I found a fantastic example of the kind of religious pressure brought to bear on church-goers. READ IT HERE. What a horrifying example of what people in many parts of America must do to remain part of the community! Here are some salient excerpts:
The final straw came when they emailed our entire congregation a raft of lies about Democrats, and didn’t BCC it. I thought “What right does our pastor have to press his political opinion on all of us? We go to church to hear the word, not politics.” I saw an opportunity to speak to the congregation with a gentle voice of moderation and reason… so I took it.
If you’ve lived this scenario before, you know what comes next. If not, you better sit down. (And by the way, I can’t vouch for this guy personally, but I can tell you I’ve lived this scene as well.)
I was cursed at by people I’d known for years, people I’d prayed with. I was told I hated the troops. I was told that waterboarding wasn’t torture, and even if it was, it was ok because America was worth it. My small group I hosted at my home was subjected to Nazi-like brownshirt investigation, with the small group pastor dropping by to “keep us on point” in our discussions.
This is what right wing religion really looks like in America. I’ve been there. If you dare disagree with the party line, you will be spat upon. Figuratively for certain, possibly literally.
I need to take a slight detour before continuing, because the author says something really interesting next. After their harrowing experience, they decided to look for another church. That’s no small point, and it highlights one of the most devious aspects of religion, especially fundamentalist religion. It doesn’t appear that either he or his wife gave any thought to questioning the existence of God at this point. They assumed — and ran with the assumption — that it was people doing things wrong, not God.
That’s what religion does. It always has an escape hatch. No matter how vile the actions of the church, God is always blame free. It was never his fault. Never his intention. (Even though he knew it would happen, right?) Believers almost always fall back to religion — to protect them from what religion did to them! It’s a classic pattern of abuse. Look it up.
Ok. On with the story:
The second realization came when my young son began to realize what death was, and connected what he heard of Hell and demons in church.
Sound familiar? There’s nothing new, folks. I had the same experience thirty years ago. I was terrified when I took the church’s teaching about demons and hell literally. Terrified to the point that I kept myself sleep deprived for weeks, maybe months. This is old school. Everything in religion is old school. It just gives itself a new whitewash every generation or so to get rid of the moldy stench.
As a father, I was about to tell my terrified son the fairy tale equivalent of this: “If he didn’t want to end up locked in a dark, dank basement filled with spiders and child molesters and murderers, then he should love me with all his heart and soul, and if I believed he was sincere, then I wouldn’t lock him down there forever. I would tell him I sacrificed myself to work very hard for him, and that I was giving him this gift of a chance to live upstairs with me forever. However, if he didn’t want it, then it was out of my hands and he would have to go to the basement and be locked in there, away from the warm beacon of my love forever.”
I wish more new fathers had the intestinal fortitude to come to this realization. Maybe the shock of being ostracized by an entire community for daring to think for himself did have a long-term effect, and maybe it made him a little more likely to break free. But that is little comfort to me, because this is a story of systematic abuse, and only a small percentage of chronic abuse victims ever have the strength to leave on their own. The majority stay and take it, and usually believe it’s their fault. Which is why Christianity in particular is so horrific.
It occurred to me that if I couldn’t ask him to believe this, then why should I believe it, and if I didn’t tell him, then I was betraying god by not passing on “holy truth” to him that he MUST KNOW TO AVOID THE BASEMENT… and it all fell into place. I had been a stooge. I had believed this idiocy my whole life, I had even held off on having kids earlier because I feared the coming Apocalypse was just around the corner. I was a fool and I was so ashamed I was numb.
Score one for rational thought. Good job, Dad. Beautiful job. I’m proud of you, and so are hundreds of thousands of other atheists. Welcome to reality. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than where you were.