Show Notes - Episode 75
But there's two of you living and breathing still—
The fellow you are, and he's tough to see,
And another chap, if you've got the will,
The man that you still have a chance to be.' - His Other Chance, Edgar Albert Guest
In this episode we'll be talking about taking your unbound experience past the Four Sunday Challenge and looking at some of the benefits, but also the pitfalls of getting and staying unbound. There is a price to be paid for getting out, that's for sure, but like I said last week, staying in is costlier by far when you look at it in terms of the rest of your life and how you choose to spend it.
But first, The usual suspects, the usual lies, and Ken Hamm is back to steal a few more of our IQ points. It's time for Christians behaving badly!
Questions that go through people's minds when they stop going to church
Why did I believe this for so long?
What really matters to me? What has real significance in my life?
Did I really like going to church?
Why did I EVER believe any of this?
Why am I still scared that I don't believe it?
Things I noticed:
1. I was thinking more clearly
2. I started questioning things it never occurred to me to question before
The needle in the haystack
Why is it that God sent Jesus to die so he could have “fellowship” with us when he clearly interacted far more directly with people in the OLD TESTAMENT?
Where is God in the lives of people, really?
Why did God allow the Holocaust?
How could there only be one way to god when people around the world view and practice spirituality so differently (and worship so many different gods, etc.)? Why would god make us all so different and expect us to be the same?
3. Not going to church normalized quickly
4. I started realizing how much fun it actually wasn't
But there were negatives...
I had lost the focus of all my creative outlets
I had lost a lot of people I cared about – they were all suddenly out of my peer group, particularly VN and Tres Dias.
I had lost the acceptance and respect of a lot of my peers, including my best friend in high school
I felt alone
I lost the luxury of prayer
I couldn't stop believing in hell
I kept replaying Paschal's Wager in my head and it looked good for a long time
What I'd always suspected about death was almost certainly true
I knew I was right but took no comfort in it
I felt alone
I felt swindled
I felt like a fucking idiot
And all of that is a cocktail of thought processes that blends neatly into a case of religious trauma syndrome or RTS. While RTS is still not an official mental health diagnosis, it is taken seriously within the mental health community. It's a subject that, in scientific terms, is currently under peer review. RTS is believed to be on the spectrum of post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD) – related illnesses.
Now all of that was just the product of what I brainstormed out of my own head. Then I found an article on https://www.restorationcounselingseattle.com/religious-trauma-transitions and found a whole other list with both similarities to what I came up with along with several memory-joggers that I'd like to share.
Disclaimer – I'm not citing Restoration Counseling or any other cited source in this episode as a reputable source of therapy or treatment for RTS. This is blog content on independent websites that contains some good information. Properly vet any and all parties who provide you with mental health services and never confuse blogging with peer-reviewed documentation. There are questionable treatment programs out there with all the earmarks of someone cashing in on a current mental health trend and they all have a blog. Evidence of this disorder is largely anecdotal but it has a number of commonly observed symptoms that nearly always show up together.
To be clear: Religious Trauma Syndrome is not found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. No mental health professional is going to officially diagnose you with this, but they will tell you if your symptoms line up with those of what is currently defined as RTS. RTS is NOT pseudoscience like... say... subluxation and reflexology. To quote the article, “Religious Trauma Syndrome is in the early stages of research and is gaining traction as a legitimate diagnosis.”
Symptoms commonly experienced by people suffering from Religious Trauma Syndrome.
Confusing thoughts and reduced ability to think critically (trust and obey)
Negative beliefs about self, others, and the world (the world is expendable, Jesus is coming back...)
Trouble making decisions – you're not thought to think for yourself
Feelings of depression, anxiety (hell), grief (the truth about death), anger (at yourself, the system, and, yes, sometimes the people and that's OK), lethargy (part of depression)
A sense of feeling lost, directionless, and alone – everything I knew was a lie
A lack of pleasure or interest in things you used to enjoy – also a product of depression
A loss of a community (family, friends, romantic relationships)
Feeling isolated or a sense that you don’t belong - isolation, loss of community
Feeling “behind the times” with cultural happenings – like music? I'll get to that...
And many other symptoms of PTSD including nightmares, flashbacks, dissociation, emotional difficulty, etc.
Worship music is a big trigger for me, especially songs with particularly overwrought lyrics like basically all things Hillsongs... listening to televangelists and self-proclaimed prophets or having to hear even small excerpts of sermons that have a certain tone and pace is another. It's a thing – difficult to explain but I guarantee there's someone out there saying, “yep, I get you, Spider...” There's just something about the delivery that makes my skin crawl now.
