The Deliberate Spread of Misinformation

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Sarah Henderson’s blog Feminist in Spite of Them. It was originally published on her blog on August 14, 2013.

When my siblings and I were children, my parents deliberately misinformed us about the world.

I am still not sure what the overall goal was. Some of it makes sense. The ideological nonsense that contributed to psychological control makes sense, such as the misinformation about lust, reproduction, and consequences, but some of it really doesn’t make sense.

Why were we misinformed about the healthiness of foods? Why were we misinformed about women’s periods? Why were we misinformed about the lactose content of butter? My parents also gave us this information in a way that made us afraid to double check, and there was certainly no ability to find out correct information and take it back to our parents. As isolated as we already were, there was always the fear that we could be isolated further if our lifestyle allowed for too much knowledge seeking.

My parents taught us some strange theories about food, which I believe contributed to a lot of food and weight issues in our family. They told us that calories were a lie, and that potatoes and rice were vegetables. They didn’t teach us to have a treat or two and then healthy food, to make choices. They didn’t teach us that you could have a certain amount and maintain, lose or gain weight. They taught us that when food was available to eat it. There was always food, but sometimes it was just rice, for breakfast lunch and supper. So when there was tasty food available, we really wanted it. We weren’t taught moderation and we were taught that there was only ever starvation or overindulgence.

For the purpose of this writing I finally did some quick googling about lactose in milk. It doesn’t matter now and it didn’t matter then, no one in my family is lactose intolerant. But my parents told us that butter didn’t have any lactose but margarine does. This, as I learned today, is very outdated (50 years or more), because margarine is now normally prepared to be lactose free, and butter is often ‘enhanced’ with other dairy products. Pure butterfat is lactose free, but that is very difficult to achieve.

My mother had the female reproductive talk with me when I was younger than nine years old. I think I was eight, but she denies this, but I remember the house. I then promptly forgot until I thought I was bleeding to death when I was 11. She then reminded me what it was but didn’t give any more information so I thought I would bleed forever. Miraculously it stopped, so I thought I was gone forever. Then it came back and I had to ask again, and she was annoyed and made fun of me. I decided then not to ask any more questions. I learned about human anatomy from a health textbook, which my parents provided on the grounds that I wouldn’t look at that section. I did.

My parents taught us that everyone outside our circle wanted to harm us.

They taught us that foster parents are bad people and that social workers want to hurt children. They taught us that non-religious children are mean and selfish and would steal our stuff. It was only after going to high school that I learned that non-fundamentalist teens are great people. Sure they aren’t perfect, but they really don’t judge other non-perfect teens either.

My parents taught us that strangers are dangerous. Not like most parents do, but to the extent that I have to catch myself to not view all other drivers on the road as evil people who will hit me if they want to, for example. They taught us that if there is a way for other people to hurt us, they will.

They taught us that we were a lower tier of person than others. This is a complex issue, because they also taught that we were better than others because of the fundamental beliefs. I think this was more about guiding us to have low self-esteems. They taught us to let others walk first and butt ahead of us and choose last and give in, in all areas of life. It was hard to change this mindset and take my right of way and walk boldly through a grocery store.

They taught us that spending money on something that you do not need to the point of failing health or death is wrong. This extended from food to shoes to glasses. I was given a pair of glasses when I was nine, at which point I learned that stars are real (I thought people were lying about seeing stars in the sky) and stores in the mall have signs above them so you know which store it is – I thought people guessed and I couldn’t see in, and I never had the courage to ask what I was missing. My next pair of glasses came when I was 15. After there were about six of us I don’t think my parents ever bought shoes or clothes, not even from second hand, instead depending on other families to give us their cast off underwear and shoes and other items.

These are just some of the ways we were misled about daily life, not to mention the religion-based untruths. Further to the idea of not buying items that weren’t life preserving, we were taught that desiring things was wrong, and that god would judge us for jealousy if we wished for more of anything or asked for what we saw other children receive.

My parents taught us that girls were able to evoke some kind of sinful feeling in men, and so we needed to be very careful about how we dressed, stood, walked, and sat, or we would answer before god one day about what thoughts went through the minds of men in our lives.

My parents taught us that girls weren’t as valuable to parents as boys were, because boys could grow up to be powerful successful people one day, unlike girls. They taught us that the women’s role was to support the men in whatever the men wanted to do, and we weren’t supposed to have any dreams of our own because it would hinder the goals of our future husbands.

I know that at this point I have been able to gather knowledge and counteract the misinformation I received, but I still have siblings in that home that are receiving a similar level of false information.

I took it upon myself to give some information to my siblings, especially regarding female health, because there was a real worry that misinformation could cause harm. And I thought my sisters should know that tampons didn’t take your virginity. Lying to your children like this should be criminal.

