How Religion Encouraged my Mental Illnesses

I do think some aspects of religion are good, such as reminding people to be kind and love each other. However, I think there’s a rather enormous negative portion of it that’s been overlooked for too long. I went to church for about 18 years before I decided it would be best for me to leave and I’ve taken better care of myself ever since. I wasn’t the Easter or Christmas church goer either.

Church was literally my life.

For at least two years my mom worked at a year round day care at our church. As soon as I got off school, a bus took us straight to the church. I would be there until 6:30pm every school day and I didn’t like it. All we could do was crafts or homework. And TV shows of any kind were not an option. Any PG13 movie we watched had to be signed off by our parents. I was bullied by my piers and even teachers for saying anything even remotely secular.

I cried when my mom told me I’d have to endure another year of it. By that time I felt like she didn’t know me anymore. My school teachers and daycare teachers spent most of their time with me than my parents ever did. All I wanted was to live a normal life and go home and choose who I wanted to play with instead being forced to play with kids who I knew didn’t want to play with me.

Even as I grew older I would go to church at least twice a week. Once on Sunday and then on Wednesdays for youth group. I tired to go to whatever retreats they had to, some lasting only a weekend and others lasting a week. I took Bibles camps, did volunteer work, there was I time when I had many Bible verses memorized. There were times where I would pray almost every day and listen to church music at home. A few months before I left I had worked my ass off trying to pay for a mission trip I wanted to go to. I did a lot of work at the church as well as working at my job. They were asking teens to come up with 1,000 dollars to do this trip. By then the church had broken me. I was no longer a free person, but a person who would never be good enough. A person who would have to come to this negative place again and again and again in hopes that one day I would be good enough. I lived and breathed for this religion. I had been brainwashed into believing that my religion —out of all the religions in the world— had to be the right one. I didn’t realize just how bias and naive I was to think that these ideas had to be right just because I was born into it.

Before I go into how religion encouraged my metal illnesses I want to remind everyone that this still happens. Some churches will even look at mental health a sin in itself. Churches will not cure insanity, as a matter of fact I’ve even watched sermons glorify it. A opinion based culture will not help people with mental illness. Not to mention the preachers preached a lot of negative aspects of the Bible, about as often as they did positive ones. The negative part of  it grew within me and brought me to this part of my life.

I was bullied by one of neighbors for a long time because I was a girl. There wasn’t a whole lot of girls in the neighborhood so I’d still hang out with them anyway. Then I remember one day being so fed up with him that I told him about how god hates him and he was going to go to hell. This experience shattered me for a long time and I hated myself immesssily not long after I said it.

I thought about how unlike jesus I was —without even realizing that god did that exact same thing to everyone. Many churches tell people to act like jesus, to sacrifice ourselves they way he did. This is a toxic idea that convinces people to stay in churches. They’ll want to stick to something they’ve invested so much in. I hated myself self and thought that this little rebellion was my own fault and that I should’ve acted more like jesus. It wasn’t until later I realized I actually did act a lot like god. god killed a lot of people and suppressed women. I think if people were asked to act more like god rather than jesus I think people would realize how often this actually happens. After all, in some churches including the church I was in, god is three people so wouldn’t it be kind of logical if trying to be like god was just about the same thing as trying to be like jesus? But of course, in my childhood I thought that believing in god was unquestionable and I thought my outburst was 100% my fault.

Believe it or not in this experience I was acting a lot like the people who had authority over me at that time. People that teach young children to respect authority even if they don’t deserve it. I treated my neighbor the same way my religion had treated me: do what I say or face burning and pain after you’ve died. But being not even quite 13 I didn’t understand this until later. I tried my best to isolate myself from everyone expect the church, otherwise I thought God might want to send me to hell for lashing out. I hated school and my self esteem had been destroyed. And I had a lot of issues with men. At that age, the Bible has been pretty much my only source of “knowledge,” other than school, and I felt inferior to them.

When I was young I didn’t have any strong women role models in my life. Mom my didn’t really have good self esteem and she too was bullied in the church as well, but instead of leaving she stayed. Even now there’s still has never been any women preachers in the church I used to go to and I’m pretty sure the group of elders(some political church thing) don’t have any women either. Men providing for women was still hammered into my head despite all the new freedoms we now had. And it was engrained in me that I needed I man maybe not necessarily to provide for me completely, but I needed one to find some sort of evaluated happiness.

I was in a Stockholm syndrome cycle for years, except religion was my abuser. The preacher would tell us how much god loves us one Sunday and the next Sunday we were sinners that needed god to save us all. I spent years believing satan was my enemy and god was my hero. I didn’t realize how much god was like political leaders in countries such as North Korea that don’t want their citizens to have knowledge so they can control them. A loving person doesn’t do that to someone that’s what abusers do. The Bible wants christians to fear knowledge so it can continue to control them.

Knowledge has probably saved my life  —literally. I didn’t go vegan and start taking better care of myself until after I left the church. I don’t put up with people that try to guilt me to do something for them. I don’t respect authority that has abused their power. As a christian I tried to kill myself multiple times. I thought that I wasn’t good enough and I didn’t deserve to live. Now, I’m my own person, taking charge of my life and I’m not going to let a book full of assumptions take that away from me.

Now, I am free.

I don’t care what other people think of me as much I used to. I don’t think of myself as bug underneath a magnify glass being watched constantly. However, I still watch how it’s hurt other people and it leaves me staying up at night shaking wondering why the hell anyone would allow those kinds of things to happen. I don’t think telling people that they’re sinners and that they need jesus is good for anyone. It encourages people to dwell on their mistakes and feel they like have to make a list of good things they need to do to make up for it. The truth is nothing will undo our mistakes, but we still have to move forward and try not make them again. As a young christian I didn’t understand this and I certainly dwelled on the mistakes I had made as a small child despite most of them being pretty much harmless like stealing a cookie or something. But then, those mistakes repeated over and over again in my head. Listening to church seminars telling me what a sinner I was did not help me to move on.