Causes of RTS – from https://journeyfree.org/rts/
Authoritarianism coupled with toxic theology which is received and reinforced at church, school, and home results in:
• Suppression of normal child development – cognitive, social, emotional, moral stages are arrested
• Damage to normal thinking and feeling abilities -information is limited and controlled; dysfunctional beliefs taught; independent thinking condemned; feelings condemned
• External locus of control – knowledge is revealed, not discovered; hierarchy of authority enforced; self not a reliable or good source
• Physical and sexual abuse – patriarchal power; unhealthy sexual views; punishment used as for discipline
Individuals suffering from RTS may be struggling with (restoration counseling article)
black and white thinking,
difficulty trusting oneself,
or feeling indebted to a group of people.
Skewed views of sex,
are usually present in toxic religious environments.
SPIRITUAL ABUSE IN RELATIONSHIPS
[this is a sub-category of RTS] from Restoration Counseling
You may find yourself in a relationship where spiritual abuse is occurring. If you wonder whether or not spiritual abuse is happening in your relationship, ask yourself if you are feeling shame regularly. Some questions to consider if you are worried spiritual abuse in your relationship are the following:
Have you felt silenced by your partner when trying to challenge or disagree about a religious idea? Do they call your thoughts silly, stupid, wrong? Do you feel foolish for having a different idea?
Do you feel shamed by your partner when you disagree about certain religious or spiritual ideas? Is it safe for you to challenge their ideas about religion?
Does your partner force you to attend religious gatherings against your will?
Have you been shamed or punished by your partner for not obeying certain rules outlined by the religion? Punishment can be physical, or emotional (like receiving the silent treatment).
Do you notice your partner using scripture, religious texts, or certain beliefs/rules to justify their harmful or abuse behavior?
Does your partner isolate you from others outside of the faith tradition, against your will?
Abuses within Churches
Do the leaders hold all the authority? Do they avoid distributing power to other members of the congregation?
Does your religious community discourage free thinking, critical thinking, or opinions about their messages?
Does your community imply that you are less valuable or worthy of love because of things you cannot change? (i.e. gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity, age, etc.)
Do they put down other religions and belief systems in order to uphold their own?
Do you find yourself feeling more guilt and shame instead of love and belonging?
Religious Trauma Syndrome mimics the symptoms of many other disorders – from https://journeyfree.org/rts/
post-traumatic stress disorder
obsessive compulsive disorder
borderline personality disorder
marital and sexual dysfunctions
drug and alcohol abuse
extreme antisocial behavior, including homicide
“In general, people who have not survived an authoritarian fundamentalist indoctrination do not realize what a complete mind-rape it really is.”
That, right there, is an awesome description. A complete mind rape. I like that. And it's true. The things they ram into your mind do damage, pure and simple. And rape is just one colorful descriptor that fits here. How about gaslighting? Just as a teenager, there was an onslaught of attacks on my mind and an out and out hijacking of my thought life. EVERYTHING that was fun but not Christian was sinful.
Dating (in some circles)
Then there was the constant scrutiny about my behavior and how I spent my time
Judged and shamed if I wan't in church every damn time those doors opened. Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday “Family Night,” Friday youth group... I was so afraid to say no to anything church related I risked my job a couple times to make sure I got to youth group or a youth group event
Then there was the pressure to live up to a higher standard than the rest. I was vocal to my youth pastor about my ministry calling and from that point forward I was expected to behave like a little pastor. If there was sarcasm, negativity, innuendo (which I have ALWAYS been a master of), I got everything from sideways glances to talking-tos.
I was always looked up to and felt like I had a reputation to live up to. I was about to say I don't know why, but come on... of COURSE I know why. It's because of all the things I just said. People saw that. They saw someone who was “more spiritual” than they were and the worst part of it was that I knew better. I knew me. And I hid a lot of me from the people around me then. A LOT.
Then there was the time when I quit listening to secular music for two years... (not gonna bow)
SO what caused the trauma? Well what would you say is the worst thing about every last thing I mentioned so far? There is a single, inescapable, rage-inducing common thread here that I'll bet you can't put a finger on, especially if you're still in this or have only been out for a little while. And if I'm making you think about this for the first time, I apologize, but better now than later.
The worst part of ALL of this is how I never had to go through it in the first place. I asked to go to Word of Life and I asked to go every subsequent time. I asked to go to the Faith Assembly youth group.... [ad lib]
So how do I deal with my RTS?
Forgive the people got got me in and kept me in
Remember it's the system that was responsible, not the people
Accept the time lost and let go
Recognize the opportunity I have every day to live my life under my terms, defining my own morality
Remind myself than in most matters of morality, I have no one to answer to but myself and how much easier it has become to make good and right decisions since I ditched the notion of sin.
