A couple of nights ago I watched a programme called Jehovah’s Witnesses and Me fronted by Rebekah Vardy. I know nothing about Rebekah apart from the fact she’s a footballer’s wife who was recently involved in a social media scandal, but her reflections on being brought up in a Jehovah’s Witness household were honest and sincere. She said one of the legacies of her mother being ‘disfellowshipped’ when she, Rebekah, was 8 was that she felt, and still feels, guilty about much in life. The teaching of the organisation was, as it is in many evangelical churches, that the individual is a hopeless sinner who cannot please Jehovah, though must nevertheless endeavour to work out their own salvation. For JWs this involved (and still does, as you may know from personal encounters with them) going door to door and standing for hours on end in public spaces with a trolley-full of Watchtower publications.
I could relate to Rebekah’s feelings of guilt. While not a Jehovah’s Witness (I was never that gullible) my years as a Christian left me with a legacy of guilt. For many years it was the dominant emotion of my life. While a Christian I constantly felt I was letting God down: not as good a Christian as those around me, not witnessing enough, listening to pop music instead of worship songs – practically anything could trigger my not-good-enough feelings. I also felt responsible for anything that went wrong, even when I couldn’t possibly be, and guilt about my secret sexual feelings and, most especially that I wasn’t been a good enough father. To this day, I feel awful if I’m unable to help with my grown-up children’s problems. I am moving away from such fruitless thinking, and recognise that possibly I am naturally inclined to blame myself for events both within and outside my control. Christianity nonetheless exacerbated the problem, with its emphasis on the sinful worthlessness of the individual who is nothing without Jesus. I have, I’m pleased to say, got a lot better since abandoning its negative anti-human philosophy.
What scars has religion left those of you who are escapees from religion with? I’d be more then pleased to hear it’s none, but most of the ex-Christians I know have not come away unscathed. Feel free to share in the comments.
I’ve been fortunate. No scars. I really think the research and reading that I did for my book helped tremendously since I was able to view the “big picture” from a variety of perspectives –both for and against– and then analyze them and see what made intrinsic sense to me.
It’s unfortunate that so many are “trapped” by their fears and guilt. Of course they will deny that’s what it is, but as you expressed, walking away can be a traumatic experience and few have the fortitude to take that step.
LikeLiked by 1 person
That’s good, Nan. I’ve long understood that Christianity makes no sense rationally and I know intellectually, if I can put it that way, that its claims are completely false. The old emotional conditioning, however, has been a little more difficult to shift.
LikeLiked by 1 person
only a few scars. one where I distinctly remember being sure I was the antichrist because I obviously didn’t feel what the people in church did. But now i’m happy, free from the dread of hell and happy to take on the false nonsense I was taught.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Pleased to hear that. False nonsense indeed.
Rebekah is married to premier League footballer Jamie, who is a striker for Leicester City FC.
They are having a poor season and may end up being relegated.
Never knew there were religious issues in their family.
I grew up hearing about god. Kids talked about it, adults mentioned it, but as a kid I had trouble believing in this invisble friend everyone seemed to have. I tried going to church, all that did was teach me what a wtf? moment was, before I knew what a wtf? moment is. Sermons describing all sort of unjust, vile, revengeful, and downright idiotic, yes idiotic things, no one lives in a whale for 3 days and comes out anything other than whale crap, ok? So while the sermons are going on, I’m thinking this is horse crap, and I see the people nodding their heads and handing out the “amens.” I felt like I was on another planet, where the people had some strange headcase disease where stupid shit seems rational.
I listened. I observed. I mingled. But no matter how friendly the people were, it still felt odd to me. I walked away from church, firm in the notion that x-ians are hypocrites. 99% of them. That feeling has not changed. For what they say, and what they do, do not tend to jive up so well. Yeah, I observed. I knew who the wife beating drunk was, I knew who the druggie was, I knew who the cheater was, I knew who the guy no one wanted their kids around was, I learned who the jackleg x-ian carpenter was who did crappy work was, and so on. And they were all right there in a pew come Sunday. You can learn a lot by just mingling with an open ear you know.
So, I never got deep enough in the system to buy into being the guilty party, for just being alive as a human being.
I was lucky. So many get so investsed it is all they know, and all they believe. And they know not the way to any sort of rational sanity. Wouldn’t know it if it landed on their heads like a ton of bricks.
I think it’s crowd hypnosis. Not all that different from zombies in the movies …