Friday, December 01, 2006



By Mags

[The other day, after I read Mags's swell post expressing a distinct lack of enthusiasm for Sen. Barack Obama's apparent keenness to make nice with the religious Right, and knowing that she is herself a fugitive from Fundyworld, someone who lived her early life in the clutches of mindless fundamentalism, but one of the rare prisoners who escaped, I wondered if she might one of these days have some thoughts to share on how the "left behinds" might be reached.

[What I had in mind was something to share with you readers. Almost before I had a chance to look up, I got back the following personal communication. I'm sure you'll understand why I asked if it would be okay to share this with DWT readers--and happily she agreed. Personally, I'd love to see her go ahead and write the book she mentions at the end, and I'd be curious to hear what kinds of things you readers would be interested in hearing about, or hearing more about.--Ken]

Many of us ex-fundies and atheists (I am not sure I am one, just don't bother to care about it) are indeed angry to the point of being disdainful of the whole group. I think it must annoy many others. But we are so surrounded by the ignorance and superstition that is so harmful.

Anyway, Ken, I came out of religion because my life fell apart to such a degree that I was no longer allowed the luxury of belief in fables. But just before that, I started to study the Bible in a more comprehensive way. I had learned from a professor of Hebrew Studies, from a tape passed along to me by my mom, one simple fact that contradicted something I had been taught for all of my Christian life. It caused me so much cognitive dissonance. I knew if I accepted the truth, then I had to be open to the fact that this was just the beginning, that I would possibly have to rearrange everything I was taught. The other thing this religious teacher encouraged was really scholarly study even for lay people. He encouraged people to learn the biblical languages and to learn about church history.

As I studied, I found out that much of what was taught within the church and what was spouted on religious channels simply was not true. That credibility gap for me was part of it, I think initially the larger part. However, it goes beyond that. When my life fell apart through no fault of my own, my pastor "forgave me." Here I was, a young woman with four children whose dad was headed for prison for embezzlement, and the pastor forgave me.

As a woman it is even more worrisome and as a poor woman impossible not to consider how much the religious Right would like to control our wombs. They would insist that we not terminate unwanted pregnancies. They would insinuate themselves into already desperate lives, not to make them better, but just to stop by to judge someone else.

When, as a struggling single mom, I was forced to reach out for help--my heat was turned off, my car had no valid license plate, I could not afford car insurance (a violation of state law also)--I was sent to a series of movies about budgeting. And if I wanted help, the rule was that I had to turn my checkbook over to this group.

The first movie in the series was about a couple who needed to give up their boat and sell their rental property to get by financially. I was not sure how that applied to a person who was scraping by on under $15,000 per year for a five-person household. And when it came to giving up my checkbook, empty as it was, I felt like they had asked me to give up the last area where I had any financial control at all.

In the end, some influential friends of mine were able to hook me up with a church that was willing to offer me one-time help for those items. That was really all I needed. I had no money to budget. Budgeting was not my problem.

This is why I hate them so much. They are punitive. And they do not know that they are not better than others. They are judgmental and they do not understand, nor do they care about, the desperation of poverty and the bottomless loneliness of raising children poor and alone in the world.

As I studied in college, I got further and further away from the doctrines through learning the truth and rejecting the error. So when someone says that education does not work, then I have to say that it is the education that is offered that does not work. Taking a math class will not do it. One must take classes in philosophy and social science which challenge the myths we are propagandized with in K-12. We are bombarded with God and country our whole lives; then we go to college.

The religious may not lack education, but they certainly lack access or exposure to information. They lack the connective tissue of information, so to speak. They might know math and compartmentalize other knowledge and skills, but the overarching principles that hold the world together for us are missing for them. They plug the information they get into a whole different grid of meaning.

The church is also a social control. Once you leave the church, you have no church members to disappoint, you make your own networks, you gain different points of reference.

Those are some of my reactions to your question as a sociologist. I think to reach out to them where they are is most difficult. You must coopt their leaders. You must find ways to reach the leaders without disturbing the income flow from their central organizations. They will close ranks against too much truth. For them, it is always going to be protection of their flock as a resource--not so much out of concern for the flock.

Christianity continues to be big business. I have always liked Tom Robbins' book Another Roadside Attraction. He addresses the economic and state benefits from religion. If you have not read that book, it is about a guy who finds the body of Jesus Christ in the catacombs of Rome and is chased by the governments and the church.

I have said more than you want to know, I am sure, but what must happen to wake them up is the same thing that must happen to many addicts: They must hit a personal bottom. Life has to kick them, and then they need to find education and information that is healthy to put in its place, or they will be like dry drunks--an addict in search of another fix, just another ideology.

Immediately after my "loss" of faith, at times I used to read tarot and engage in some meditation-type exploration. I no longer mess with that stuff either. I find no more reason to engage in New Age stuff than Bible stuff. At some juncture they are very similar.

I reason, though--and sucessfully, I think--to my students that if I (in a rhetorical sense) have no book and I have no God or devil to blame, then I am largely responsible for the world I create and live in--to the degree that I as an individual can affect that world. I am less likely to kill someone, as that might be final rather than a transition to "another life." And I am less likely to judge, since we all have varying degrees of resources and differing faiths.

The issues currently for me are the ones of control. This religious Right wants control over us as a culture the way a controlling and abusive husband wants control over his wife. I have lived under that control also. And so my reaction to these people is visceral. I wonder if the Obama types ever stop to think about those of us in this category. If anyone stopped long enough to ask, rather than to pat the religious on the back, I think they would find the nightmare beneath, which I and many like me have lived.

This in my mind is tyranny. It is personal. To legislate the goals of these groups is tantamount to dictatorship and tyranny. That is my best answer. I do not know how to change that except to storm the gates. We cannot do much except to vote and to influence the media to quit listening to them so much, stop giving them the bully pulpit. Let them keep their prayers in their prayer closets. All of them. The big ones treat women and children as assets and as less than men, less than them. They all treat outsiders the same way. The extremeists of all religions are the same. The evil is the same.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I deal with this topic all the time in my personal life because my husband's family is extreme in religion of their own making, and my only brother, who lives near me, is wrapped up in a religious cult that labels itself as "Christian." I was abused by my mother, who was very religious, and I found little different in her tactics of abuse and control from those of my ex-husband, and he was not religious.

I could write a book.



At 1:53 PM, Blogger Timcanhear said...

They give in to something they think is a higher authority and you're right, they see it as a way to escape responsibility.
I say let them be. Educate those who seek knowledge and it will spill over into society.
Look what we did as a group. We took the government out of the grasp of the religious right.


Post a Comment

<< Home