A Pathway Out of Indoctrination

Posted on January 14, 2021


How does one leave a religion?

I know how I did.

I was a true Believer, on FIRE for Jesus! I prayed without ceasing; I studied to become a pastor; I preached sermons, taught Sunday School for youth and adults; was a song-leader, choir member, prayer warrior, and wholehearted, evangelical Christian. (Can I getta Amen?)

I converted in my senior year of high school, when I lived with an evangelical family member at a time in my life when I was vulnerable and susceptible to evangelical love-bombing and promises that they would be my family through thick and thin.

I believed them and answered the altar call. I prayed the Sinner’s Prayer and gave my life to the God of the Bible and His church.

In a little over four years, repeated instances of racist, misogynist, and other, anti-human, and/or hateful behaviors by church members and clergy convinced me that they were right: the Truth would set me free, and the Truth is that this religion, like all others, is a product of human imagination.

The path out of indoctrination is education. If you’re an American Christian, you’ve probably been denied knowledge of MOST of human history, even if you attended public school. Few schools in the U.S. are free of Christian influence, which demands limiting access to history and science information to prevent Believers from asking pesky questions when the knowledge they gain about the the way the world works contradicts religious indoctrination. But books, magazines, the internet, and organizations exist to help us learn our way out of indoctrination.

One quick way to start dismantling indoctrination is by learning the timeline of human history, which starts on the African continent. We can see the rise and fall of different groups of humans and their empires, cities, and religions. Religions live and die like humans do, because we have imagined them. No deities will show up here to defend themselves, see?

Another quick way to start seeing Christianity in the human context is by learning Creation Myths from a number of cultures. You will see that we can only make up Creators by using the type of land, animals, and plants that are specific to where we live. Creation myths from MI, where I live, never mention Kangaroos, because the humans who imagined these characters and stories only knew the MI biology in which they lived.

When I left Christianity in 1986, I went to the local library and started reading about world religions. I realized that I love learning about religions–from the OUTSIDE. From then until now, I’ve kept up a practice of learning something new about one or more religions every day.

That practice became useful when I was assigned to teach a world Mythology course in my role as a high school teacher. I taught that course for 2 decades, taking a thematic approach that allowed me to introduce students to myths and religions from all of human history on Creation, Forces of Nature, Death/Afterlife, End of the World, Hero Quests, and Love myths. Most students who took the course over 2 decades were Christians; most reached the end of the course with their religious beliefs intact, in spite of the nearly constant harassment by evangelical Christians who try to control the curriculum in public schools. (Note: I am not targeting Christians here; I am stating facts of my experience. If members of other religions had harassed me, I would tell you!)

When we understand the timeline of human history, we can see that myths arise in response to the human condition, because our ancestors didn’t understand many natural processes that inspire awe, and where understanding ends, storytelling begins. Religions are founded on mythical stories and serve those in power who claim authority backed by supernatural characters and forces.

As we Americans grapple with the role religion has played in the recent attempt to overthrow our democratically elected POTUS/VP, many are beginning to see that certain Christian groups are a threat to civil society. They want to rule through threats and violence. The attack on the U.S. Capitol illustrates what many Exvangelicals have been saying for years: evangelical Christianity, like most American institutions, perpetuates white supremacy, misogyny, anti-intellectualism, and traumatizes people within and outside of the religion. A religion rooted in the idea that one must believe they are born worthless and seek “redemption from sin and receive eternal life” through giving control of their hearts and minds to forces outside themselves is dehumanizing at its root.

Humans are born fully equipped for all human experiences, no gods required. We don’t need religion to know right from wrong. We do need critical thinking skills to know right from wrong, but those can be learned from other humans and the texts we create–no gods required!

The way forward for the USA is to fully embrace and LIVE democratic principles, not religious dogma. As more people seek the truth and walk away from religious indoctrination, it becomes more possible that we can do that. I am happy to shine the light on the path for those who want to embrace truth and democracy.

Please note: rejecting an idea (supernatural character, religious dogma, humans need redemption, etc) does not mean rejecting or hating human beings, no matter which ideas they embrace. I love humanity, period. Without religious dogma that tells me I’m in a group that makes me special and different from other people, I see every human being as my relative, plain and simple, because we all share human DNA.

I am not dogmatic about ideas. I can have a civil discussion on any idea, even those I abhor, such as racist ideas, because, again, without religious indoctrination, I fear no idea. I reject many ideas, but I do not fear that merely considering an idea I reject will endanger my ability to do what’s right, for myself, my loved ones, and/or the community. Without religious indoctrination, I use simple ethical principles, such as the Lakota idea of “Mitakuye Oyasin” (all my relations) to decide if a behavior is correct because it honors and protects the life and well-being of all children of Mother Earth.

If you are a Believer who is starting to question Christianity, my heart goes out to you. The process of leaving religion is painful and can be costly in many ways. Questioning oftentimes brings rejection. Go slow, and look before you leap.

BUT you can go on to live the life that YOU want and enjoy–no deities required–like so many of us who have learned to love and trust ourselves and the REAL, live, human beings who share our lives, accept our full humanity, and love us in human ways, like making a home, caring for one another in practical ways, and participating in civil discourse and democratic practices. Like the Bible says, “We’ll know them by their FRUITS.”

The fruits I want to see falling from the Christian tree are an embrace of humanity as a whole, participation in democratic practices without demands for Christian privilege (like tax exemption), and a full and forceful rejection of all white supremacist, anti-semitic, anti-Black, anti-LGBTQ, anti-free press, anti-woman, anti-voter, anti-democracy, and anti-human ideas. I know that there are some Christian churches that have embraced ideas such as anti-racism, anti-poverty, human rights for all, and voting rights, but for the most part, they have ceded the public square to toxic Christianity. That needs to change.

Americans saw the Proud Boys stop and kneel to pray in Jesus’ name on national TV. We saw the mostly Christian crowd at the Capitol creating a “super spreader” event for coronavirus, and now, after the mostly-Christian GOP members of Congress refused to wear masks while hiding in close quarters during the attack on the Capitol, Congresspeople are starting to test positive for the virus, as will people all over the country, even while many health care systems are already overwhelmed. Along with the problem of anti-democratic urges of Christians, lives are endangered, harmed, and ended by their refusal to wear masks in public and practice other disease-prevention protocols during a global pandemic.

Whether or not we’re Christians, as children of Mother Earth, we have a human duty to stop the spread of coronavirus by wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and getting vaccinated.

As Americans, we have a civic duty to participate in and protect democracy.

We accomplish these goals by promoting science literacy about Public Health and by using democratic practices to govern ourselves, no deities required. I call upon my fellow Americans, Believers and Unbelievers alike, to reject all toxic, anti-science and anti-democratic ideas and practices, no matter where they originate.

It is a democratic ideal to allow each individual to decide whether to practice religion–or not. I stand for everyone’s Constitutional (not god-given) right to practice religion and my right to reject all supernatural claims, because I value democracy over dogma. It’s the “heartbeat of America,” or so I’ve been told!

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lisa eddy is a writer and editor for-hire, researcher, educator-for-hire, youth advocate,  musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy

On email: lisagay.eddy1@gmail.com