Dear Jim (that’s me in the corner losing my religion)

Corner

What follows are a few of countless emails I have received from those who expressed how their involvement in religion damaged their lives.

“Overall, I have to say that I lost my individuality through my experience with organized religion…. I felt forced to fit in, to fit some type of mould or shape or way to be. I joined group after group looking for acceptance… I changed my appearance, my language, even some of the things I enjoyed I gave up in order to fit in. I lost me in the process, the real me. That has damaged me more than anything. Now I’m trying to find the real me.”

*

“I was an Evangelical for 27 years of my life. What I got most out of church was: read and pray every morning, go to church every Sunday and Wednesday, tithe (one church wanted a tithe of my student loans), be republican, it’s okay to joke about gays, liberals, and Muslims, Harry Potter is bad, but magic in Narnia is good, alcohol is bad, sex is bad, woman are inferior to men, the bible is just doctrine and theology, etc.”

*

“I learned intolerance at church. Church insisted that only THIS church has the right answers, and that any other church, even another Christian church, is to be avoided because they don’t have the whole Truth. Church taught me to be prejudiced. I learned at church that women are lesser beings than men, that only men were capable of teaching, leading or making important decisions. At church, I learned that God loves me less because I’m female. Organized Christianity insisted that I am a filthy, stinking, horrible, sinful person deserving of Hell. I’m less than worthless, and knowing so is a godly attribute. Church taught me to despise myself and be afraid of God. In church, I learned that a grand performance as the ultimate Christian is preferable to an honest confession of failure, and that the honest, broken people are shunned, gossiped of, and never forgiven.”

*

“Through a lot of thinking and reflection I have come to realize that the times I felt closest to God were not through all by business and conscious effort on my part but just the opposite. It was in the quiet still moments. It was while driving in my car or standing in line at the check-out counter. It was while staring at a tree and seeing its branches move by an unseen force. It is in the quiet enjoyable moments and sometimes even in the daily mundane moments that I find myself growing closer and more aware of God. There is no magic formula to use or class to take. All I need to do is be open to Him and be His Love wherever I am.”

*

“For me, religious detox has involved a LONG, drawn out, painful, excruciating, lonely, heartbreaking, freeing, exhilarating, sometimes mind boggling, angry, happy, sad time in my life. It is confusing at times, totally clear at times. I mostly think I’m losing my mind. Unlearning everything I “learned” in the last ten years.”

*

“When I really became honest with myself, I realized that my involvement with organized religion comprised of two main things – trying to figure out what the rules to be accepted were, and trying in futility to obey these rules. As much as I heard the popular rhetoric, ‘it’s about relationship, not rules’ I realized that this was, for the most part, just talk. It was about rules, always was, always will be. This is the crux of religion. Yeah, on the surface, it did not seem this way. The last organized church I was part of regularly had a very casual and dress down style. It was not uncommon to see people coming to church in shorts and flip flops on the Saturday evening service that I attended, and the praise team usually incorporated secular songs that could have a spiritual interpretation into their routine. But after I got really involved in the church, I learned you weren’t supposed to have personal struggles. I was told that I struggled because I was not dedicated enough to God, not persistent enough, not faithful enough.”

*

“I was taught that this God who loved me demanded perfection and nothing short of perfection could please him. Since I could not be perfect, he would accept Jesus’ perfection in my place. Since I deserved to be killed and then eternally tortured, he’d take Jesus in my place for that, too. He could only bear to look upon me if he saw me wrapped up in Jesus’ bloody body. I get the image of a wolf literally wrapped in a sheep’s carcass when I think of those days.

Serving this type of perfectionist and schizophrenic God made me fearful, demanding and judgmental myself. I knew that even my love for him was a sham because how can you love a monster who creates a helpless, sinful creature then tortures it for being exactly what he created it to be? How can you love in “free will” someone who says “Love me or I’ll send you to hell for eternity.” How others around me could love this god made me feel inferior and evil. I knew that even though I had done the right things, said the prayer, gotten baptized, even spoke in tongues that I hadn’t really appeased him because I could never truly love him, only fear him.”

That is how I was most hurt by organized religion. Organized religion presented me with the picture of a schizophrenic, perfectionist, masochistic God and demanded that I love an unlovable tyrant.”

*

“Leaving the church and more recently, just giving up on the whole damn thing. I am now an open minded agnostic vs. a liberal minded Christ follower. I still think Love is the most important thing but I don’t know if God and Love are the same.”

*

“I just got tired of wearing the ‘Christian mask’. Sick of it, actually. I grew up in a conservative evangelical household where we read the Bible, went to church on Sunday and I attended the youth group. We were all expected to talk the same, pray the same, interpret scripture the same, and above all else, vote the same. It was more like we were members of some spiritually exclusive club. Yet I experienced deep loneliness. As my disconnect grew, I started to look outside organized religion and evangelical settings for some answers. I just wanted to be emotionally whole, but when I brought my issues up I was told to read more scripture. When my father found out I was looking for answers elsewhere, he told me I was going to Hell if I believed anything other than how I was raised (a nice conversation starter, huh?). Anyway, that was the day I left the institutional church and it became the first day of Freedom. I’ve never looked back. I don’t hold grudges against other Christians but my crap-detector goes off immediately when I meet anyone who’s wearing the ‘Christian mask’. I consider myself a follower of the teachings of Jesus and I strive to be like Him. The term ‘Christian’ carries too much baggage for me.”

*

“I’ve had many people question my “Christianity” over the past few years because my ideas don’t fit into their boxes. So to me, being a Christian has nothing to do with doctrines, even beliefs about Jesus himself. Whether or not somebody believes he was just a dude, was God, or didn’t even exist at all doesn’t matter to me. I’m more interested in following the recorded faith of Jesus, rather than the faith about Jesus.”

*

“Religious detox over all has been lonely as I am leaving much of my illusional security I collected over the past 30 plus years. I am developing my own personal life with Jesus and have little of the clichés and patterning that I so easily embraced. I kinda like it!!”

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