Blame it on my parents. They always told me to “think for yourself”. I doubt they ever considered what would happen if I really did that.
Now, I suspect what they meant was, “Think what we tell you but do it in your own words.” Too late. When I was 13, I began to question everything and soon the total absurdity of religion became apparent.
Because I have been “encouraged” (forced) to read the bible several times, it was easy for me to see the contradictions in the book, what christians professed to believe, and how they really lived.
When I refused to go with them to their church, they said they would “Make me go.”
I asked them, “How are you going to make me? How will forcing me to attend church change my mind?” Already, their attitude was starting to harden me against everything else they would tell me.
Their next idea was to have their minister talk to me. I told them it was a waste of everyone’s time. They persisted and had him come to the house to “Talk some sense into me.” (as if they ever works for anyone) After about 15 minutes of him quoting the bible to me and me pointing out that he was either wrong in his quotes or showing him how it said something else in another place, he became very angry and told me I was going to hell. I suspect it was because I knew the bible better than he did and was, at age 13, able to prove how ridiculous his arguments were.
I told him, “If there is a Hell I’ll see you there. Save me a nice place, OK?” He said I was an impertinent, disrespectful child. By then, I was angry myself and for the first time, I told a christian that he was a hypocrite, a liar, and a fool. My parents insisted that I apologize. I refused and left the room to a lot of yelling and threats.
For the next four years, I heard about this at least once a week. So the night I graduated high school, I left my parent’s home and didn’t see them again for well over a year. By then, with the credits I had accumulated in high school and summer school, I had completed a couple of years of college. Fortunately, I was able to pay for this myself. I was entering the army and wanted to try to make peace with them, but had to listen to the same old recriminations and arguments again.
The next time I saw them was two years later when I was getting married. After several years of an on-again, off-again relationship they finally agreed to just not discuss it any more. I’d like to say that worked, but subtle hints slowly became outright condemnation. Then I took a job transfer from Ohio to Arizona, so family meetings were rare enough to become occasions for something other than contention.
I do have to say that I appreciate the other things they did for me, like encouraging my education and equipping me with the work ethic and attitudes I needed to survive and thrive at that early age. In those areas, they were excellent parents and I am grateful for those things.
What did I learn? Even your family can turn against you if you refuse to share in their illusions. There are times, if you are to become your own person, you must stand firm in what you know to be true.
Land of the Free?
America is not the land of the free and never was. This is not limited to the USA, of course, it’s true of most places at most times. It is only free if you profess to believe the “right” things, practice the “right” religion, support the “right” causes, and say the things that “everyone knows” are correct. Now, it must be “politically correct,” too.
Dissent has always been not only discouraged, but punished, socially, legally, and often physically. How many “hippies” of the 60’s were disowned, ostracized, and often physically abused for their views and lifestyle? Is it any different today? Isn’t “gay bashing” still practiced? How about right of choice? Is that also punished? Even to the point of murder?
Anyone that opposed the Iraq War 2 was accused of being unpatriotic, unchristian, and possibly treasonous. The fact that not one weapon of mass destruction has been found in Iraq and that it is becoming very apparent that the government, starting with the President and Secretary of State misstated or even lied about the intelligence excuses for the war has not lifted the mantle of hate aimed at these few voices of reason. Some “friends” have even told me that, if I can’t say what they want to hear and stop criticizing the government to stop communicating at all. I may have lost some acquaintances, but I have kept my integrity.
It doesn’t stop with false patriotism, it continues into every area of life; especially when you intrude upon religion. Madelyn Murray O’Hare may have won a few battles, but at the cost of eternal hatred and enmity from so-called “Christians.” The hate and threat-filled mail she received reveals the true level of “Christian love and tolerance” that exists in the USA.
Anyone that dares to express dissatisfaction with blue laws and protests anyone attempting to enact their personal religious beliefs into law is reviled and attacked, often physically. Think about the number of bombings of abortion clinics. Are these acts of Christian charity? Whether anyone likes it or not, the abortion issue is a religious one. Has any other argument been offered against it? If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one. If you have a logical, provable, argument against it, state it clearly and reasonably. Attempting to enforce your opinion with violence or making it a law with its implied threat of “legal” violence is morally wrong and contrary to the standards of a free country.
If America were truly free, anyone could express any opinion and live any way they chose without running the risk of social, financial, or physical danger. This situation does not exist today and never will because there are two universal truths that forbid it.
The first is: A person’s most precious possessions are his illusions. People will sacrifice their homes, money, possessions, even their children as long as they can maintain their illusions of religion and what’s “right” and wrong”. If you doubt this, think of parents watching their children go off to fight and die in a war because they refuse to surrender the illusion that “It’s a just war against a godless heathen.” They cannot accept that it is to ensure the profits of oil companies and presidential pals. They do this because very few are cognizant of a second truth. Beliefs, no matter how sincerely held, do not alter facts.
One of the things I’ve learned is that most of our beliefs and attitudes are really an accident of birth. If you had been born in another place, you might just as sincerely believe in Hinduism, Confucianism, Islam, or some other religion and be convinced that your country was always right and that America was the “Great Satan.” You would be just as wrong.
Do I expect to suffer for these opinions? Most certainly I do. There is no doubt there will be hate mail and death threats (christians are especially fond of those) but also financial, social, and personal loss. But I still have my integrity. That’s more than most.