We were ‘militant, fundamental, separatist, KJV only, Fightin’ Fundamentalists!’
And we fought to ‘defend the Truth’, in season, out of season, if the sky fell, we would be out in the streets standing for Truth! We were a ‘called out people, a peculiar people’, a ‘shining light’ to guide the great unwashed, unsaved people to live higher moral lives, and to repent of their sinful lives, and ask Jesus to come into their heart and save their souls from the eternal fires of a literal hell!
So, we were the ‘good guys’, every other person we met that was not us, was either a ‘compromiser with the world’, back-slidden, or unsaved. Essentially, there was us, and there was everyone else (possibly the enemies, or at least people you should keep a wary eye on, and not trust them too far.)
Imagine what this mindset does to a young boy growing up? This is very damaging to his normal social development! Marlene Winsell discussed Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS), and identifies some of the great difficulties in this. I personally have and still struggle with a number of these items in my life.
“Individuals can experience RTS in different ways depending on a variety of factors. Some key symptoms of RTS are:
• Confusion, difficulty making decisions, trouble thinking for self, lack of meaning or direction, undeveloped sense of self
• Anxiety being in “The World,” panic attacks, fear of damnation, depression, thoughts of suicide, anger, bitterness, betrayal, guilt, grief and loss, difficulty with expressing emotion
• Sleep and eating disorders, substance abuse, nightmares, perfectionism, discomfort with sexuality, negative body image, impulse control problems, difficulty enjoying pleasure or being present here and now
• Rupture of family and social network, loneliness, problems relating to society, personal relationship issues”
Just to pick one that is relevant to this post, I can easily make quick, superficial relationships, (very helpful in my current commission sales job), but if someone from work wants me to go out to eat with them over lunch, my shields go up, I feel fearful, and defensive, because that is another level (at least to my mind). I tend to think that I can put up a pretty energetic, fun loving, exciting front, but when someone gets to know me, I am really a boring, uninteresting person not really worthy of being befriended. As I used to tell my ex-wife, ‘people think I’m okay, but they really like you!’ I’ve been asked to hang out with several of my coworkers, but I don’t because something as simple as hanging out with several men from work at a bowling alley, or a family party, or a hamburger joint/bar seems to uncomfortable for me. This is not normal.
And a lot of this came from being forced to be ‘separated from the world’, not going with my friends to parties, activities as I grew up. We didn’t have a TV for years, so even as a little boy at school at the lunch table, I didn’t have the ability to talk about any current shows to my 8 year old friends. In all honesty, I am really unsure if I should be putting the blame for my general lack of social drive on how I was raised or if that is largely who I am (an introvert who likes calmness). I suspect it is a blend of both.
But what I really wanted to say when I started this post was that in Baptist circles, they ‘know’ they are right about their beliefs, and anyone that disagrees with them is just obviously wrong.
Someone is always wrong, someone is always the enemy. There is very, very little gray in this mindset. It’s white or its black. It’s right or wrong. Anyone who doesn’t believe that the creation story in Genesis was a literal, historical event that happened 10,000 years ago or less is wrong. Not only wrong, but possibly a someone who is willing to compromise with the world. After all the Bible is GOD’S WORD to us and is our final authority in beliefs and practice. Ignore all those tangible science discoveries which prove otherwise. Those secular, worldly scientists obviously are in cahoots together to undermine true Christian faith! Keep a close eye on them! Watch them, don’t trust them! They are the enemy!
Do you know what trying to ignore, or explain away factual evidence in order to keep the theology that you ‘know’ to be true does to the brain of a sincere, sensitive soul? It damages it. A lot! It causes angst, confusion, sadness, and ultimately huge feelings of betrayal and anger.
So, what happens when you knew you were right about everything and you knew that everyone else was wrong in their beliefs and their lives?
Marlene Winell Ph.D. again. . .
“Breaking out of a restrictive, mind-controlling religion is understandably a liberating experience. People report huge relief and some excitement about their new possibilities. Certain problems are over, such as trying to twist one’s thinking to believe irrational religious doctrines, handling enormous cognitive dissonance in order to get by in the “real world,” and conforming to repressive codes of behavior. Finally leaving a restrictive religion can be a major personal accomplishment after trying to make it work and going through many cycles of guilt and confusion.
However, the challenges of leaving are daunting. For most people, the religious environment was a one-stop-shop for meeting all their major needs – social support, a coherent worldview, meaning and direction in life, structured activities, and emotional/spiritual satisfaction. Leaving the fold means multiple losses, including the loss of friends and family support at a crucial time of personal transition. Consequently, it is a very lonely “stressful life event” – more so than others described on Axis IV in the DSM. For some people, depending on their personality and the details of their religious past, it may be possible to simply stop participating in religious services and activities and move on with life. But for many, leaving their religion means debilitating anxiety, depression, grief, and anger.
Usually people begin with intellectually letting go of their religious beliefs and then struggle with the emotional aspects. The cognitive part is difficult enough, and often requires a period of study and struggle before giving up one’s familiar and perhaps cherished worldview. But the emotional letting go is much more difficult since the beliefs are bound with deep-seated needs and fears, and usually inculcated at a young age.
Problems with self-worth and fear of terrible punishment continue. Virtually all controlling religions teach fear about the evil in “The World,” and the danger of being alone without the group. Ordinary setbacks can cause panic attacks, especially when one feels like a small child in a very foreign world. Coming out of a sheltered, repressed environment can result in a lack of coping skills and personal maturity. The phobia indoctrination makes it difficult to avoid the stabbing thought, even many years after leaving, that one has made a terrible mistake, thinking, “What if they’re right?”
It is truly amazing the pain I went through due to what was inputted into my mind… All I know is it took such a toll on me that I did not care if I died and went to hell to escape the hell I was in and the immense fear it put into my life.
Depression, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, etc. … you name it. It sucks. Probably from years of guilt being a Christian and a sinner, and thinking people I love are in hell.
Making the break is for many the most disruptive, difficult upheaval they have ever gone through in life. To understand this fully, one must appreciate the totality of a religious worldview that defines and controls reality in the way that fundamentalist groups do. Everything about the world – past, present, and future – is explained, the meaning of life is laid out, morality is already decided, and individuals must find their place in the cosmic scheme in order to be worthwhile. The promises for conformity and obedience are great and the threats for disobedience are dire, both for the present life and the hereafter. Controlling religions tend to limit information about the world and alternative views so members easily conclude that their religious worldview is the only one possible. Anything outside of their world is considered dangerous and evil at worst, and terribly misguided at best. So leaving this sheltered environment is bursting a bubble. Everything a person has believed to be true is shattered.”
Gotta’ love those right thinking Fundamentalists!
As someone who lost both their wife of 34 years to a divorce, along with their lifetime worldview based on fundamentalism, all in the same short time period, I am grieving both things, have no sense of purpose, most days wonder why I even continue to live, (what’s the point?) I struggle with grief, depression, suicidal thoughts, complete loss of any purpose or direction, addiction, and lack of social connections.
I believe that much of this originated in my childhood upbringing in a very legalistic, strict fundamentalist household that overwhelmed my brain with lies, unrealistic expectations, and taught me to live in an alternate synthetic reality.
I am still fighting, hence the name of this blog, lonelywarrior.
Have a peaceful day!