Posts Tagged ‘Clergy’

cognitivedissonance

My latest favorite word phrase is “Cognitive Dissonance.” This is the internal, cerebral struggle that occurs when behavior and belief do not align with one another. For me, that misalignment came from the years-long struggle I had between believing in god versus scientific evidence to the contrary.

I was baptized into the Catholic church as a baby. Every week, my mom would bundle as many of us up as she could and we’d trudge off to church, where I was constantly being told not to misbehave or wiggle so much otherwise “god would be angry”.  And after each mass, I would ask my mom to grade my behavior for god, to see if I was that “good little girl” he demanded I be.

priest_abuse

Thus began the cognitive dissonance in my head: always be good, be humble, be quiet, be sweet OR you will make god unhappy. This was the power religion held over me.

As I grew into my early twenties, and actually broke free of my parents’ house, I stopped going to church. I didn’t exactly stop believing, I just had better things to do on a Sunday. I was also starting to re-evaluate my belief system — which wasn’t aligning with my thirst for scientific knowledge and understanding. The chasm was widening as I begun to question, but not dismiss, my beliefs.

Years passed by, and I wasn’t really part of the church any longer, but still willing to believe in god. However, the internal struggle was still growing and slowly affecting who I was presenting to the world. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but religion was turning me into a judgmental “How DARE they do THAT?” kind of person. More and more this dissonance began to eat away at my psyche.

When I went into teaching, I went into it full throttle – determined to be the best, most honorable, integrity-filled teacher I could be. I was determined never to let any student feel bad about himself (or herself); and I would allow him or her to question everything that I said or taught – because that IS the true definition of education.

To accept as truth the words of an adult or authority figure without being allowed to question the validity of that content isn’t education, it is indoctrination.

That was clearly delineated and taught to me when I was in teaching school, and I made sure never to forget the difference.

I ended up teaching at a religious school, comically enough, and that’s where my cognitive dissonance grew to a thunderous roar. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, because I didn’t have to teach religion for the first three years there. However, in the back of my mind and heart, I was growing increasingly uncomfortable being in that position. It seemed like any time I tried to teach a scientific principle, it was met with “But I thought god created the…?” I wasn’t able to answer the students’ very good, very honest questions, because there was no real answer to them. The dissonance I was experiencing came from not being able to do my job as a teacher (which is to cause kids to question) and having to keep from speaking out against the ridiculousness of the religion being taught in that school.

Three years into my position, it was mandated that I teach religion, too. Imagine this conundrum: in the morning I taught about the parting of the sea, in the afternoon I taught earth science — specifically rock formations and water cycles. I was now in a full-blown, cognitive dissonance meltdown – how can I handle teaching both subjects when one completely exposes the other for the fraudulent claims it makes?

The truth is, I couldn’t handle it. It began weighing heavily on my mind and the stress was getting to me. Add a couple of personal family tragedies, a total lack of support from so-called “Christians”, and this is a recipe for disaster. I really did emotionally implode.

After I left (was kicked out, I won’t sugarcoat it here), I began to research and learn more about Catholicism. Article after article talked about thousands of children who have been abused, raped and/or sold out from under their own mothers. Priests who were raping children then using the fear of punishment from god if the children spoke out were being protected by the church instead of being thrown in jail, where they belonged. Some Archbishops went so far as to insinuate that the children — the victims – led the priests on and actually asked to be molested. What a sick, twisted individual one must be to blame the victim instead of the perpetrator. Especially a perpetrator who has taken a vow of chastity and protect and guide his “flock”. There isn’t a word strong enough to explain how vile and despicable these crimes against children are.

Unpaid, forced labor in laundries in the basements of churches led by Catholic nuns. Mass migraMagdalene_Laundries_BNtions of unwanted, un-escorted poor, Catholic children taken from the UK to Australia–without their parents’ knowledge or permission. Hundreds of dead, newly born babies buried in unmarked graves on convent grounds – or shoved into septic tanks — as if their lives never even mattered. All committed by the very people who were demanding others “act Christ-like and do good works.”

