I don’t particularly like writing about spiritual topics. It’s not my writing forte. And, it requires wrestling through traumatic experiences. My past experiences with religion left me feeling empty, disgusted, and cynical. I’ll try to process my rage and be as diplomatic as possible. Name-calling and bitchiness is not helpful to me or anyone else. It’s tough when I felt that faith gutted me out.
I hate hearing the cliché, “Not religious but faith” and some well-intended person said that I experienced religion not faith. Is he some
psychic prophet who knows everything about my life?
I used to say that exact phrase several years ago. I was part of a church that thought they were doing it right with modern trendy music, glossy bulletin while that church with an organ is “religious.” I find that trendy churches are the worst when it comes to legalism and control. For many years, I have experienced faith that was supposed to be different from traditional religion. It was supposed to be relevant, meaningful, and modern. It’s the same old stuff in a different package.
I hate hearing, “I’m not religious but a person of faith…” or the alike. To me, it’s like you are trying to convince me that you are not crazy but happen to get moody once in a while. That’s what you sound like to an outsider. It’s another cliché.
Growing up, I lived in an international big city of Dubai where I encountered people of all religions: Hindus, Christians, Muslims. The funny thing about some countries is that you must have a religion. Forms will ask you about your religion. There is no “Other” and nothing for Atheist. Atheism isn’t recognized as an official “religion” or faith. When you are filling forms for anything from Visa application to a form for participating in school athletics, you have to choose a religion. I still have no idea why they care for this detail just to participate in primary school athletics.
Those living in the Western World will find that strange. But, in those places religion is not a taboo topic and goes along with your particulars like nationality, gender, native language, languages spoken, date of birth, and of course religion. I put down Hindu because my father came from a Hindu background, but he was just as atheistic as me. We were non-practicing “Hindus” who did not observe the Hindu diet of vegetarianism. We ate meat, including hamburgers. And occasionally went to church and celebrated Christmas or Easter.
My father came from a Hindu background and my mother from a Catholic background. I’d sometimes fill in Christian and sometimes fill in Hindu. My family didn’t practice either religion. The people in my circles were of diverse religious backgrounds.
I have always been an atheist or apathetic towards faith from a young age. People of faith were the ones who chased me further away from spirituality. I didn’t want whatever they followed. I didn’t want the holier-than-thou attitudes, ignorance, and superstitious beliefs. There were enough problems in the world caused by religion. Some want to stick to the vague “good old days” notion and senseless traditions. I also didn’t like how many of them blindly followed leaders and couldn’t think for themselves beyond the bubble. I didn’t want any of that. The women were the worst. They were enforcing a very traditional, subservient female identity that frankly disgusted me. What century were they living in? When I married, I wanted a man who would treat me as an equal partner. Apparently, even today among some people (even in America) I’m asking too much. This was in the 90s. This is why I felt that the world is better off without religion.
My past is dark. I lacked stability. My past included sexual abuse at the age of 8. And, my home life was a mess. My family secret was marital drama between my parents, addiction, and other issues. I wasn’t allowed to “talk” about it and kept a dutiful, silent tongue.
But, I was suffering inside. At this time, I felt that there was something missing in my soul. I needed something more. Something that could explain the mysteries of the world. Something that would guide me to a higher purpose. I believe humans are spiritually wired. For example, the Victorian Romantic movement in literature and art was a reaction to the previous Enlightenment Era, where reason and science was the king of every thought. I felt that even though reason is important, there has to be room for spirituality. Back then, I wasn’t sure how to approach spirituality. Should I be looking at a religion? If so, which one? Is there something beyond religion?
Even though, I didn’t give up my atheism, I became fascinated by spirituality in my late teens. I liked to respect all faiths. Some people assumed that I was a Christian or traditionalist because as a teenager, I didn’t believe in having sex or dating. I wanted to save myself till I was older and maybe married. It irked me at that time. Why couldn’t anyone accept that atheists can also have moral standards? It was annoying when others would judge me for being destined to hell because I was open about being an atheist. However, I could see the shit they were doing behind everyone’s backs, but then put on a righteous front. My convictions about abstinence were from feminism. Feminism inspired me to make choices, resist peer pressure, and be proud of it. Whether I kept it, that’s another story. It’s no one’s business.
