Letting Go of Religion, But Monitoring the Henhouse Nonetheless

As many of you know, I’ve struggled to free myself from religious institutions and tried to chronicle that struggle in my blog. Some people don’t understand why I would want to do that. Others wonder why I can’t seem to do that as easily as they have. It’s very, very hard for those who have never felt trapped by religion and religious programming to understand how insidious the trap actually is. The mind games, the social games, the self-esteem issues…they are all “ties that bind” to quote the hymn. I’ve come to a unique point in this blog because last month I was ready to chuck the whole thing and say “fuck it,” people are too dense to understand the subtleties of journeys and processes. But as I read other people’s blogs and reached out to the agnostic, atheist, humanist, and non-christian spiritual community, and as they responded with understanding and patience and love to my dilemma, I’m beginning to gradually emerge from my self imposed cocoon. I can see that even though I’m putting myself out there for every christian wacko’s comments about my life (of which they know nothing about), my motives, and my thoughts, there is a small but growing portion of people who quietly blog love and reason.

Who has helped me understand? Many people. Suresh at Meditation Photography helps me see with new eyes. His “vision,” the one that he captures with his camera and processes through his spiritualized view of the world, provides me with a beautiful serene alternative to the harshness of the sin/salvation mindset. Tobeme at The Naked Soul is another spirit that provides the healing balm of pragmatic spirituality (no not an oxymoron). His post, “Why is it so hard to let go of the past?” is not so much a kick in the butt, but a gentle nudge in the shoulder from one friend to another saying, “Hey, there’s an alternative to all that vacillation of the will!” The good, rowdy folks over at Ionian Spirit provide some chuckles and a quick rap on the head if I get too maudlin about church. Also in my “amen” corner are my new-found friends over at Agnostic Atheism, who rescued me, along with Suresh, from blog burnout at just the right moment. Being former Christians themselves, the folks at aA are just the support group one needs to detox from religion, and they understand what being chained to a dead book and a dead religion means.

Many others have inspired me without their even knowing it. Zoe, Diana, and Lindsay. The many feminists online that provide a safe space for women to speak their mind are too numerous to list here but deserve to be read: Feministing, Hugo Schwyzer, Feminism Online, etc. Even as I speak, many Neanderthals still threaten women with bodily harm merely for speaking their mind in a blog. I don’t understand the mindset of these guys even though I should, I grew up with such an asshole. The anger and hate they must feel toward women to even say what they say about and to us is frightening at first and then just downright sad and anger inducing. How dare they pronounce judgment on my life as a woman! And they wonder why we are angry!!! Christian men are no better. My burnout from blogging, and many other women’s burnout, is a direct result of some of this self-righteous harassment. Yet, we press on realizing that if we can influence but one person to think for themselves or to be self-aware enough to realize how they are being manipulated by the religious mindset, well…who knows what could happen?

I do realize that some will always blame the messengers. If one thing is consistent in the blogosphere it’s the presence of people who are certain that they know everything and are 100% right all the time and are convinced that everyone else is wrong. They think, “it’s OTHER people who just don’t understand,” or “it’s others that are closed minded, not ME!” It never even occurs to them that they may be just as closed minded as they accuse others of being. When people with calm reasoning faculties question the very concepts of religion, prayer, god, scriptures, (insert favorite here), you can be sure that we will be told these things over and over and over and over in a loud hysterical voice, as if this were something new:

  1. you didn’t read the bible with discernment
  2. you didn’t read the bible with the holy spirit
  3. you didn’t have enough humility when you prayed, read, etc.
  4. you people have closed minds (pot, meet kettle!)
  5. if you don’t get anything out of prayer, bible reading, etc. it’s your fault
  6. god’s ways are too mysterious for us to figure out
  7. all good is from god, all bad is from you
  8. you moved, god didn’t
  9. you weren’t really “saved” to begin with

I mean really, do they honestly think we haven’t heard all this before? We’ve heard it from churches, from fellow christians, from bible teachers, from pastors, you name it. I suppose it must be so comforting to have all the answers (it is, I used to think I did), but I can’t let such opinions ruin for me what has become a creative outlet for expression for my interests and my talents. Caving to this kind of thing is like letting terrorists win. It ain’t gonna happen.

So, I’m renewed, invigorated, and ready to tackle once again that mystery of iniquity I started to tackle: that spirit that works insidiously in the hearts and minds of people, the one that tells them they must curtail another’s right to speak, to feel, to dream as we wish. That “mystery,” that spirit that “doth already work” is the iron chain of religion, patriarchal and nanny style politics, and misogyny that shackles this world and prevents people from seeing the light of reason. I aim to shed light on such darkness. I don’t know everything and in fact I don’t know anything at all anymore, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion and a right to express it. I’ve learned that once you can admit to yourself and to others that you don’t know anything, you can then truly begin on the path to enlightenment and humility and you suddenly “see” everything.

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14 thoughts on “Letting Go of Religion, But Monitoring the Henhouse Nonetheless

  1. Just scanning through a few of your posts. Sorry to here about your experiences with the church and christians. For the most part it sounds negative which is too bad. Right here is the point where I want to say something smart, intelligent, and caring that offers hope and encouragement to you, but I don’t know you and honestly don’t know what to say. And maybe there’s nothing to say. So I wish you good luck on your journey toward discovering yourself, God, and all the above.

  2. Rich,
    It’s funny you stopped by, I just quoted you on my blog. I hope that’s alright. Thanks for the encouragement. I DO appreciate that! I like your blog by the way. 🙂

  3. He who claims he knows, knows nothing. He who claims nothing knows.
    – Socrates

    Can I get an Amen right there?

