I had posted a blurb similar to this on reddit.com awhile back, and it didn't spark much discussion. This was an important part of my life, and I need to talk to some rational-like-minded people about it! I've spent too much time trying to forget about it, and I really need to talk about it.
Because of living in a house full of metaphysicists, in California, I realized that all evidence-free beliefs was heedless nonsense. And in some cases dangerous.
I grew up on Vancouver Island, Canada (Now live in Halifax). To make a long story short, at 17 (I'm now 24), I graduated high school early and moved down to California for a year. I had met a girl online, and after a couple of back-and-forth trips, moved down permanently to live with her family. It was a huge change for me, but the biggest change was the introduction to "metaphysics".
Now there's a ton of applications for this word. How they used it was the explanation that, with positive thinking, the universe gives back to you. This is true in a very PHYSICAL down-to-earth kinda way. Obviously being positive is probably going to get you further in life rather than say-- being negative. This is common sense. But these people practiced it to the extreme.
They thought Jesus was a metaphysicist, and that with enough positive thinking you can literally do anything. One insane example I can think of, is the Mom convinced everyone in the house that "the banks screwed up" and that her mortgage was gone. She held a massive party and went through great lengths to convince everyone that she was telling the truth. Later I caught her filing for bankruptcy. I confronted her and she told me that she was testing to see, with enough positive thinking, if we could make this happen.
By lying to her family.
She convinced herself that it didn't work because not all of us believed. This made me not only a reaffirmed atheist, but anti-theistic as well. That was one example, but there were many many others. Critical thinking should be a class taught in Elementary school.
Another point I should mention was that I was nearly starving. At 6 feet, I was around 130 lbs and the change in social and physical environment made me have an emotional break down (partly because I wasn't eating enough/drinking enough-- no money). I remember one night I decided I wanted to go home, and because I was paying the Mom a large portion of the rent, and she was unemployed (LARGELY because of her beliefs. She believed with positive thinking, money would just come to her), obviously the Mom didn't want me to leave.
Anyway, one night I had been awake for around 40 hours, starving, homesick, depressed-- and when I told them I wanted to leave, they sat me down and told me that I was meant to be there. That things happen for a reason, and I shouldn't leave. That because I was a good person, good things will happen there for me... I remember for 15 minutes I believed them. Completely. It all made sense. I believed in that garbage for a solid 15 minutes. When I snapped out of it, and realized I wasn't thinking clearly-- that I was being brainwashed (for lack of a better word), I left shortly after.
This is illusive to death-bed conversions, and a VERY real thing.
Just so you know, everything's cool now! I'm not starving anymore. I make short films, and short cartoons, play bass guitar, and am a weapons engineering technician in the Canadian navy.
Any other stories out there from ex-New-Agers or at least people who've had their lives negatively affected by New Age dogma? Anyone else almost convinced by a religion?
Nooope, no stories involving new agers, which is odd because it's kind of a big "thing" in this area.
It's really disgusting that others manipulate young people like this when at that age, we're still feeling around, trying to establish who we are and make sense of the world. I remember my curiosity about wicca was instantly used as a means for recruitment by an older couple when I was 20. I just wanted to know what it was about and why people thought it was something worth believing in, not be sucked into the fold.
Good to know you've come out of that scary period into something much healthier. :)
I never met somebody into wicca, but I do remember being interested because I had heard Robert Plant was into it.
It is disgusting when adults knowingly recruit younger more malleable people. When I have kids I'm really going to make sure I don't push my anti-theistic views, and let them discover these things on their own. Also, to keep an eye on who they're talking to, and make sure they're not being brainwashed by some nutcase.
Critical thinking is one of the most important skills we can learn at a young age. Younger the better!
I know a few wiccans now. I talk to them, and am friends with them. This particular group do not try to recruit anyone. They feel it is wrong. They are very live and let live, and get a lot of grief from people who are considered more conventional. They were some of the first people I told I was an atheist.
I agree that trying to put your opinions over on younger people is bad. I tried to teach my kids to think for themselves and question things, even when I was a christian. I didn't want little me clones. I always wanted my kids to be able to think.
The only cult like experience I ever had was with some small group of fundies I knew when I was about 16. They told me I wasn't "saved" because I didn't have some big, earth shattering salvation experience. I guess, mainly because I never felt like I was a bad person, and didn't feel like I needed to change a lot.
I don't know too many new agers, but I guess it just goes to show that faith in things that cannot be proven can be dangerous. Glad you got out of that. Thanks for sharing your story.
It was one or two families who were in the church I was going to, so some adults, and some kids. At one point, they decided the main church was wrong, because they didn't agree with their theology, so this group left the church. My mom drew the line at that point, and told me not to have contact with them. She didn't forbid it, but she did tell me from that point on to think anything and everything out completely before accepting anything. It was good advice, and was what got me out of the group. From her perspective, however, it is also what made me start doubting christianity.
I was a pagan for a few years, starting when I was 17. That summer was the worst summer of my life. I had been cheated on and abused by my then-boyfriend, broke up with him so he could be with the other girl, had no friends at school, and was depressed to the point at which I attempted suicide. I was in a production of Carousel that summer, and met several lovely people who brought me back from the edge of life simply by being themselves. (I told no one about the suicide attempt until years later.)
One of my new friends and I were having a discussion about religion one day. I told her my faith in Christianity was wavering. She told me she was a Wiccan. I told her that I didn't have the slightest clue what it was about, and she started to tell me about it. I asked if I could borrow one of her books, because it sounded interesting, and she loaned it to me.
We talked about it for the rest of the show's run, which was about another month, and at the end I agreed that it was a cool religion. I liked the idea of the old gods, and promptly became a pagan - I wasn't comfortable with the term "Wiccan."
I wasn't a very good pagan, though. I didn't exactly "worship" the old gods of mythology. Instead, I read about the gods and basically used them as character development. If I needed to be brave, for example, or kind, I would think about some myths of Cuchulain (though I know he's not a god) or Brighid, respectively. I would try to emulate the trait that they exhibited. I didn't do rituals, except once in a while when I was very very bored or very stuck on what to do about something. I will say this about rituals in general: there is something to be said for performing a specific action whenever you're stuck on a problem. It can help get you into the right mindset to think it through. This is the way I use the ancient ritual of "making a cup of tea and having it with some bread and butter" today.
On the whole, my experience as a pagan was pretty tame. I just read books on my own, so basically I'm the same now as I was then. :-P
There was one negative effect. Because I felt that everyone deserves another chance, since I had been given one, I forgave that boyfriend and proceeded to date him for another two years, during which he would abuse me, insult me (called me a "pagan whore" once), tell me I was going to hell, etc. I continued to forgive him for it until I stopped believing that I would be punished if I didn't.
Oh, and for extra giggles, guess what my ex's religion was? Quaker. The nonviolence people who many don't consider to be Troo X-tians. Ironic, eh?