Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Religiously Motivated Child Absue

This is an OLD post (about 5 years, now) that I pulled from the blog I kept back then.*  It's still, unfortunately, quite relevent.

[Trigger Warning: Descriptions of Child Abuse--ESPECIALLY in the linked articles.]

I strongly recommend giving at least a quick glance at the series dogemperor has put together over on DailyKos about religiously motivated child abuse (Part One, Part Two, Part Three).  As someone who is a survivor** of this type of environment, I'm always amazed when people don't know about the culture of violence that many, many children are brought up in.  Like all survivors of child abuse, people who grow up in households with religious child abuse believe (for the most part) that what they went through is normal...and, worse than that, they believe the abuse is justified by being a Christian, that they deserved it.  If they are unable to get help and healing, they may start their own family believing that such abuse is the only way to truly raise good Christian children, and the cycle continues.

I think it is especially important for people to be aware of how isolated children in conservative Christian families can become.  Because parents are justifiably afraid that teachers and doctors will report child abuse (or, as these folks call it, "discipline"), kids are pulled out of public and even private schools, and sent to pediatricians who are dominionist Christians.  While my parents weren't so extreme, many children I went to church with never encountered a non-Christian in a meaningful way.  They were homeschooled, played sports with Christian groups, went to church (and were pulled out of the youth group when non-Christian kids began to attend), were not allowed to participate in outreach activities, only saw Christian doctors, and were always under the watchful eye of their parents or a trusted, like-minded adult. 

So, folks, when you see your neighbor abusing his or her child, don't assume that a trusted adult will catch it.  For many kids, that may be the case: they'll see teachers, doctors, and coaches, all of whom are mandatory reporters (though there are news reports every day about how these stop-gap messures fail).   Children raised in these very conservative, quiverfull-type homes, may never see an adult they can trust.  Call in suspected abuse.  You can do it anonymously.  Better safe than sorry, and while a visit from a social worker can suck, annoying an innocent parent is a hell of a lot better than allowing a guilty parent to continue to torture their child in the name of God.

And that's today's PSA.

*  I changed this a bit in the repost.  I wrote it back in 2007, when I was still a very committed Christian.  At the time, I took great pains to say that this type of abuse is against Christian values, and no true Christian would abuse their child like that.  I've since changed my opinion on this, and while their brand of Christianity still seems like a perversion of the faith I was brought up in, I realize that they have just as much biblical justification for thier position as I ever did, such behavior is perfectly in line with a certain type of Christianity. 

** My parents (my father especially) were quite abusive during my early years.  I don't think they were abusive out of malice, but out of ignorance.  They followed books like "Dare to Discipline" and the advice of older Christians who insisted that beating us would make us obedient kids.  (Honestly, if anything I would say that it made us a lot angrier.)  We were hit with metal spoons, slapped, pinched, forced to stand straight up (not leaning against a wall) for over an hour (and spanked if we leaned or sat down), left in dark rooms, and humiliated in public (that was and remains a favorite tool for dominionist Christians in like-minded settings...public humiliation and spanking of children in church is not uncommon). 

My mother, around the time I was eight or nine, realized that what she was doing was wrong, and stopped. She said that it was because she heard God telling her that their behavior was wrong.  It was a brave step: she ignored the advice of everyone around her (including the pastor) to do what she felt was right.  (Of course, I think that "still small voice" was her innate empathy and consience rather than the voice of God, but that's not an argument I can win.)  She's since apologized to me, and that relationship has been more than healed.  I recognize that I'm lucky in that respect.  My father, likewise, stopped his abuse.  He had an anger management problem (like a lot of cops) and was also raised in a very physically abusive environment (his mother used to hold his head under the bath water if he mis-behaved, among other things).  So he took a step back from being the disciplinarian until he got that under control.  My parents got a lot of flack because my dad didn't take the active roll in discipline, which other church members considered to be his job as the spiritual leader of the family.  But he couldn't trust himself to discipline without it becoming abuse, so he did the right thing by stopping.  By the time my youngest brother came along, my parents no longer used physical discipline at all, having discovered that other ways of parenting worked much better, and didn't violate their ethics. (Or, my mom would say, they started following God's direction in discipline. BLECH.)