  4. I love reading about your journey. Someone once said you can tell you are going down the right path when the general populace disagrees with you. You are a blessed soul. I am humbled that you find refuge in my writing. Thank-you for the mention.

  5. tobeme,
    I like that quote. I’ve been dwelling on things a lot lately and need to be reminded that I don’t have to make everyone like me.

    You have helped me on that path precisely because you have been a gentle, non-judgmental soul. And I thank you! 🙂

  6. Never shared my story before today and I needed to get this out. I recently moved to a small town and started going to church it is a small church…I was there maybe a total of 3yrs. It is a church where they believed that a women can’t where paints, makeup, etc.. A man would get up there every Sunday and tell the women to be subject and if they don’t they are going to a burning hell, this is just a tip of the iceberg. Each day I was there I felt like I was dying, I felt like I was losing who I was. I hated it so much but couldn’t leave! They had gotten into my mind..my self-esteem was gone and I was literally on the verge of suicide..I just didn’t want to live anymore with the guilt I felt for hating that place. Finally I broke free and tried to run for my life (it seemed). Today I feel better but whenever I see them I feel like hiding because of what they might say. I just can’t believe that this is of GOD…

  7. tobefree,
    Thank you for sharing your story. We all need to get it out in order to move on. That’s the reason for my blog anyway. I can’t imagine listening to that stuff about women Sunday after Sunday. In our church it was implied but occasionally you would get a more direct “hit” from the sermon. I’m so glad you recognized your soul’s dying and acted to correct it! It’s such a dysfunctional system. Welcome.

  8. Thanks for your blog and your honest sharing about your “not knowing” and your confusion/conflict in that process.

    When I use the word “know” the definition that I’m referring to is “To regard as ‘fact’ beyond any doubt”

    I am one that has broken away from religion after being immersed in it from 5 y/o to 22 y/o. For two years I even studied to become a penecostal minister. My father was a Penecostal preacher for 35 years… until his death 15 years ago.

    It has been a long journey for me to flush that indoctrination out of my spiritual/emotional veins. I have spent the last 40+ years getting to where I can honestly say that “I don’t KNOW anything (of a spiritual nature anyway), but one thing that I am convinced of, is that you don’t KNOW anything either”

    I’ll gladly start a discussion/dialog with anyone that will start from that confessed position.

    I do have opinions and some experiential awarenesses that I’d appreciate the opportunity to share and will gladly give you that same opportunity.

    I’ve really enjoyed reading in your web site and have great empathy for your present journey. When I look back at my own, I marvel at those that begin climbing out of this religious quagmire. It is so tough especially if they attempt it thru their church, or even reamin friends with ‘believers’. They get so confused and conflicted and the fear (usually injected and compounded by the church members and elders) can become overwhelming. Only the strongest and most commited (to getting out) make it.

    I have recently (in the last 5 years), began referring to myself as an athiest. I think there might be some overriding awareness or consciencness ‘out there’, but I’m convinced that IF there’s anything ‘out there’ it is radically different than what the churches or the ‘bible’ talks about. Frankly, I’m in strong doubt that there is anything that we humans might call “intellegent” ‘out there’ anyway. I want to also say, that I no longer “dietise” intelegence either.

    But remember, I DON’T “KNOW” ANYTHING.

    Hugs to all of you that are on this journey of NOT KNOWING,

    Ron S

  9. Ron S,
    Thanks so much for sharing. Wow. So, you can imagine what it’s like to detox and dechurch! Some still steeped in it, just don’t get it, so they call us the “never really been saved” group. That’s such a cop out.

    Thank you for reading the web site and de-lurking yourself. 🙂 I like to hear about others’ journeys out of fundamentalism, especially about where they are right now in that journey. I am leaning in the atheist direction myself, but still claiming the agnostic moniker. I, too, am clinging to deifying intelligence.

    My problem, and my big secret, is that I work at a large, urban church. It’s very hard to shed all religion when you are surrounded by it all day. The other part is that it pays really well. I’m not about to leave the job soon, especially in my economically depressed area. Therefore, I’m stuck vacillating between faith and no faith all the time.

    Thanks again for sharing your story! 🙂

  10. Question, if you break away from religion does that Necessarily mean that you have to break away from your spiritual connection?

    I think my real problem is the people of the church! I believe that I can have a wonderful and fulfilling spiritual life without
    another person dictating to me what I should and I shouldn’t do. It is hard to live up to everyone’s expectations, I fall short everytime!!

    I guess what I am trying to say is, I want to believe that there is a God but the one the pple of the church portray just doesn’t seem right to me. It almost doesn’t give you any hope!

  11. tobefree,
    I believe it’s completely possible to let go of religion and retain spirituality. Many, many of us do. The people at church have and will fail us and that’s why I don’t go there anymore.

    People committed to an institution always tell us not to look at church people to meet our needs, but they will also warn us that we can’t stop going to church! oooo. Scary. What they are really saying is, don’t trust people in the church (only Jesus) but come to church anyway to help pay for it and to serve until you drop. Well, I’m not going to perpetuate an institution if it’s full of people who can’t be Christ to me! How absurd is that? I’ve found far more godly people outside the institutional church than in it, including me! 🙂

    Trust me, we can believe in God and Jesus and not be part of an institution. We are the church whether we gather on the corner of Center Street and Vine or not.

  12. mysteryofiniquity,

    WOW, WOW, WOW that was well said…and I BELIEVE that you truly found yourself…. Beautiful!!

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