How I Lost My Faith, Part Six: Conclusion

Part Six: Conclusion

HA note: The following story is written by lungfish, a formerly homeschooled ex-Baptist, ex-Calvinist, ex-Pentecostal, ex-Evangelical, ex-young earth creationist, current atheist, and admin of the Ask an Ex-Christian web page.

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Also in this series: Part One, Introduction | Part Two, Isolation | Part Three, Rejection |Part Four, Doubt | Part Five, Deconversion | Part Six, Conclusion

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I can see my indoctrination clearly in each of Robert Jay Lifton’s Eight Criteria for Thought Reform. Most strongly in that of Milieu Control – “the control of information and communication both within the environment and, ultimately, within the individual, resulting in a significant degree of isolation from society at large.” And in Dispensing of existence – “the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not. This is usually not literal but means that those in the outside world are not saved, unenlightened, unconscious and they must be converted to the group’s ideology. If they do not join the group or are critical of the group, then they must be rejected by the members. Thus, the outside world loses all credibility. In conjunction, should any member leave the group, he or she must be rejected also.”

This was the normal for me when I was a Christian.

The world was, indeed, black and white, good and evil, and I had the fortune to be on the side of righteousness. Now that I see the world with different eyes, I am both ashamed that I once held to such a blind faith and frightened that countless people continue to be held by a doctrine that can so easily be proven false.

A common Christian reaction to a de-conversion story, such as mine, is to accuse the ex-Christian of being a prodigal who is only angry at God.

They believe that fallen Christian will always return to God because life without Him is purposeless and completely void of joy. They cannot understand a de-conversion because they have never experienced a de-conversion. No, I am not angry at God. Anger towards God is something I had never even considered. As a Christian, I believed that one does not have the right to be angry at their creator. I believed that God owned me and could do with me as He pleased. Any trial or tribulation I was put through was part of His plan and, even if I could not see how, He was making me better by it. I did, however, hold anger towards other Christians in my life for a time. People who I thought had wronged me because they could not keep their own sinful nature under control.

Now that I do not believe in God, I still hold no anger towards Him.

One simply cannot be angry at someone or something that he does not believe exists. I also hold no anger towards the Christians who wronged me. I view them only as deceived, repressed human beings. Human beings that bottled up their desires, their needs, and their functions until they burst into a spray of shrapnel that resulted in the collateral damage that I am today. If I am to be angry at Christians, it seems only logical that I must be angry at myself as well – and that is not how I want to live.

Where I once devoted my life to Christianity, I now set aside only a small part of my free time to fighting Christianity – a religion that, although once necessary for our survival, has long outlived its usefulness and now acts only as a source of social regression. In my activism, I adopted the internet moniker “lungfish” because, although I now identify myself as an atheist, some aspects of Christianity will always be a part of me. The stories and the characters of the Bible will always be in my head – but I now longer see them as examples of morality to follow. Instead, I see them as the history and myth of an ancient human beings less evolved and less socially developed then today. And I now recognize the psychological manipulation with in the pages of the Bible that has allowed Christianity to survive long after its usefulness has run out.

On the walk from my car to the university science building, my stomach would occasionally drop out and I would think to myself, “I am going to hell for this…”

— but knowing that the Bible was so obviously written by mere men and not a god, I have largely overcome this hurdle. A Christian might think that this is the Holy Spirit trying to pull me back to God – but I know, without a doubt, that the Holy Spirit cannot exist. I was taught that the Holy Spirit lives in the heart of anyone who accepts Jesus. Humans are inheritable evil and it is the Holy Spirit that allows Christians to act morally against their own evil nature. Unbelievers are incapable of true morality because God is the source of all morality and unbelievers do not know God. Throughout my Christian walk, everything in my life was screaming of the falsehood of these claims; but I would not listen because I was told not to listen. Until a single sentence, so arrogant and nearsighted, uttered by a church elder behind a pulpit, shut down my faith and laid the ground in which doubt would eventually take seed.

This doubt allowed me to take the filter of Christianity off the lens through which I viewed the world and see my faith for what it truly was.

I know that this feeling of hell that I would often get is not the work of the Holy Spirit. This feeling, instead, is the result of the religious psychological manipulation of the indoctrination that held me for twenty years. Each time I quickly recover from this feeling because I now know too much about the Bible, its history, and the history of the people who wrote it. And, it was only recently I realized that it has now been years since ending my own life has even crossed my mind – an action I considered almost monthly in the last ten years of my Christianity. Without Jesus, I find myself to be more confident, happier, and more in awe of the world around me and the universe than I ever had been when I called myself a Christian.

The stories in the Bible will always be a part of me.

I will always be a fish.

But this fish grew lungs and can finally breathe the open air. And if this is possible for me, it is possible for anyone. Email me and we can talk.

– lungfish

lungfish.blog@outlook.com

lungfishblog.wordpress.com

askanexchristian.wordpress.com

facebook.com/askanexchristian

@_lungfish

End of series.