I've forgiven both my parents, and I have a good relationship with them, but some scars can never be erased, and that's why I'm so passionate about this issue.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hating God

Since being out as an atheist, I have been accused many times of hating God. No matter how many times I explain that it’s rather impossible to hate someone that I believe doesn’t exist, the same allegation still comes up, many times by the same person. Maybe there are people who honestly can’t comprehend that some people just truly don’t believe in a god, and view my stated disbelief as a sort of rebellion, a childish way of lashing back at God out of anger.  They cannot conceive of never believing, because in their mind God is as real to them as the air they breathe, so it's impossible to accept actual disbelief from others.    

(Unfortunately, they don’t take this far enough to examine why I might be angry with God if that were the case…usually I’m told some variation of “you want to sin without feeling bad about it” or “you’re angry that God doesn’t give you everything you wanted.” These are both wildly inaccurate, and make me look like a petulant teenager, which might be why some believers I've encountered are so dismissive and condescending towards me. I want to explore both of these in more detail later, so stick a pin in them. Right now, all I can say is that this characterization is just plain wrong. For more insight, you can read a little about why I no longer believe in God.)

I also think that there are some believers who confuse my hatred of the atrocities of religion, and my hatred of how some believers treat other people, as a hatred for God. And while it would be too strong to say I hate religion, because I do think that good things have come out of religions (maybe in spite of the religion itself), I do hate irrationality, intolerance, cruelty, evil, and the many, many other negative effects that religions have had on our world. (I don’t have the time for a total overview; that would take a book, many books. The best book I know on the subject and one I recommend everyone read, religious, atheist, or indifferent, is: Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless.)

Yesterday, however, I came the closest I've ever come to truly hating God. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Back in Black

Sorry I've been gone for so long.  My health has been not-so-good (understatement); sometime I may talk about that more.  Scratch that: I know I'll talk about it in detail at some point, as going through health problems through the last year and a half as dramatically altered my outlook on life in several significant ways.  But for right now, suffice to say that I've been in the hospital off and on for the last couple weeks while being in bed and rather drugged even when home.  So, not a lot of chance to write.

I have caught up on some reading, however, and, again, will be talking more about some of what I've been reading over the next few days/weeks/whatever.  One book that I just finished is "Sybil Exposed" by Debbie Nathan, an absolutely amazing book book about the Sybil case and the larger MPD phenomenon.  Ms. Nathan doesn't pull any punches and documents the multitude of problems with how the situation was handled and the mass hysteria it caused, but she does it with deep empathy.  There are no bad guys or good guys, just flawed people and even more flawed system that failed everyone involved.  Brilliant book; I also want to talk more about some of the issues it raised, later. 

One thing, though: the more I read about the history of psychiatry and even current practices, the more I feel that as a skeptic and a person with mental illness, I'm trapped between a rock and a hard place.  I know that I need help, but I also feel that when it comes to the understanding and treatment of mental illness, there is a lot of bullshit and comparatively little hard evidence.  Personally, I've been screwed by professionals who used unscientific treatment methods (the ex-gay therapist comes to mind, and the therapist who tried to convince me that I had repressed memories and needed to be hypnotized).  I've been drugged to the gills by one doctor and told I was fine and didn't need anything at all by another doctor (both times leading to serious issues, including a suicide attempt).  Right now I'm coasting on a bare minimum of medication--just one anti-depressant, given by my primary care doctor--and the support of friends and family when I become seriously depressed or anxious. 

But that's not enough.  This is not a lasting solution.  It's not fair to rely so totally on my family to take care of me when I'm too depressed to get out of bed or shower, or too scared to leave my house.  And it's not doing me any good, either.  But I'm honestly terrified to find help.  I don't want to go back to being so drugged I can't think, drooling and stumbling through life.  I don't want to be mind-fucked by another well-meaning therapist.  The two attempts I've made in the past couple months have been dead ends: a frankly weird-ass therapist who was overly invasive and straight-up lied to me on one occasion that I know for sure, and a doctor who diagnosed me as bipolar and obviously in need of hardcore mood stabilizers within five minutes of meeting me, without knowing my (very) complicated psychiatric and medical history.  So, I do know I need to work to find someone.  I'm just scared.

And reading books like "Sybil Exposed" doesn't do much to boost my confidence, you know?