Finally, I work on me constantly
trying to be honest, transparent, moral in all my decisions (every day, in every way...)
“keep calm and chive on”
try to be slow to anger
become more at peace with my past every day
become more optimistic about my future every day
Stay in therapy
So let's wrap this up in a way that gives you hope.
Yes, leaving religion can be traumatic, but like I said last week, the trauma happens when you're in. Seeing it from a getting unbound perspective can shine light on things you'll always wish you had a bit less clarity about... but it's important to understand what caused the trauma if you want to heal from it.
Will you always feel better if you just stick with your routine, keep going to church, keep pretending to believe because doing that comes with friends and entertainment and good vibes? Here's the question: do you want to feel better or be better? Because I can't see spending my entire life clinging to things that aren't real just to attend a picnic or a prayer breakfast once in a while. There are alternatives. You'll find them.
“But if leaving my religion won't make me feel better then why leave?” Like I said a minute ago, the trauma happens while you're in. Seeing it for what it is and severing its influence on you is crucial to learning how to think for yourself. Ask yourself:
Do I like always feeling like I'm being watched or scrutinized?
Do I like feeling pressured into going to church or spending ALL my free time at church functions?
If what I believe is true, why do people have to be threatened with eternal torture to embrace it?
If I figure out that I don't believe this, how healthy is it to live a lie?
Should my entire identity and sense of self revolve around my faith?
What has God done for me, really? Can I even come up with one good thing that's happened in my life that can't be attributed to the kindness, empathy, knowledge, or skill of people?
If you've listened this far, clearly you're looking for a reason to get out. Will you have post-truamatic stress over your experiences in evangelical faith? I have no idea. Some walk away and live perfectly well-adjusted lives and look back on that part of their life and laugh. Others feel the kinds of emotions I mentioned earlier. I still say that getting out and dealing with reality is still a better plan than staying in and feeding thoughts you know to be delusional and unlikely to be true. Stay where you are and you'll never really know yourself beyond the things they want you to see (and so many of those things aren't even true – especially when it comes to the guilt they heap on you). Take that first small step out of the confines of faith and see how much bigger the world is than that little house you've been confined to inside your brain. Once the initial fear subsides – and it will – I think you'll agree: it's far better to throw off the shackles of faith and start getting unbound.
One of the problems with doing this segment is that the same people keep saying ridiculous and stupid things, and I really don't want to devote an entire section to the same people unless they do something especially egregious so to start with, here are some bullet points:
-for a donation of $1,000, Jim Bakker will send you two books, a CD, a DVD, plus a miracle blanket that, if you put your bills under it, will miraculously help you pay them off.
--Kat Kerr says that there are “volcanoes in heaven” and you can “ride the lava”. Just for funsies. And of course, Steve Schultz, the most gullible man in the world, believes her.
- And Pat Robertson believes that the Lord is gonna give him another 29 years. He wants to make it to 120. You know, like Moses.
In 'this again?' news we have right wing pastor Perry Stone, who said on his livestream that we don't have to worry about climate change or environmental issues because “Jesus will fix all that when he comes back.”
Now this is not new. When I was in the evangelical church I would hear guys say these things constantly. But when half the country is burning and when the other half is coughing with the smoke from said fires, it starts feeling a little more serious. Many other pastors, some of whom we've discussed in this segment, have said similar things:
Pastor John McArthur of Grace Community Church in California has said “god meant us to use this planet...it is disposable.”
Ken Ham once said that the only climate change one needs to worry about is 'going to hell'.
Pastor Mark Driscoll mentioned that “he knows who created everything and he's coming back to burn it all up.”
Elected Republicans say that 'god will fix everything.'
No one talks about how God basically said we need to take care of the planet. No, this would require them to think about people other than ourselves.
More dumb christians spinning lies about the covid vaccine:
The right wing legal group Liberty Counsel has been spreading lies about Covid, as much as they can considering their members are gullible and have no critical thinking skills. Liberty Counsel's vice president of media, Holly Meade claimed the vaccines contain graphene oxide for the purpose of "controlling people and linking them to the internet." Of course, she has no science credentials whatsoever.
Who knows where she got that information? Was it from a disgruntled Pfizer employee who was spreading disinformation, even though they were nowhere around the development of the vaccine? Who knows, and in their opinion, who cares? The main thing they're trying to do is spread doubt, and evangelical christians are just the sort who take Liberty Counsel's uninformed opinions and words seriously. They already don't believe that Covid is a thing at all, that it's a plot by the 'leftists' to control everyone by apparently...hooking us up to the internet?
I'm looking for the conspiracy theory about the perpetual motion machines that control the weather next.