How I became a Fundamentalist extremist in my childhood, its affects, and how I got out.

  Lately I have been describing myself as a former Young Earth Creationist, Fundamentalist, wacko. At first I thought that the addition of the word "wacko" would cause much backlash. I have not had one negative comment even in Christian forums. I think this is due to a number of reasons. First of all, I am calling myself this and not pointing fingers at anyone else. What is interesting about this is, I can describe beliefs others still have yet they probably think "yes I belive that but I'm not wacko about that."  People just don't want to label themselves as wacko no matter what their beliefs are. It actually opens them up to have converstations with me as they have empathy for "that extremeist." I digress before I start.

In the beginning

I was born in 1970. I was given my first Bible at 6, and of course every six year old can read King James early modern english.  It was not given to me with other gifts, but seperately. This was special, my mother talked about God differently than Santa, this was serious.

My family, even extended family, was extremely religious. I had preachers and cousins that went to mega churches 7 days a week and we were a very close family for caucasians. My father was dying of heart disease so my step mother would take me to church at age twelve at least twice a week, as she had to stay home to take care of him, someone would take me home and thats how it worked. I was twelve and truly wanted to go to church. The logic was simple. God was real. Life was short Heaven and Hell were forever. There could be nothing more important than serving God.

Image result for king james children's bible zipper

Nationalism / The Great Evil Empire

  I believe I grew up at the very best time to create a radical Fundamentalist perhaps in many generations. There were many factors aside of the microculture I grew up in that had much influence on a young child. These influences were on steroids in the 80s.

  In 1983 Ronald Reagan gave "The Great Evil Empire" speech. The evil Communists atheist were going to drop Nuclear  bombs on our heads to kill us good Christians. American and Christian were merged together as meaning the same thing, Nationalism and Christianity had become synonymous. (I see and fear this trending now)  My civics teacher once told us a story (I don't know that it was true). A Russian teacher asked her students to pray for candy. They received none. The next day she told her students to ask Communism for candy. She then handed out candy.

  I understood that my teacher wanted us to understand that the evil atheist Communist wanted to supress my ability to be a Christian. On a side note, I remeber thinking that the Russian teacher was pretty stupid. The children prayed and recieved candy the very next day! I was beginning to think critically.

The " Gay Disease"

   In 1981 The gay disease appeared in Los Angeles. The common thing to hear was things like,(read in your best redneck preacher persona) 'God is punishing dem homos wit duh Gay Disease."  A.I.D.S. was not understood and thought to be "gay." It was almost taught like the virus itself was homosexual. There was homophobia that was rampent,  the Christian community pounced on the oppertunity to spread bigotry. The preachers started preaching that God was punishing all of us for allowing the sin of homosexuality by "killing us with dat AIDS."  They of course didn't stop there they actually began to teach that homosexuals were "baby rapers."

Satanic Panic

Image result for satanic panic

I didn't know why, but there were Satanist everywhere sacrificing babies all the time. I heard about it constantly at church and would hear about it on the news. What I heard on the news was simply trials going on concerning alligations, I simply thought they were about what I was told was happening at church. I don't even know how to describe these times but somthing as ridiculas as modern witch hunts. It was very real to me, I constantly was taught about it at church. There were demons that were raping women, ouija boards bringing out demons. A Satanic Church, Heavy Metal music that played Satanic messages backwards, Animal and baby sacrifices, even most company logos were Satanic.

With the exception that Satan and demons are not real, everything I am saying here is true, I cant express how "real" this seemed or how fanatical my microculture was about it. I was told that anyone could be possessed with Satan. This was not a short term thing like in the moves of today, he stayed there. It was a mix of sometimes demons but it was still the same storyline.  Those cults were all demon infested people, the Catholic cult, Jehovah's witnesses cult, the Morman cult. Lets just say every other even slight variation of our religion,was a cult, this was to be directly associated with the occult.  

 I am not kidding here, I was actually told our Senior Pastor could be infected with Satan and not know it, so we had to make sure everything he said was in line with the scripture. The best person the Devil could infect was our Pastor so he could lead us all astray. I was a terrified 15 year old child in 1985.

Public Eduaction

  There was a  huge debate at the time about teaching Creation Science in public schools, now known as Intelligent design as the creationist lots major law suits during this period and simply have repackaged it under a new name. Colorado is one of the most secular states in the Union. Due to how my county was founded on coal mning as opposed to gold mining the demographics of the population is very different. I live in what is very likly to be the most, by far, religious county in the state.