Horror story after horror story – none of which I ever heard  the church denounce, discuss or even inform its parishioners. And what has been disseminated to the world has been met by Catholic parishioners with nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders and silence. I have asked several Catholics for their thoughts on all this, and nobody is willing to talk about it. They continue, however, to attend church and give money each week. Perhaps they are secretly being told to donate to help pay legal costs for the defense funds of their pedophile priests.

Now that I am fully aware of what has been allowed to happen and go primarily unpunished for decades in the Catholic church, I have denounced not only my faith, but religion in general and the existence of god in particular. There certainly cannot be an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful god if he continues to allow such evilness from his own employees. And the “free will” excuse doesn’t apply here, either. Priests wear dog collars because they consider god their master. They don’t get a “get out of jail because of  free will card” either.

It’s interesting…I just now noticed my cognitive dissonance has disappeared.

clergyabuse

Advertisements


Platitudes“God has a plan for you…”

“When God closes a door, he opens a window”

“It was God’s will…”

“Don’t be sad, he (she) is with God now…”

I have always cringed when someone spoke any of the above phrases to me. I haven’t been able to figure out why until recently when I had to grit my teeth and, with clenched jaws, hear them spoken again and again coming from people who were too happy to witness my world start to crumble down around me. They just didn’t sound authentic to  me. And honestly, all these smarmy phrases did was just make me angrier and more depressed.

The above phrases are known as platitudes. According to Merriam, one of the definitions of platitude is “a banal, stale remark.” And this definition fits perfectly here. Every one of the smarmy, schmaltzy, syrupy sweet sayings about God and his particular role in my life feels like an ice pick to the brain. While I understand and accept that people tend not to know what to say in uncomfortable situations, I also feel that remarks such as those only add fuel to the fire. God has a plan for me? So then I should just sit back and wait until that plan reveals itself? I don’t call that God’s plan, I call that being lazy.

I’ve learned a lot about myself lately, too. And the one thing that I keep coming back to is: it was believing in God and his “plans” that have made me feel like absolute shit about myself. Being brought up in an organized religion didn’t improve the quality of my life – here I am at 50, unemployed and certainly not ready to retire to a life of luxury and leisure. And the biblical scripture that discusses suffering on earth: “For your rewards will be great in Heaven” certainly doesn’t help to pay off my student loans now, does it?

childabuseReligious doctrine also ruined my ability to think for myself and make my own conscious decisions. I wasn’t taught to question the existence of God, I was taught that there is no question – He exists, and if “you don’t do what he says, you’re going to end up in Hell, where you belong, because he doesn’t want you with him in paradise.”  The use of God’s existence to invoke proper behavior out of children is just another form of emotional invalidation and abuse.

If one were to consider the thousands of orphaned and poor Irish Catholic children who were sent to the industrial (read: church run) schools in Ireland who were repeatedly sexually, physically and emotionally abused, one would quickly figure out that the abuse was meted out by religious people who would spew outdated biblical scripture and warped religious doctrine at them in an effort to get little Johnny or Janey to understand that “I must abuse you, repeatedly, because God wants you to know you are always to be under the control of adults who are bigger, scarier and holier than you are.”  What a sick, perverted line of thinking to use on a young, developing mind. All in the name of religion.

I believe it is a safe bet to say that all religions come with their own set of smarmy sayings and platitudes created to help the speaker feel less uncomfortable around the person who is suffering from whatever trauma has occurred in their lives. I know talking about job loss, divorce, and death can be awkward. But, for those of us who choose not to believe that there is a magical sky fairy looking over us, and manipulating us like puppets on a string, those platitudes come across as empty, hollow and, at times, highly offensive.

Perhaps the best thing to say when put into an uncomfortable position is, “I’m sorry to hear this. I hope things get better for you soon,” then just let the person talk, if they need to talk. That’s all I wanted from those around me. That was really all I needed to hear.

Platitudes, schmatitudes.

3afe134fff3ccc3aebdbf11a9d18a50d