I began having symptoms of depression around puberty (unprovoked feelings of utter hopelessness, worthlessness, overwhelming guilt, panic attacks). I think religion is based so much on building a sense of guilt, and the selfish desire to not feel that way, that the combination of my chemical imbalance and the pressures of the church finally became too much for me. I stopped participating in religion after 18 years, sought psychiatric help, and only since then have I begun to understand morality and had the ability to form logical opinions. Religion set my self-discovery back 18 years.
- How did religion negatively effect you?
Lizard & Shay,
that sounds like a very hard time you've had there. You don't have to reply to me, but I'm interested in whether you think your family could have done it differently - if you could have been brought up with a positive experience of religion instead of a hellish one. Jesus and God are supposed to be all about love, surely. Love accepts and forgives. Am I talking rubbish? Was your family mad?
Before I've found that religion is very powerful psychologically - it gets right inside your soul, like a surgeon - and if it doesn't know what it's doing, the person gets very messed up.
I was never religious, but as far as ethics and morals are concerned, I never seriously questioned their origins or justifications until recently. I felt that "there must be some, absolute standards of behavior" out there. I could see that there were several different (and conflicting) philosophies and religions that set such standards, but it still took decades for me to realize that I can actually define my own, stable set of reasonable standards of behavior.
I understand now that it's basic human nature to not have the time to develop your own intellectual insights into how to live, because we humans evolved to live just day to day, surviving, obtaining food and shelter, and (for better or worse) we had to fit into the group and respond "appropriately" to any peer pressure we perceived. As the evolution of our culture was accelerating (e.g. while we were inventing religion and philosophy), we benefited from increasing success of group-think projects, even when it came to innovative weaponry and war-making. Religion (and other group-think) helped tie us together into powerful, efficient, robotic war machines.
(Someday maybe I'll think of a better way to write all this. You're probably looking for more personal stories. These days, I think I'm learning to plug my experience into the bigger picture, whatever that is. No, wait... maybe I'm even able to help paint a bigger picture?)
At least here's one real life, personal experience. I find myself thinking a lot about how to keep a religious person out of the presidency, especially one who apparently believes in some kind of end times revelation. It scares me to think of anyone who has their special version of "knowing" how the world might end and how they intend to behave because of it, while their finger is only seconds away from that red button that can launch a real apocalypse.
And I guess as earthly civilizations continue to modernize, more and more humans will have access to more and more destructive capability, making their perceived Big Picture very relevant to others who don't share it.
There are a 1000 things that affected me growing up but none, not a single one, was ever as bad as the shame of jerking off. I hated that Jesus would watch me jerk off, and then I'd feel like I was on an escalator to hell.
I think religion affects everyone in much the same way, but they lie about it at the time, because it's another sin to be honest about how god influences your life. You can't go around saying "Well god didn't answer another prayer, and ole Aunt Minny is gone". You're trained from early on about how god gets the glory but anything else bad that happens is satan influencing you or your life, that you must be hiding something from god.
I also wasted an inordinate amount of time praying for faith. Go figure. Not because I wanted to believe but I wanted to move mountains like Superman. Nowadays I suffer from reflection syndrome, I reflect on the stupid shit I did and immediately let out some audible gurgle of embarrassment for ever believing in that junk. It's closest to the same feeling people get when they realized they were conned. You can't really fault them, but at the same time FFS didn't you THINK about what you were doing?!
I feel better now, but for a while that really made me feel like I should have known better.
I was never religious and cannot really say it impacted me emotionally in any way. However, I did grow up in a country with a state religion, which included 2-3 hours every week of Christianity in school for 8 years. If I could have been taught something worthwhile instead of that silliness, I may just have been a bit more knowledgeable and/or intelligent than I am today.
My mom was so thoroughly screwed up by her Southern Baptist upbringing that my siblings and I are still paying for it. I love it when I tell Christians, when they ask, why I was brought up as an atheist. I don't know if my family has somehow had the misfortune of encountering more than our fair share of ill-behaved Christians, but they have certainly proved my mother right. More than one Christian has said to me, "I'm sorry your family had such a difficult time, but those weren't true Christians. Really? Too late. Much too late.
Aside from the usual feelings religion has made me feel, such as fear and guilt, there was also something very regrettable: being proud. Holier than thou. I've had that thought in my mind that my religion is right, yours is wrong. "Satan is making you think that way". As a young child and a teen, I actually felt that I had this special gift being brought up in the correct way, and WOW, that was something. Later, I would delve into other religions and try to find out why they thought different, even reading their version of the bible or holy book. However, I always questioned it and everything else, thank goodness. If it wasn't for my inquisitiveness and my eventual skepticism, I'd still be lost in a river of myth.
But even though I've left most of that behind me, I still carry over that personality flaw of having to be right all the time. "Damnit I WILL convince you or so help me I will bring out this Richard Dawkins book and..and... uh oh. The asshole came out again, didn't he?"
No one likes an asshole, and for that, I blame religion, maybe my parents a little bit, and for being born in the US instead of Sweden. Or Denmark. Or maybe Norway. But Japan would have been awesome. Instead of worrying about religion and bible thumping, the worse I would worry about was tentacles and the occasional earthquake.
I think my experience is kind of like GD Heathen. I felt guilty for masturbating, which is something that i still deal with. So for the longest time I would play this endless game of jerking it and then later praying to god that i would go to church more often if he would help me stop. Then add in starting to realize i was gay, and i started praying ten times more.
It was just frustrating and a source of constant disappointment. It's taken me so long to work through it all and i finally feel like I'm starting to get over it. I just wish i never had to work through religion to have to deal with my sexuality
Just as you, my involvement in religion when i was accompanied with a really big depression plus feelings of emptiness, worthlessness, of been tied up with invisible chains; i tried as hard as i could to be become the religious role model, i wanted to suppress my sexual desires (and almost succeeded if it weren't for one little detail), never participating in a fight, never relating to people that didn't have a standard that myself didn't have; that last part cause me to become a very solitary and reclusive and ruined my already low social abilities, which i still suffer today. I felt guilt for almost anything, i spent the days figuring out if i did something wrong, remembering all the bad things i had done, every single mistake i have ever done no matter how small, how insignificant it was, how little importance it had on other people, i considered it unforgivable and how i should i have never done such mistake in first place. I live in a society where touching others is a common and expected occurrence, specially around women, i refused to do such thing, even with close friends and family. All this is so intertwined (did i use it correctly?) with my depression that i don't know which cause which. The only i'm sure is that i defeat my depression by the week after i left my belief. Today, i don't have any fond memories of my teenage years, i hardly remember anything, but considering how i lived it i don't think there's anything worth remembering. I think that i am finally free of those feelings and i that i'm finally able to do what i think is best by being myself, instead of following an impossible standard, even though more often than not, i feel tired of all.
Hey, it'll get better
This is what I want to publish (it's in note form at the moment). I need to ask everyone who's posted here: please say if it's not acceptable.
I'll tell you when it goes live, in case you want to delete the discussion.
Thank you everyone.
Religion can cause harm
Guilt. The wrong kind of pressure to be a certain way. Unsatisfactory reasons given.