  How did my school system handle the Creation Science debate? They purposly avoided teaching any science at all that might ruffle the featers of the Christians. No Evolution. Paleontology or the Big Bang was taught at all. 

  My daughter has just started college. She did get advaced college level anatomy and physiology classes in high school. Just three days ago, no kidding, she bee bops into the living room and told her mother she learned that day that Evolution was the result of adaptation. I was stunned. I quickly interviewed both my17 y/o son and her.  They had been taught nothing about the Big Bang, Evolution, or Paneontology! Nothing had changed in thirty years! They still only teach the sciences that will not be questioned by the Creationist!

 Here I would like to give credit where it is due. I had an english teacher that gave me an assignment to write and essay and site my references. I of course wrote on Creationism. I did well on the paper ( another Young Earth Creationst teacher from that same school helped me). My references all came from the Creation Evidence Museum. She did something that perplexed me and has always stayed with me. She put a note on the paper "I don't agree with you but great job!" I couldn't understand how she could not agree, but she planted a seed, a seed that grew because I had to know why.

Not your ordinary Fundamentalist

Image result for first united methodist church canon city colorado

  Now finally to get to why I call myself a former Fundamentalist extremist. I really did not consider myself an extremist until about the last year. I have always focused on early Christianities in my studies and have only recently looked into the modern church. I came from the First United Methodist Church of Canon City, Colorado. Methodist are usually considered moderate, which surprised me. This was due to the time period I was involved in the church and the microculture of that particular congregation, which can vary from church to church and even within a church. This church may not be radical today.

 Creation Science

  There was real (pseudo) science that proved Creation. The bad demon possessed, atheist, scientist just didn't want us to know it.

 Homophobia

They did teach "love the sinner, hate the sin" along with homos were going to rape me and give me AIDS.  Mixed messages? I felt very guilty that I did not see how a man having sex with a man could be equated with raping children, But I knew I was just a stupid kid that needed to trust my elders. I was a horrible Christian as a result and deserved to go to hell (cognative dissodence really screwed with my head).

 Allegory and Metaphor

  We openly admitted that there was much allegory and metaphor throughout the Bible, but Fundamentalist Extremist style. Every story was litteral history, I happened exactly as written in the Bible. God orchestrated every event so that we filled with the "Holy Spirit" could understand the allegory and metaphor in the story. What happened to free will? (more cognative dissodence.)

The End is near

This is basic Christian stuff but very important. The end times were at hand. If we were not perfect with God, we would be turtured for 7 years here on earth and it could happen at any moment. If we didn't thank God and come to Jesus in that seven years we would go to hell. If we were perfect we could go straght to heaven and avoid the tribulation all together.  (Who was perfect? We were all sinners.)

How do I know I was an Extremist

  There was no group that was too anti-abortion, too worried about Satanic cults putting Satan inside of you, too homophobic, too literal in their interpreptation of the scripture, too worried about the End Times, Too Young Earth Creationist or too anti-athiest (damn commies.)  I never heard anyone complain about anyone going too far on any of these issues. Why? There was no one with any more extreme views than our own! When you can't look at anyone else and say thier views are too extreme it is because you are at the farthest end of the spectrum! It seems that no one recognizes this when they are at that extreme.

Basic Truths

  Here is what we should teach all of our impressionable children. The atheist Commies are going to drop a nuclear bomb on our face. If that doesn't happen first the homos will rape us and give us AIDS so God can punish us. We might be infected with demons and not know it, most people are. The rapture is giong to happen any day and we would likely be turtured due to our sin, and then go to hell to do the same thing forever.

What changed my thinking

  There were many factors and influences that led me to become an atheist. Mostly it boiled down to constant Bible study, but there were other factors that had much influence.  First of all when one is involved with cults or gangs etc. when one is removed from the posionous environment it is one of the most important factors for breakng free.  At 17 while I was a junior in High School I joined the Navy. Unknown to our family at the time my fathers pituitary gland had completely shut down, he became irrational and abusive, I needed a way out, the Navy was my solution. (God wasn't helping.)

  While in the Navy I met many people from many religions that all were convinced that they observed the one true religion. These religions conflicted with one another. They simply could not all be true. I realized that many of them belived just as faithfully as I did. We could not all be right. I had to ask myself this question. Could I be wrong? I knew that there was no more merit to my god than theirs. This was deeply troubling. Did I become an atheist right then? No. I became more religious. I was completely confident that I was just too stupid to know the answers, but since my God and Bible were real there was nothing to fear from the truth. I could go where ever the truth guided me and "The truth would set me free." It did, now I am an atheist.

