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HomeCommentaryLeaving Repressive Religion and Toxic Beliefs Behind: Part 7

Leaving Repressive Religion and Toxic Beliefs Behind: Part 7


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Read part six

By Answering Your Soul’s Call To Mature Spirituality: Self Development

As Jesus said in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” Enlarged being is what we are responsible for bringing into this world, for contributing to our society and our families, and for sharing with others. We are always invited to grow up.

Instead of allowing others to manipulatively interpret our lives, our gods, our spirituality and our religious beliefs—interpretations that are much too small, elitist, repressive and oppressive—we must assume responsibility for interpreting them ourselves.

Each of us must recover our personal authority: discover a personal spirituality, strive for a greater sense of wonder and ease with life’s inexplicable mysteries, and gain a wider ability to accept and recognize affinity if we are to advance beyond our groups, our “us verses them” mindsets, our meaningless suffering—ourselves.

We all suffer, at one time or another, from the lingering messages that the world is big and you are not, the world is powerful and you are not, the world is mysterious and you must discern its mysteries to survive. We all received these same messages. Even non-religious people heard the same messages in childhood. The only difference is that the conservative fundamentalist message was on steroids.

The presence of loving parents and sustained reassurance in a child’s life goes a long way toward lessening the severity of this message and motivating the natural empowering resources that are latent in each of us. Other children, especially those raised in repressive religion, are many times less fortunate; they repeatedly experience disempowering messages and feel even more overwhelmed by the world.

In the initial years of our lives and even in our adult years, unsupported by the development of a healthy self-image, self-worth and self-regard, we survey the world with a restricted ability to differentiate cause and effect. We are limited with an insufficient ability to differentiate self and the world and often mistakenly conclude our experiences in the world as statements about ourselves—about how I am valued and how I should conduct myself if I am to be accepted.

Another way of saying this is: “I am what happens,” or “I am what happened to me.” Decades later we may learn to differentiate better. We learn that the people who rejected us, when we departed our abusive religion, the impoverishment of imagination, the small definitions of God and spirituality, and the oppressive interpretations of reality, were the limitations of others—and not about ourselves at all.

What enabled you to leave repressive religion, whereas others stayed?

No…the answer is not the guilt-ridden answer of selfishness or independent thought or any of the other nonsense you were taught in order to keep your soul small, confined and in line with the rest of the herd.

Lets find the real reason you left by unraveling a metaphor:

Every morning the Gremlin twins, Fear and Lethargy, sit at the foot of everyone’s bed and smirk.

They sit at the foot of your bed, my bed and especially the beds of repressive religionists. As humans, our reaching of a state of enlarged being inevitably depends upon repeated separations and repeated developmental departures. The first was from the womb, then from childhood to teenager and from teenager to adult where we once again physically separated from our parents by moving out on our own. Add an additional separation in the lives of people like yourself, a much more traumatic separation from your once cherished and pacifying beliefs system and sense of community. Each separation was farther and farther away from the ancient safe place we all long to return to from time to time.

Drifting away as we do through the ethereal dance of life, farther and farther from our origins, we are often flooded with nostalgia, a word whose Greek meaning is “pain for home.”

In the midst of nostalgia, the twin agendas of progression versus regression war within us each day. Sometimes we are aware of their presence, most times we are not. When the desire to go home prevails, we will choose not to choose. We will remain amid the familiar and comfortable, even when it is numbing and soul-denying.

“Each morning the Gremlin twins, Fear and Lethargy, sit at the foot of our beds and smirk.” Fear of further departure, fear of the unknown, fear of the challenge and responsibility of largeness, intimidates us back into our convenient rituals, limiting beliefs and thinking, and our familiar surroundings. To be repeatedly intimidated by the task of life, the summons of the soul, is spiritual annihilation.

On the other side of the bed each morning sits lethargy, who seduces us with whispers: just forget, numb out, ignore the summons of the soul, take it easy for a while…sometime for a long while, sometimes for a lifetime, sometimes to spiritual oblivion.

Great courage and determination are necessary to progress into mature spirituality and enlarged being…whereas regression only requires denial, for it is warm, inviting and stagnant. The way forward is scary and threatens death—at the very least, the death of what has been familiar, the death of whomever we have been—our old self.

So, if I ask you the question, what enabled you to leave repressive religion, when so, so, many others do not, are you now able to see the answer?

You faced what so many others cannot; you answered the summons of your soul to pursue enlarged being. You faced the twin gremlins of fear and lethargy, and the death of your former self and quite possibly the loss of many, if not all, of those whom you love. There is absolutely no selfishness involved in your departure, only courage, love and unfathomable appreciation and gratitude for the life you have, an undeniable desire to live authentically with realization of meaning and purpose, enhanced with assistance to others.

Brien Pittman
Brien Pittman
Brien’s articles for FāVS generally revolve around ideas and beliefs that create unhealthy deadlock divisions between groups. He has received (minor) writing awards for his short stories and poetry from the cities of Portland, Oregon and the city of (good beer) Sapporo, Japan. In 2010 he was asked to present several articles for the California Senate Committee “Task Force for Suicide Prevention” and has been published by online magazines and a couple national poetry anthologies in print form.


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