I was raised in an evangelical area. The further you go out into the country in the deep south, the more adamant people’s beliefs become and the more entangling they are. This is a bit disjointed and stream-of-conscious-y, but please bear with me. You may find some things that surprise you.
I have relatives that believe God speaks to them specifically every day, and act about this as if they were talking about a cute boy in their homeroom class. And they are fully-grown adults.
I have known believers with a full range of mental issues, from experiencing emotional abuse as children to things I can’t begin to diagnose because I am not at all a certified psychologist. I really have thought for years now that more studies need to be done on this, especially in heavily fundamental areas of the country.
I always had trouble with belief. I never truly accepted a lot of the “stories” I heard as a kid. I knew about dinosaurs. I watched a lot of educational TV. I knew that fundamentalist explanations didn’t make sense. I really felt like it was all farfetched. I was fascinated by stories of Greek, Roman and Egyptian gods. I always felt “outside” of it. In my “own little world,” so to speak. When I was in middle school, I was subjected to monthly viewings of the 700 club during Wednesday night services, primarily all on “end times” subjects. I always wished I was somewhere else, somewhere having a “normal” life without religious indoctrination. Actually, many preachers were very “end times” during my early childhood, and many nights, I would stay up late to make sure we would have another day, a pattern that still occasionally affects my sleep cycle with anxiety, insomnia and night terrors.
I have seen things that scare me to death in fundamentalist-style churches. So much hatred. So much fire and anger toward one’s fellow man disguised as something better. So much money grubbing, and power-hunger over a church with little more than 40 members.
Everyone who married because “God told them” this was the right person has ended up divorced. So many of my relatives and former associates that recognize the existence of God are very bad people indeed. I’ve known killers and cocaine dealers and child abusers. They all believed in God, though. Especially the drug dealers. Never have I once known a drug dealer who didn’t believe in God. Not one. And even though I am not a user, I come from an area where drugs are especially prevalent. I even know dealers who regularly wear crucifixes.
The first thing I do remember actively doubting was the story of Methuselah. Living for hundreds of years. As a very small child, I knew my great-grandmother was very old, and she was in a nursing home. I knew a hundred years was possible (she died at 84) and maybe older, like the occasional person on tv with a 100-year-old birthday. But not hundreds of years. And why one guy? Why not let everyone live for a really long time? It was emotionally and psychologically very distressing. Many years later, I read items on the chronological increase of human life expectancy. It just didn’t add up. LIke so many other things.
My questioning often got me into arguments with Sunday School Teachers and Youth Leaders. They would try to relate something to reconcile my doubts. And finally, they would throw their hands up and I would get moved to an older class. I gave up and played the game sometimes, but part of me always was reserving doubt.
Some people in my life know my ideas now, some very close to me never will because I don’t want to go through the emotional drama of having “the truth” verbally beat into me.
I am not married. I don’t have kids. I waffled on the idea so long I am now closing in on the end of the possibility. The reason I waffled on it is because I don’t want to have to argue with extended family over the raising of my children in a non-theist manner.
I have lost so much because of belief. Belief that was forced on me in a manner that was emotionally and psychologically abusive by all those around me. I find it hard to trust. I find it very hard to relate to people. I find it hard to trust that people like me for me rather than some kind of point system they are keeping or for their own ends. I can’t be in a reasonable relationship because the magnet in my head is still tuned to attract men who need a guilt-giving disciplinarian/provider or either one who is flat-out emotionally unavailable.
And yet I am still better off. And I have hope, and I know I’m not crazy. You will get there, too.