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Religious scariness

I have been doing fine as a Pagan for over 20 years. And I thought that I had finally "gotten over" the fears and awfulness that were a part of my experience of Christianity. That religion may be a comfort to many, but all it did for me was make me fearful, anxious, and upset all the time. I finally left in 1990. I moved through phases of relief, anger, and other emotions; but eventually I thought I had reached a place of "live and let live".

Then two things happened in the last couple weeks. And I hate using this terminology (it seems to be all over the Internet), but I think this one thread I was reading on a tarot forum should have had a "trigger warning". People were being polite and giving various views about whether a Christian could "safely" read the tarot. Then there came the Bible quotes (mostly Old Testament). And somehow I found myself snapped back into thinking, "But what if they're right?" and feeling very afraid. Which is what tormented me for so long, both when I was inside that religion and after I had escaped. It doesn't help that I'm obsessive/compulsive.

The other thing that happened was that we watched the first two episodes of the new series, "The Leftovers". I did find an article online that helped me to understand that "the rapture concept is relatively new. It started with an Anglo-Irish theologian, who in the 1830s invented the concept...before John Nelson Darby imagined this scenario in the clouds, no Christian had ever heard of the rapture." The word "rapture" doesn't even appear in the Bible.

But why am I even concerned about what's in the Bible at ALL?? I had come to understand that the Bible was A holy book, not THE holy book.

So how do I regain my equanimity? How do I put aside what is not part of the belief system I had moved into and felt fairly at ease with? "What if they're right?" That is the awful phrase that can haunt you if you do not have absolute spiritual certainty. But really, NO one can have *spiritual* certainty. Religious certainty, yes. I had that when I was a born-again Christian and was terrified of what would happen to my family and friends if they did not convert. Now I am not certain about much of anything spiritual...except this:

"Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them." -- The Dalai Lama

I need to hold onto that as my lifeline. That is the Golden Rule in a nutshell. And that is really all any of us can actually know for certain.

::deep breath:: Stay away from toxic things. Stay with what is good and kind. If anyone else has some good, peaceful ideas, I am open to them.

(cross-posted from CountryMouse's Refuge)


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 9th, 2014 06:31 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry you're having to deal with this. The fear based religions are truly toxic and hard to get over. I had that problem when I was a kid; the whole Christian view (well, the brand of Christianity I was exposed to; I know they aren't all like that) had me terrified to do or think anything. The fact that I have OCD didn't help; it kept that fear in my head for years. Thankfully I finally managed to get past it, but it was hard. I can only think it would be much harder for you, being born again at one time and heavily invested in the beliefs. I like your quote; that pretty much sums up my basic ethical/religious structure.

Oct. 2nd, 2014 06:04 am (UTC)
Sorry for taking so long to reply! Thank you for the reassurance and hugs. :-) I'm sorry you had to go through that too.
Oct. 2nd, 2014 02:12 am (UTC)
But what if they're right?" and feeling very afraid. Which is what tormented me for so long, both when I was inside that religion and after I had escaped. I feel this way exactly. Halloween brings up anxiety in me every year because my mother is a religious fanatic. She did not allow her children to celebrate Halloween. What's ironic, her shutting down my questions is what drew me to paganism and anything not Christianity. I like your Golden Rule, helping others and keeping negativity out of our lives. It is simple and works. Another thing that kept me on track is reading stuff like Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World. It talks about how to be skeptical but do it in a polite way. It helped me not to take things too personally and to respect my Christian friends.
Oct. 2nd, 2014 06:28 am (UTC)
I'm so sorry you have had to go through that. My mother and grandmother (who primarily raised me--Daddy wasn't always there) were fairly laissez-faire about religion, so I didn't have that problem growing up. I got into the born-again thing when I was at a low point in my adult life.

As to my recollections of Halloween as a child: I usually didn't get to go out trick-or-treating, as I had colds and such a lot. The most I got to do was hand out candy at the door. :-p When I was growing up, Halloween was spread over 3 days! There was Damage Night - the 29th - (Mama always parked the car in the driveway, NOT on the street--otherwise she'd find the windows had been soaped overnight); Beggars' Night - the 30th - (when most kids went out trick-or-treating); and Halloween - the 31st - (when the older kids went out. Often these were kids trying to get candy two nights running!).

For most of the time my husband and I have been married, we lived in the same apartment house, and we were located far back from the street. No kids in the complex. So we always ended up eating the candy ourselves. In 2012, Cat'r, DH, and I were renting a house in a nice neighbourhood with lots of little kids. We had a blast giving out candy that year! Now we live in a neighbourhood where older kids drive over from other neighbourhoods. We can't even get in or out of our street because of them! So we didn't give out candy last year and won't this year.

But from the time I became a pagan, we've always put out food for the Otherside folk and do a little welcoming ritual. It's a good time to remember family. I love the Mexican tradition of people taking picnics and having them at families' gravesites.

Some of the things at Halloween are also to help us face Death and laugh and go on with our lives. This must've been how some of the customs evolved, to face going into the Dark Time of the Year.

I don't know that I would want to read that book by Carl Sagan. As much as I admire him, I still need to believe that there is magick in the world and that there is more than science can explain. :-)

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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