”
Without religion, I would not have had to go through years of believing that I was a bad person. Believing that I was being punished for questioning the existence of my apparent creator.
I would have been able to develop a strong understanding of morality long ago. Religion doesn’t encourage understanding of morality, rather, it suppresses it by teaching the faithful obedience and submission.
Jaden Martinez I use to live in Wisconsin, America from birth to seven years. I was born into a heavily religious family, my grandma was a deep believer and grandpa was a paster. I would attend church services and was scared to death by the thought of burning in hell if I did not follow gods word. I did everything right, praying every night before bed and not saying a single swear word. My life was devoted to god until I entered pubescents. I started having feeling for girls, impure thoughts would come into my head almost all the time. I would try and fight these thoughts, I even looked into seeing a doctor about it. After a few years my worries increased causing me to be extremely anxious. I became mentally ill and had an episode that lasted nearly six months. When I was a child my mum told me that the devil would put a gun to my head and if I believed in god enough he would save me. In hospital I feared this was going to happen to me. The unpear thoughts lead me to believe I had evil me so I would hurt myself to try and get it out this resulted in me trying to take my life as a sacrifice so god would forgive me.
After a lot of counselling and help I got better. I have excepted myself and left religion behind me.
All this time I thought being gay was an illness but really it was the fear of gods word.
Lindsey Thompson I went through 10 years of undiagnosed Bipolar Hell. My parents took me to Christian counselors instead of psychiatrists, who told me that my depression came from sin and that if I truly repented in my heart, I would be healed. I began cutting and branding myself with hot metal in an attempt to prove to God that I was willing to suffer like Jesus suffered. When I attempted suicide at age 22 I was finally properly diagnosed in the psych ward. My church excommunicated me. I now lead a happy, stable life with medication and without God.
Kedar Anil Gadgil as a kid being raised to be hindu, i was convinced by adults that if i didn’t do something, or did something, or did something wrongly, etc…any infraction of the arbitrary code of ethics and ritual requirements…i would be reborn (in my next birth) as an ant (to be crushed) or a frog (living in mud and dirt) or a donkey (overloaded and abused)…etc…i was told that because in my past births (as ‘lower’ animals), i did good deeds, i have been ‘rewarded’ with a human birth…and that the ultimate goal is to be so good in this life that the lord shall have mercy on my poor soul and break the cycle or birth and death, and offer me a privileged place at his feet for eternity…!!! i have had many a sleepless nights trying to hope (and pray) that some random act of ommission or commission i did during the day didn’t break some arbit rule, and that if it did, hoping the lord would forgive my transgressions…
Tom McEvoy entered catholic school in’55..kindergarten….. 2 nuns for teachers…. I remember them holding big yard sticks….. they told me anyone who didn’t go to our church will burn in hell. 5 yrs old. Child Abuse…..
Anna Gardner I am still plagued with guilt even though the rational side of me tells me to stop being so silly. It is an intense fear. A fear of simply acting like a human. Afraid to think outside the box. Belittlement, shame..ugh I can’t express it correctly. These are deep-rooted feelings that come frombing told my whole life that I had better get my act together or face the deepest darkest pit. It still hurts.
Victoria N Finney There aren’t enough words for what I went through as a young bisexual girl in a Christian boarding school. I wanted to die. Anything would have been better than the hatred and condemnation I was surrounded by, even death.
Kristie Keller Starting from the time that I was about 7 or 8, I was told that my dad would go to Hell unless he accepted Jesus as his savior before he died. Because of this, I would sit in fear with my hand on the phone in case he fell off a ladder while changing light bulbs in our vaulted ceilings. Eventually I decided I’d rather not believe in Heaven if it came with the possibility of Hell. But that was only a decade later.
Diana Szymiczek At around 12 years old my Born-Again Christian neighbour stopped by to see me (she was the same age), and she heard my brother listening to AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell”. She turned to me and said “your brother WILL go to hell if he listens to that music”, and left. I cried for days. This is a girl who burned her bible after she lost a competition to win a new house, because the bible “told me if I wanted it I would win it”.
Jennifer Blaesing I remember being so terrified about feeding into temptation that it would lead me to become possessed by demons or the devil. We were told that temptations to sin were whispers from demons so I felt like they were constantly trying to control my mind. I’d lay awake petrified at nights agonizing over the idea that I cannot defeat them. I felt like I was the perfect candidate for possession because my mind was so weak.
Anneka Padrón Having been told that people who didn’t believe Christ was the Savior, and knowing that Jews denied he was so, I told a little girl in my 2nd grade class that she was going to Hell. She was so upset by this statement that she cried the rest of the day. To this day, I still feel guilty over this. This poor girl probably went home terrified. I know kids say mean things, but the things I told her were just me repeating what my mom told me. Ugh, I’m so glad I came to my senses.
Amy L Milligan I was raised as a Jehovah Witness. To keep young children in line we were told that god only loves children who obey their parents, study the bible, and attend the meetings without disruption. We were told stories of people harasses by demons who have to call on gods name to get freedom. Not having faith in god or worshipping him correctly results in demonic possession and harassment that is anything from physical harassment to your life being filled with terrible tests if faith. However they also teach that if you do worship in the most faithful way you will also be harasses by demons as proof that you have gods approval much like Job. Many if their teaching are in contradiction. So as a result, I had nightmares into adulthood of dark beings chasing me and pinning me down and no matter how loud I screamed gods name I couldn’t get away. I would wake up screaming and crying. 15 years ago my brother (22 at the time) was kicked out of the religion for being possessed by demons because he heard voices and thought people were following him. A year later he committed suicide. He was never directed to mental healthcare, it is never discussed and the “elders” who remove people from the congregation for these offenses are not trained in mental healthcare. They are janitors, construction workers, etc…regular men making dangerous judgements. About a year after that I left this cult, tired of the guilt, shame, and fear. For this I was excommunicated (they call it disfellowshipped like my brother) and deserted by all my family and friends. It took about 5 years to deprogram and I still struggle to understand how in this century a religion can proliferate such ignorance and fear. Currently I am a well educated Atheist, having nightmares on occasion but I no longer hold any fear of spiritual beings of any kind.
- More Young People Are Moving Away From Religion, But Why? (npr.org)
- Gods Swallow Our Humanity (theageofblasphemy.wordpress.com)
- More Young People Are Moving Away From Religion, But Why? (wnyc.org)
- Church teaching on homosexuality ‘is like justifying slavery’, says evangelical leader (telegraph.co.uk)