This did not happen over night. I was so brainwashed that it actually took about ten years before there was so much evidence that I finallly had to come to terms with he fact that I no longer believed and was in fact an atheist.

http://www.mdpi.com/journal/religions/special_issues/christian_nati...

https://www.avert.org/professionals/history-hiv-aids/overview

https://io9.gizmodo.com/a-brief-history-of-satanic-panic-in-the-198...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwards_v._Aguillard

http://www.creationevidence.org/

https://billygraham.org/answer/what-is-the-rapture/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District

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Comment by Joan Denoo on January 31, 2018 at 5:30am

The line, "my fathers pituitary gland had completely shut down, he became irrational and abusive. I needed a way out, the Navy was my solution. (God wasn't helping)" rings bells for me. My father was horribly abusive to my mother when I was a child. I now recognize that as child abuse. No healthy family has violence as the means to a healthy end.

I married a man who was controlling, and I felt what my mother had felt and thought it was just natural. Our three children all came within one year; we adopted a son and five months, and 13 days later our twins were born. My little daughter was the first of the three to be physically abused before she was six-months-old, and I thought it odd. I prayed, really prayed. Nothing changed.

Until one day when my three children were 10-years old, I recognized that the abuse was not healthy. I had to get them out to a safer environment.  I asked myself "What makes a healthy family?" I studied everything I could find, enrolled in college with a major in psychology and kept asking questions, i.e., "Can a person change to a healthier way of parenting?" "Is it OK for a Christian woman to stand up for children and herself?" "Who can I trust to help me find a better way?" "Why is a god not answering my prayers, I do everything the bible and my preacher said to do! I got into therapy with a Christian therapist, and he was no help. 

I graduated with a B.A., top in my class, I earned a masters degree with my thesis, "Toward a theory of Family Violence, its Antecedents,  Treatment, and Prevention," and completed a doctorate with a dissertation, "A Splendid Heresy." I was free. I could think and reason and solve problems and resolve conflicts without the use of violence. I raised my children on June 18, 1974, to this day without the use of force. 

It was during my training in my undergraduate years that I learned that the bible, my preacher, my community of believers taught me to "yield, pray, obey, turn the other cheek, sacrifice myself daily in imitation of the crucified christ and rejoice in my crucifixion!" I called this "The Passive Gospel" in my thesis. During my doctoral training, I learned what I call, "The Active Gospel" which has nothing to do with god or church and has everything to do with being a healthy human being and raising healthy children.

Comment by Frankie Dapper on January 31, 2018 at 2:14am

From the perspective of nonbelievers it is usually the case that fundamentalists are viewed as extremists. From my perspective fundamentalists tend to have greater integrity than other theists. To rationalize word of god as metaphorical, true in places and untrue in others or any other spin is weak and insupportable.  If you believe text is word of god it is truly astounding that  followers would attempt to understand anything but plain meaning. Legislators speak and courts interpret the plain meaning.  Anything else would be ludicrous. It is no different with laws set down by the prime mover.  

From the perspective of fundamentalists nonbelievers are extremists. Nonbelievers have rejected the very essence of belief. So while others may have a distinct creed they continue to operate under the same essential conditions. Those who once shared the creed of the fundamentalist have strayed but are as close to the norm as any who are not in exact same camp. 

Making these distinctions understood by theists is important. If you are going to be a theist than be a theist, not a weak half-assed,  kinda pregnant, on the fence, reserving judgment, noncommital half in and half out follower.  For those not indoctrinated by fundamentalists the very nature of what must be embraced may scare off the toes in the water theist. 

Comment by Loren Miller on January 30, 2018 at 10:13pm

Gee ... whatever would they be afraid of?  COWARDS!!!

Comment by Compelledunbeliever on January 30, 2018 at 10:11pm

I just got a message that this page has been blocked at a school district in Princeton, Minnesota! 

I am so flattered!

Comment by Loren Miller on January 27, 2018 at 9:07am

Very good point, Bertold.  Being willing to question what you think you know is the first step away from being a sheep and telling the shepherd what he can do with his crook.

And while it may not figure into the piece here, CB, you might want to add Kitzmiller v Dover to your links.  As it comes not just to dealing with Intelligent Design but unmasking the Wedge Strategy, that trial was critical.

Comment by Bertold Brautigan on January 27, 2018 at 8:55am

Once you get to the question, "Could I be wrong?" you're home free. Most fanatics never get there.

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