Bill Maher was the creator of a documentary called “Religulous”. In this documentary, a range of views on various world religions are explored as he travels all over the world. I loved this documentary because I can relate to a lot of these people in the movie.

I was raised a Southern Baptist (Missionary Baptist actually, but not much difference). I lived in a small town of 400 people. Every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night, we would walk up the hill to a quaint little church that my family had gone to for many, many years. It was not acceptable to believe in anything other than what the church taught. I remember my grandmother gossiping about the “Methodists” down the street and how she didn’t understand what those people believed. In my family, there was no room to question anything related to our religion. As long as you followed the “Word of God”, you wouldn’t go to hell. (They were really pissed off when I came out of the closet!)

Not only did I feel horrible shame and guilt when I did something that was not correct in the eyes of the church, I also felt like I wasn’t good enough. I was constantly in fear of what would happen to me in the afterlife. I was actually seeking refuge from a God that I was supposed to find refuge in. Would I burn in hell for eternity? One night, I asked my mother “If I go to hell, will I burn up and die?”. She said “No. You’ll burn for eternity.” Holy psychological abuse, Batman. There…I said it. PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE! My religious beliefs played a role in my own psychological abuse.

When I was in my early twenties, I met someone that challenged me to question my faith (or my parent’s faith, I should say). I asked myself:

1. Does my belief system make me feel good about myself?

2. How does it make me feel towards other people?

3. Am I serving others well by sticking to this belief?

4. Does this belief make sense to me?

5. Am I only doing good for others to get God’s approval so that I don’t burn in hell?

I’d like to address all of those questions:

1. Does my belief system make me feel good about myself? – That particular belief system made me feel anything but good! It scared this shit out of me. I lived in fear that God would reject me and when the rapture came to pass, I would not be good enough to pass the test. Forget about the rapture, let’s talk about judgement day. My goodness…God’s gonna spill the beans on my life in front of everyone and then punish me. This doesn’t sound like a very loving God to me. I wouldn’t even be friends with a human being that acted that way.

2. How does it make me feel towards other people? – I was very judgemental toward other people. When you are told that you are in the “right” religion and everyone else is wrong, this will lead you to judge others quickly.

3. Am I serving others well by sticking to this belief? – I was definitely not serving others well in this belief. It wasn’t serving me well or creating happiness in my life, so how could I possibly create happiness in anyone else’s life.

4. Does this belief make sense to me? – My belief did not make any sense to me. Science and Religion collide. My religion made about as much sense as wearing waders in 9 feet of water.

5. I would try to do good things for others when I was younger, but I only did it for the pat on the back from church members or family. I was trying so hard to be accepted at the pearly gates. I never really did it because I cared for someone. That’s sad!

This led me to drinking at a very early age. I did a lot of soul searching in my twenties and early thirties and still continue to do so. It’s something I will do for the rest of my life. I finally have a belief system that I feel good about and there is no heaven or hell or judgement day to contend with. I believe in kindness, compassion, honesty and mindfulness. Those are things that enhance my life and the lives of others. It also empowers me and allows me to believe that I have everything I need to be happy in this life. There is no reason to pray to an external source for a particular outcome, only to be disappointed when it doesn’t happen. I no longer feel the guilt and shame associated with my past beliefs and it feels great. If I still held on to my former belief system, I would still be drinking right now. I want to thank the person who said “Question Everything.” Sometimes we have to learn to unlearn.

2 Comments
  1. mmare2010 9 years ago

     Watched this documentary this morning and loooooovvvved it!

    It was so vindicating to watch him say directly to these people what I'd been dying to say and ask questions that I've been dying to hear the answers to. In my part of the country, *I'm* the weird one because I don't just go along with a script. I've harbored a lot of guilt and felt like I must be a jerk for not just going along with it, or that I'm just missing something.

    I really lost it when the kid from growing pains showed up in the creationism museum. 

    I'm not sure what to make of it all. Regardless of the good laugh which I desperately needed, there was a lot of deep content there that will take some time to process.

    Great food for thought! Also, wonderful blog post as well. Love the waders analogy.

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  2. Dtest 9 years ago

    Great post.  I've been meaning to see that movie for a while.  Maybe i'll do that tonight!  Religion is made scarey by the people involved.

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