Looking back on my childhood, I have many memories shrouded in fear and self-loathing. I was raised in the Baptist church. My mother and grandmother made sure that I attended church every Sunday morning. My grandmother was from the mid-west. She carried her strict Bible belt background with her as she traveled west with my grandfather. The many lessons I learned from my grandmother and the minister at our church played a big part in how I began to see the world and my place in it.
It would seem, looking back now, that the whole basis for my teachings during those early years was fear. I had the most intense fear of going to Hell. The only thing one had to know about Hell was that it was the place where one’s worst nightmares became real. The really horrible part was that Hell was for eternity. This one life that I had to live could determine whether or not eternity would be heaven or hell. From my experience as a five-year-old, I knew that most things usually turned out wrong on the first try, so the thought of having to get it right in just one try damn near paralyzed me.
With Hell as the ultimate punishment, I began going about the business of learning how to avoid it. It seems that there was a list a mile long of things that one should or shouldn’t do that would put one in the good graces of the Lord. Do not hang out with the pagans down the street (there was a Mormon Church about two blocks down). Do not engage in pre-marital sex. Never masturbate. This is just to name a few; the list seems to go on and on.
As if the list of things to avoid was not long enough, the minister of our small congregation was always preaching about how unworthy of God’s love we were. It seemed his favorite...
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...to find those truths for myself. In so doing, I was to create my own belief system. I wanted a belief system that would give me a firm foundation and the strength to face life. I did not want a belief system that was going to paralyze me with fear.
I still, to this day, do battle with the imaginary demons that were placed in my head as a child. My feelings of being unworthy sometimes surface, but more often than not I feel confident and free following my heart. I feel that God would much rather have me happy and spreading happiness than miserable and spreading misery. Christianity to me these days is just another institution set up by those few who want to take advantage and control the weak and tired majority. I can no longer live in fear, so I must stand up and refuse to listen to anyone claiming to know what’s best for me. My heart is my only true guide.
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