Please note that this entry might trigger due to the issues of child abuse and religion being discussed.
Over two years ago, I wrote the post Religion and Karma. In it, I shared some of my confusion around religious concepts. Since I wrote that piece, my confusion has, if anything, deepened. Conflicted and distorted messages about religion, and my self worth, have driven much of my dysfunction over the last two months. I have been bombarded with messages about being evil and not worthy of being here, or of this healing journey.
To give a bit of background as to where much of the distortions come from, my father is Roman Catholic and attended a Catholic school. It was a strict (or traditional) school, with his left handedness being beaten out of him, and intimacy a taboo subject. In contrast, my mother based her religious affiliations on which church had the best outdoor basketball (netball) team – Baptist won. When they married, my mother converted to Catholicism and regularly attended church. My siblings, and myself, were all christened, and my brothers confirmed. The families pathway through Catholicism ended after my mother had me. She was advised that if she had any more children, she would probably die in childbirth. When the church heard of my mothers decision to use birth control, she was asked not to return. As she was the driving force behind our going to church, this meant that none of the family returned.
This is what I now know of the families leaving the fold. But, as I was growing up, my brothers told me that we were asked not to return to church because I screamed too much during the service. Being a sensitive and trusting child, I took those stories, and internalised them. I became convinced that I was the reason that the whole family was going to go to Hell for eternal damnation.
Later, I had several encounters with religion… My sister attended an extremely devout and divisive youth group… I attended religious camps during the school holidays; where, along with John 3:16, we were taught Matthew 25:46 – my sensitivity meant that I took both as signs that I was a sinner… I later joined Rally (similar to Girl Guides), which had a strong religious basis. It was here that things became very confused, as I was old enough to be aware of the messages and expectations, but failed to live up to them. I was told that I needed to pray for God to come into my heart, and I would know that this had occurred when I felt a warmth and peace. Well, I was so disconnected by this stage, that there was no way I was going to feel any warmth in my heart, or anywhere else. This was the final blow, and I turned my back on any further attempts to connect to a higher power.
Throughout all of this, I was being abused. Some of the abusers used phrasing with religious connotations as part of the abuse. I now realise that this had nothing to do with me, but I still internalised it at the time, and took it as further proof as to why God had turned his back on me. I was evil and a sinner. I was beyond salvation.
One of the system, W, has great problems with anything religious. I had never really understood why this trigger was so big, when I had never been abused by a religious figure. Then, last Thursday, Allison asked W what her role was within the system… her answer “to pray”. To pray for forgiveness. To pray for help.
When I was eight, I was abused by some teenagers in the school grounds. The location of the event is significant, because on the rise, about 50 metres away, was a church. About 3 metres away from the structure I was being abused in, there was a thoroughfare for pedestrians and cyclists. It wasn’t busy, but there were usually some people walking by. As I was being abused, W was created within my mind to pray to the church on the hill… to the God she had heard about… she prayed for help from the people walking by… she prayed for salvation from what was happening. When no one answered those prayers, she saw it as proof that we were evil, and therefore not worthy of God’s help.
I was never really exposed to the positive side of any religion. It was all doom and gloom… damnation… selfishness, and selfish acts. My God was a very fearful, vengeful one, and he wasn’t pleased with me.
As I learned about God, I was getting hurt, as were millions of others in the world. That didn’t seem fair, or just. I never liked the overly simple explanation of free will. I still don’t understand how such evil can be in this world. Then, if you have evil, then surely there must be a counter balance to that; and what is that counter, if not a God?
As you can see, I’m still very confused. I initially made this private because I don’t know if I can handle comments on this issue. But, after a couple of people read what I wrote, I realised that maybe I need others reading this in order to challenge my thinking around all of this. I still don’t know what I need to help me understand all of the distorted and confused messages in my head, but this post was one step in trying to sort it through. I don’t know how much help Allison is going to be on this, as when she was questioned last week, there was a sense that she wasn’t firm in her beliefs, so therefore can’t be believed.
I do know that they seriously effect my self worth. The messages about not being worthy of being here, are tied to the messages about religion.
I finish this post, not knowing why I wrote it, let alone published it on the blog. Maybe to show you how bad I really am.