If I ever have kids, I will not put my family through this. Kids don’t need religion to be good, they need good leaders and that’s something the christian god hasn’t been. When children read bible stories that hate gay people or stories that encourage people to kill others in the name of god.

That, that is what encourages them to do bad things.

I’m not against being spiritual, however, I don’t think people should be pushing negative things on young people that are found in religious books. I don’t think one religion should be pushed onto everyone either. As of today, each religion is still just a theory and there are far too many assumptions to just believe it. Not to mention we don’t really have the evidence to determine if other entities do exist either.

Atheists and religious extremists are more likely to have atrophy of the hippocampus. The hippocampus deals with new memories, learning and emotions. Atrophy of this part of the brain is linked to Alzheimer’s disease and hippocampal sclerosis. In the study, born again christians and people with no religious affiliation were shown to have more atrophy than religious people that weren’t born again. Now the study was small —it had less than three hundred people— and from what I’ve seen so far it is yet to be repeated. And from the articles I’ve read they didn’t state whether the people with no religious affiliation were agnostic or atheist.

From the information the study gives, I’d say people that remain more open minded are less likely to suffer from this kind of damage. I became a born again christian while I was at the church. I think people do this because they fear God will hurt them if they don’t.(I know I did) And stressing out like that could encourage that type of damage to the brain. I think the same goes for nonbelievers, I don’t think most of them necessarily disbelieve in God, but consider him a hateful person and don’t want to be controlled by someone like that. And dwelling on that could probably lead to more stress. While this study doesn’t exactly prove or disprove whether religion drastically improves or hurts us it at least shows that it’s not a perfect path to go by.

I don’t think someone that truly loves and cares about someone would tell them they have to do something to be accepted by them. I stopped going to church because the seminars were a cycle of love and hate. And now love is the only thing I want to chase after.

Love for myself and love for the people around me.

It’s time to start being open minded, to not force religion on other people —including children.

Including children.

I’m still recovering from what religion has done to my life. I think of god in the bible as a hateful abusive person even though there’s no evidence to prove such a person exists. When I was younger, I remember one Bible lesson vividly. We talked about authority and respect and what it meant to us. I remember saying that we all should respect god and do what he says. But I also remember saying that we shouldn’t respect an authority if they don’t respect us. At the time I don’t see the cognitive dissonance in what I was saying.

Now, I finally see the verses where he gave women off to there rapists and I know for almost 100% certainty that if someone wanted to manipulate like that when I was a christian then they probably could’ve gotten away with it. Teaching a kid to live their lives without using logic and sometimes even abandon their on intuition can lead them to be easily taken advantage of.

We had a youth minster that came from a mega church, he left after he realized the main youth minster had been sexually exploiting young teens. I am so livid at my parents thinking it was okay from me to base my whole livelihood off of one book, ONE book. Sexual abuse within a church is not uncommon. I think some churches are too trusting of who they hire and either don’t do good enough background checks. Or they know this person has done many many terrible things, but are still willing to be them a chance. And I’m not against the idea that people that have made mistakes that are bigger than the average person shouldn’t ever be able to find a job, but I just don’t think its the best idea to let them influence a large group of young people especially if the mistakes have been recent.

Quite an overwhelming handful of kids grew up like me, and though it might be hard for someone to manipulate a teen, I think people that have been there a while would be able to find the most vulnerable ones if they wanted to.

I’m lucky no horrific experience like that ever happened to me while I was there. However, all it takes is one kid that had a mind set similar to mine and a fucked up adult that could’ve caused disaster and no amount of repeating how much the christian god loves people is going to change what child might see in the bible.

I think religious kids are more likely to be assaulted since religions keep them believing by using authority and fear which is exactly what abusers do. For example, they could say something like if you don’t do this for me god will never love you. If you tell anyone about this, god will punish you etc. I think teaching children to live purely on faith and belief can put them in a more dangerous situations than we might think.

We need to stop using pain and hell to scare our kids into getting what we want them to do. We need to be examples for them and show how they can be successful by loving themselves and others. Not judging people for having different views than we do. Not by forcing ideas without any scientfic background on them. I think science and open mindedness is better at allowing kids to follow their own intuition and hopefully it will keep them out of bad situations if an adult or even someone their age might try to put them in one.

I want to make sure everyone knows that I am okay with someone else believing in a loving God —as long as it isn’t used to scapegoat people. However, after I went through this experience, I wanted to see how religion has affected other people. There are a lot of people that say that religion can be helpful, but sometimes just reading a self-help book can prove to be just as beneficial. I realize there is still a lot of religious and spiritual people in the world, but whenever I tried to find a study to prove that it was a good thing it usually just ended up being a post with no studies. I don’t think spirituality is bad, I think mediation can teach discipline and possibly help people to remain calm while they spend the rest of the day trying to answer all of the questions they may face. However, I still think that religion creates a more negative effect than spirituality.

I wasn’t surprised when I found this study on religion and depression. While the study shows that religion is actually more likely to have people that are more depressed, I don’t know who the people who did the study are and what their bias might be. I do think that it’s safe to stay that a religion’s affect on someone’s mental health really depends on what they’re looking at. But we can’t say for 100% certainty that it’s good for us.

Published by Athena Bocock

I am vegan and I like books and writing stories. Recently I've been enjoying romance and animal stories the most.

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