Good Evening Heathens and Hell-Bound friends and foes alike. For the last article on this subject, click here: Inoculation Against Indoctrination: Atheists? Before I push forward in this series I thought there was another topic that I would touch upon. I think it’s necessary to understand how indoctrination affects the adult mind before we go into how someone can be indoctrinated.
I’m several years outside of the walls of religious faith and so I think it puts me in a position where I can discuss the side-effects that still cling around after someone leaves the faith. These things are going to be especially true the more fundamentalist you were in your former faith. If you were from one of the more liberal Christianities these issues are probably not as severe yet you may experience them to some degree, even if slightly. So without further ado, here are the side effects of religious indoctrination.
It is incredibly hard for me to trust someone at face value. After years of religious indoctrination, if you aren’t willing to show me some evidence for why I should trust you, it’s not going to happen. I realized after 30 years that my life was based on a lie, a lie that people might have told me with good intentions, but a lie nonetheless.
For years my life had been built around something that was doing deep harm to my mind. It was shaping the way I saw people, made me fear the outside world and cling to the faith harder and harder. I knew that if I strayed from the faith it would mean death and punishment so I clung even harder. Once I got away from it, I realized how deluded I had been and so today I still fear deluding myself again, or having someone else feed me their delusions.
So you are taught for years that everyone outside the faith wants to do you harm. They are after one thing only, to destroy your soul. You know that lady or man who smiled at you, she is going to lead you into temptation. Science spends billions of dollars per year with the sole purpose of causing you to believe in evolution and thus disbelieve in the bible.
This anxiety does not go away simply because you’ve realized it’s a lie. I still have great issues accepting invites from friends as well as a severe fear of meeting new people. My mind still instantly goes to how this person might try to get me to sin.
Many people who come out of faith have issues with depression. This can come from a feeling of hopelessness, a loss of community, or being disowned by family and friends. Some people who leave the faith lose their jobs and have great financial struggles.
There are of course organizations that can help, for example I’m a member of The Clergy Project, a foundation set up to help former ministers find a community and new direction in life. Other organizations might provide financial support or counselling to those in need. However, depression is not something that you can really beat, at least not in my opinion. I still struggle with depression to this day and will more than likely struggle with depression the rest of my life. Religion was such a huge part of my life and now it’s gone, I realize that it was simply bells and whistles but they were bells and whistles that my entire life was centered around.
This one is bigger with those who are former members of the Clergy. I have huge regrets over the things that I taught for many years. I preached doctrine and dogma, and so I preached that homosexuality was a sin, that if you were a sinner you were going to hell, and that salvation could be found through a human sacrifice. Children sat in the front rows during my services and I warned them of the evils in the world that would constantly try to lead them away from the faith.
Proudly I can say that the majority of kids who were in my church are actually now atheists. I often wonder if they questioned their beliefs after finding out that their former minister had rejected his own. Even so that would do little to remove the regret that I feel for every single sermon I ever gave on and subject that I now think completely different about.
The Fear of Hell
This one never goes away, it sits in the back of your mind like a time-bomb waiting to go off at any moment. I can be watching TV and all of a sudden have images of hell enter my mind. I’ve awoken in the middle of the night in a cold sweat because I dreamed that I had gone to hell and was burning for all eternity.
The religious will try to use this fact as evidence for the existence of hell. They will say, how can you fear something that you don’t believe is going to happen. Isn’t the fear of hell evidence that hell exists and that god must also exist? No, it simply means that I was taught to believe in hell from as young as I can remember and those lessons are still deep within my mind. It is just a sign of the indoctrination and not a sign of any truth to that indoctrination.
In the End
It’s clear that the taint of faith will forever be on my mind. You cannot be taught something for nearly 30 years and then just believe it’s going to go away. The good news is that the longer that I am away from the faith, the less I experience these side-effects. Maybe one day they will cease to exist entirely but I doubt that. Something tells me that no matter how long I am away from the faith I will still have some issue that faith caused. My anxiety is getting better but it’s still there, my trust issues are lessened but still there, I still suffer from depression and regret, and I will never fully remove the fear that was driven into me as a child about hell.
Religious indoctrination is abuse, no question in my mind, and like any abuse I will always be tainted by the hand that beat me, that told me I couldn’t live without it, and that promised if I ever left I would be punished. That hand is religion, and it definitely poisons everything.