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I was raised in a fundamentalist baptist home in which there was room for the love of god but not for the love of anybody else, including the children. I never heard the phrase "I love you" in the house I grew up in, but there were 3 services a week filled with "God loves us and we love him". There was money for the missionaries but not for better food, or shoes, or college. They did not speak to us, hug us, or spend any time with us. Their only social life was through the church.

My father is a deacon in the church. My mother was the church secretary until she retired (she was also the church pianist). My parents held services in the local "mission" and at the various convalescent home. They have no idea what it did to me to grow up in an atmosphere centered on "sin, guilt and death", and they would never understand it. Their world view is centered on their cult. I do not know what hurt them with they were children, but I wish that they had chosen another way to deal with it.

The minister was a self hating booze hound who substituted an addiction to religion for his addiction to alcohol. He ranted and raved against communists and unionists and feminists and homosexuals and those obsessed with sex and drugs. Sunday after Sunday he stood up there with his facing turning red and showers of spit flew out over the podium. This man was telling an enthralled audience all about the God of love who tortured people who would not do as they were told, like a gigantic abusive parent in the sky. Telling children, who are in the process of defining their reality a load of hateful and frightening stories about an all powerful being who wanted to torture them for all eternity because of the sin nature they were born with causes a huge amount of emotional damage to them. It
is brainwashing and it is emotional abuse.

I do not think that it is right for adults to take children to any religious indoctrination meeting, which is what a fundamentalist church service, or a children's church, or a bible school for kids really is. The goal of the "conversion experience" (which is really well documented) is to drive the audience into a state of emotional despair - a nervous breakdown of sorts - and then to tell them that the only way to stop the pain is to join the cult. With children the effect is even more profound. They are still forming their world view. They have no defenses. They have no "past experiences" or "old life" to conflict with the preachers message of self hate. All they know is that "they are bad"..."so bad they deserved to burn forever". It leaves children is a state of complete despair.

By the time I was 9 I was suicidal, playing "hanging" games in the playground across the street with real rope, and drawing extremely disturbing things. I wanted to be dead. I hated my life. I though that everybody hated me, that I was unlovable (like the preacher said every service), and that I deserved to go to hell. Nobody noticed that I no longer had friends and that I could not sleep and that my health was failing.

There is a lot more to my story, but I'd like to summarize the rest of it (too late to make this long story short).

I went though most of my life suicidal, alone in my room with no friends and no girl friends after grade school. After high school I jumped from one kind of escapist group to another (mostly forms of SF and fantasy fandom) after I left the church. It took me ages to figure out that I was raised in a totalitarian cult.

When adults choose any religion that tries to define reality, and drag their children along, they are exposing those young and forming minds of their children to dogma. Dogma that contradicts reality. It gets the kids used to accepting things that conflict with what they see. If gets them used to the idea that they should go through life being told what to think.

Ken Linder

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