I was brought up in an extremely religious family, initially we were strict catholics until I was around 5 or 6. At this point my parents discovered evangelical christianity.
It was the sort of church where we were shown graphic videos of biological information about crucifixion at age 6 or 7, I was given “This present darkness” to read when I was 8 or 9, and it was presented to me as factual. It scared the hell out of me…or rather, scared the hell into me.
Demons were everywhere, under many names, and we were always to be on our guard against attack.
On my 10th birthday, I was baptised using full immersion baptism, followed by laying on of hands, and people speaking in tongues etc over me.
This leaves quite an impression on you, let me tell you.
I was involved in evangelism within our town, taking part in “March For Jesus” all over the UK, attending camps, translating tongues etc etc etc…you know the pattern
I have been to Billy Graham seminars, Ishmael (A UK childrens evangelist) seminars, and each time we had to go up and “give ourselves” again.
After this, my parents got progressively more evangelical, moving to more and more extreme churches, and even moving home regularly (long distances), because “God tells us to move there”. I stopped going to church when I was 15 or so, due to disagreements between the elders and myself, I disliked long church services and popped outside for a smoke, which lead to me being told if I left in the middle, I was not welcome back inside.
My parents have a very strict lifestyle…smoking is caused by the demon of nicotine, there is a demon of lust etc etc…I was not involved in certain lessons at school because of their non-christian content.
Age 16 I got pregnant…as you can imagine, this caused quite a palava within my family. My mothers view is that God was testing her, and this is her view to this day, she attends prophecy school, is a street preacher, and a “prophet” within her church.
When giving her testimony, she mentions me by name as one of the “tests” that God sent her…She is being tested by her child being led away from the light, by me not being married to my previous partners (you know, the “living in sin” thing). One day I will be “cleansed” and see the light again.
Anyway, I spent most of my 20s hiding out in a drug induced stupor…before being diagnosed with chronic long term depression 2 years ago…dating back to my childhood experiences, and severe anxiety, especially with regard to religion.
I currently attend university studying Environmental Biology and Physical Geography…another cause of tension with my family due to their views on the age of the earth.
I have been trying for a long time to break the hold my childhood has on me….but even sitting here writing this now, I cannot shake the small voice in my head that says “god might kill you for not believing”
I have read about other faiths, buddhism, paganism etc, but each time I read about them, I get the same anxious feeling…shaking, nervous, scared…
I cannot tell you how hard it is to shake that feeling, even though I know it is completely illogical..it feels like it is hardwired into me..
I am currently reading your “The god delusion”, and although I agree with everything written in it, and know that I am an atheist, it still scares the hell out of me to say it.
I cannot get rid of that stupid feeling that I am about to be struck down, or have terrible things happen to me….even writing this, I am fighting a panic attack.
I want to say thank you, for helping me find what I already knew all written down in one place, and helping me see that I am not unique in these problems, even as a rational adult.
I also want to thank you for The Blind Watchmaker, which was instrumental in my choice of study field.
Best Regards, and keep doing what you do!
Angelina (Ironic name…huh? My mother chose religious names for all of us, and is insistent on reminding me that I have an angel inside me, even though I have “fallen”)