I have committed myself to a lifetime of research and questioning authority; I will die an anarchist, with no allegiance to any master but myself. One of the many problems that I see with religion is that all too often, followers are either willingly or unknowingly stripped of their own free-will and that is not a state of mind in which I ever want to be chained. It is my experience that any authority which claims to have all the answers yet doesn't allow room for any questions is a dangerous one, and my opinion that religion is about control: control of the minds, bodies, and allegiance of it's followers. I believe that children should be taught how to think, not what to think, and that they should be allowed the freedom of mind enough to make their own choice as adults about which if any religion they want to follow: this means not exposing them to any religion save for the introduction of all religions in a strictly analytical sense, until they are of a consenting age. In other words, religions could be taught without the shoulds, presented as systems of belief and not as fact. I was raised without religion in my life and the freedom to choose any path I wished to take. If I had wanted religion in my life, that was my prerogative. It is that same freedom of choice that I am passing down to my children.
When I was about eight, I asked my dad where god was. He told me that if there was a god, he was all around us, in all things. I found that to be a little creepy. When dad went back inside the house, I stood out on the deck calling out, "Hello god!" and listening to the sound of my voice stretching out into the great woods in my parent's backyard. I imagined what it meant for god to be in everything and I pictured tall, skinny men with great long beards living in every single one of the trees, and tinier versions of those same men in each blade of grass. I wasn't convinced, it seemed ridiculous.
When I was about eleven I remember having a short conversation with my cousin who is ten years older than me. I remember telling her that I thought god was made up by people who were afraid of lightening and other phenomena that they didn't have answers for. She told me that I had made a very intelligent observation. All my life, I have had moments like these. Atheism was a natural state of being for me; no one had to convince me either way whether god did or did not exist. I didn't see the evidence and so I didn't believe. I don't think there was ever a time when I believed in god. And I know there was never a time I believed in religion, though I've never begrudged anyone his or her own right to one.
What I don't like is what people do with religion; what the powers that be do with religion; how religion is used and for what purposes. In more recent years, I came into contact with people who, had they not been related to my husband in some way, would have disgusted and outraged me on the sole basis of their extreme religious beliefs and world-views. People like EFIL and L, who either knowingly or unknowingly set themselves up as god-like figures to their offspring repulse me with their condescending, ignorant, and hypocritical vision of the world around us. I recognized this in EFIL and L early on in my relationship with DH and I never stopped using their behaviors as clear evidence that their vision of life, so colored by their Jesus-tinted-lenses, were unhealthy for us and our newly created family. If god does exist, theirs was not one I wanted in my life or in the lives of my children.
I've explored my Narc In-laws' behaviors many times on my blog and I've been struck by a few mind-blowing observations: 1. That EFIL had set himself up as god to DH; expecting DH never to question his authority, to be eternally grateful to him for all that he had "sacrificed," to have faith in him blindly, and to offer respect where there was no promise for it to be returned in kind. And 2. That NMIL's religious beliefs are no more genuine than her love is unconditional. These observations have lead me to the theory that narcissists, like many religious leaders, use religion as a form of manipulation and control. In EFIL's case, it's likely because he is such a weak person that he required the rigid thinking that his Christianity could provide for him - his mind was for rent to god and only god; in NMIL's, it's because she wishes to appear loving and pious in the eyes of the people she is constantly trying to impress. In a world where god is a capital-G kind of fellow, it really doesn't look good to swim against the stream.
So okay, whatever, right? Team NMIL can belong to whichever cults they wish, for whatever reasons they see fit. The problem I had with their system of beliefs was in how I felt it effected DH and I. It is very possible, if not probable, that their religious beliefs alone would have caused an estrangement eventually, even if they were not abusive, narcissistic assholes. I had found that their religion was a side-effect of their small-mindedness and in-general mindlessness. In my life, I have encountered some religious folk who are quiet in their faith and unshaken in their beliefs even in the face of my disbelief, but DH's parents were not a part of such a system.
I've been collecting a bunch of quotes recently that, besides reminding me of my disdain and disgust for EFIL and L's ignorance and bigotry are excellent commentary about religious extremists in general:
"You can safely assume that you've created god in your own image when it turns out that god hates all the same people that you do." - Anne Lamott
"Morality is doing what's right, no matter what you are told. Religion is doing what you are told, no matter what is right." - Unknown
"Your ignorance is their power." - Unknown
"The bible should be one sheet of paper. And on that sheet of paper, it should say, 'Try not to be a cunt. If you do that everyday, you are being a good person." - Jim Jeffries
"Here the ways of men part: if you wish to strive for peace of soul and pleasure, then believe. If you wish to be a devotee of truth, then inquire." - Friedrich Nietzsche
"Religion: No question. No doubts. Never admits when it's wrong. When challenged becomes hostile."
"Eternal suffering awaits anyone who questions god's infinite love." - Bill Hicks (I told DH, this one could read, "Eternal suffering awaits anyone who questions dad's infinite love." as a way to illustrate to him how I believe EFIL has set himself up as the very same kind of god that he worships).
"The basis of religion isn't faith, it's fear."
"I guess the all-powerful, all-knowing god of the bible never expected anybody to 'Google that shit!'" - Dusty Smith
"The time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics that is beyond religion." - Dalai Lama
"If god doesn't like the way I live, let him tell me, not you."
"I don't want to believe. I want to know." - Carl Sagan
"From my rotting body, flowers shall grow.
And I am in them, and that is eternity."
- Edward Munch
"I distrust those people who know so well what god wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires." - Susan B. Anthony
"They swallow god without thinking.
They swallow country without thinking.
Soon they forget how to think.
They let others think for them."
- Charles Bukowski
"Your beliefs are a magnet that create your reality."
"You only need a shepherd if you are a sheep."
"The mind of one freethinker can possess a million ideas. A million fanatics can have their minds possessed by a single idea."