Depression with some PTSD was the result of my traumatic growing up years. I’m a survivor of a fatal suicide attempt at 17. I’m thankful to the stranger who intervened and saved my life. I’m thankful to be alive. I was unconscious for about 10 days. During this time, I had this revelation where I was leaving my body and ascending through a tunnel or wormhole and at the end, I saw bright light, angels, and Jesus who revealed himself to me. Jesus told me I’d be given a second chance at life. Then, I woke up in the hospital.
At that time, I got tired of being labelled the troubled teen. I was given a second chance at life and I didn’t want to fuck it up. I thought I owed God something back. This is probably where all the misunderstanding and compulsion towards Christian fundamentalism stemmed from. For the next few years, I was interested in growing spiritually, but fundamentalism made its way into my spiritual body like a virus.
When I came to my senses, I felt as if someone had fucked with my mind. I felt dirty, used, and manipulated. I felt even more frustrated and isolated. Since 18, I immersed myself in this new path that talked about God, freedom, and seeking good things—and many other promises. I would have a better life if I followed their biblical principles. The outside world to them was full of lies, wrong ideas, sin and evil. The safe place was in their world. Of course, being young and having experienced trauma-after-trauma, I believed them. That’s how I got caught up into legalism despite being a prior liberal atheist.
In my late 20s and beyond, I didn’t like what I was becoming. Judgmental. Fearful of the outside world. I was trying to fit a mold, but felt exhausted from trying. Eventually, I started seeing sexism, fearfulness, and hateful attitudes, especially towards outsiders. I questioned: Is this really representative of Jesus? And if you are a spirit-filled Christian with the confidence of Christ then why the paranoia of the outside world? Fear and ignorance is a dangerous combination. I had a gut instinct that something wasn’t right, but told to shush it. It could be the devil putting bad thoughts in my mind.
I hit the wall with my spiritual life. The trauma of my family life was still fresh and the pain I faced in religion. Rejection. Lies. Manipulation. Lack of support when I was being abused. They told me that I was exaggerating and refused to believe me.
I initially left religion around 2007. Then in 2009, I came back to it but wary. I fended off shame in discernment, being critical, taking care of myself, and drawing boundaries.
One more thing: I was part of that church that started Oregon Measure 36 in 2008, which was banning gay marriage. I feel bad for being part of that group. To all my friends and others part of the LGBT community, I want to say that I love you and support you. I’m also sorry for what you have faced with religion.
I felt pressurized and guilt-tripped to support that political stance. That’s when I started turning away. It’s interesting how it’s as if all hell breaks loose when gay marriage is legalized, but apparently God didn’t care when there was slavery and genocide of Native Americans. It’s interesting how conveniently the same people vehemently opposed to gay marriage seem apathetic and ignorant about the realities of domestic violence. Domestic violence has been a problem, even in churches. I’d think even more so with antiquated gender roles and man-in-charge type of teaching. I didn’t realize that even in the 21st century that I’d be a rebel for having an EQUAL relationship with my husband. We are EQUAL partners. None of this biblical manhood or womanhood crap exists in our home. That is stereotypes and misogyny posed as “biblical truths.” I am strongly convicted of my stance on equality. Nothing can change that. I have heard all the clichés before. And, I have a strong, healthy marriage too. A strong, healthy marriage comes from mutual respect, commitment, compatibility, and love NOT following a formula that assumes cookie cutter images of men and women with false promises that give false sense of security.
I’m fed up with Churchianity or organized religion. I haven’t been going to church lately. I have no desire. I can’t sit through a sermon. Church events remind of bad experiences. And, I don’t find being enclosed in a club meaningful. In fact, I find it suffocating. I prefer going out into the world, sharing my gifts, experiences, and time with people who may or may not share my views. That’s where I experience meaning and spirituality. I will continue to do so. I’ll continue soul-searching outside the box.
Hopefully, this gives you an idea where I’m coming from. I will be posting a series of topics in detoxing from religion. The next one would be common characteristics of toxic religion and why it draws crowds.