Dead Tree, Romney Marsh. 1930-34.
The theme of violent and scary childhood abuse is one that seems to resonate strongly with those who have given up religion. Nate Phelps from the infamous Westboro Baptist Church and Melissa at Permission to Live blog testify to this.
One long time reader and excellent blogger, Sheldon Cooper of the blog Ramblings of Sheldon, has a such a past to share. His blog also highlights others with similar stories and provides a forum for people to hopefully lessen the pain a little through sharing in their common experiences.
Here is a poignant guest post by Sheldon about just such an episode of scary childhood abuse from his youth. He provides an e-mail address at the end for you to submit your own stories to his blog to share with others.
It is somewhat edited. But I assure you Sheldon has had the chance to read it through and approve my nitpickings!
Guest posting again for My Secret Atheist Blog feels like coming home to me. I wrote my first guest post as a blogger for this blog, a two part series on my life that was almost like a biography. That post helped to launch my blog, and I wouldn’t have even started blogging had it not been for Poutine’s encouragement.
He was right about blogging being “good therapy”. Telling my story has helped me in my recovery from my fundamentalist past, but it’s also helped to bring some memories back to mind that I would much rather forget.
One such episode which I would much rather forget is something I have never told anyone before.
It happened when I was around 11 years old.
What I remember the most about this day was the the fist. That fist shaking at me only inches away from my nose. I remember the shouting coming from mother. She was becoming so angry it was becoming quite shrill. The nearly psychotic rage in her face and in her eyes was staring me down and she was endlessly screaming out threats of violence.
She kept walking ever closer to me as I stood against a wall. I think this was deliberate on her part. She wanted me to feel trapped. She bent forward slightly as to give the illusion the she was taller than she was, towering over me. Everything about this scene was meant as a threat, to bully and intimidate.
Then something happened that had never happened before. Slowly, but surely, I started to raise my fist back at her. I didn’t swing. I didn’t say anything back. I was silent. Then I saw it. I saw the surprise. She jumped back quickly. She pointed at my dad, who was on the other side of the room, watching. He said nothing in condemnation of either me or my mother.
She went into a long rant about me. “Don’t you see this?”, she screamed, and went on as if I was the most evil person who walked the face of this earth. She was trying to save face, and distract from what she had done, putting the blame on all me. But what she had done was never provoked.
I didn’t realize it fully then as I do now, but even then I understood it to some degree. It scared her. I saw the fear in her eyes. It wasn't a fear for her life but something much different than that. She realized she truly was the one cornered. For once, unlike all the other times where she had spanked me; slapped me across the face; threatened me with fists and belts if she thought her open hands weren't enough, I stood my ground. This time not only was I physically able to fight back, I was willing to.
I think the fact that I was willing to make a stand scared her far more than the fact that I could somewhat hold my own if it came to a fight. Her bullying and intimidation wasn’t working on me mentally. She began to realize what she was, whether she truly admitted it to herself or not, that she was a coward. She was more than willing to hit someone who couldn’t fight back, or was too scared to do so, but once that line was crossed, panic set it in.
Never again after that day, did she ever hit me or make a serious threat again. She did try to make such threats afterwards, but we both knew it was a formality, she was trying to “act tough”, it was all a front, and it sounded hollow. She continued her psychological abuse, which involved a tremendous amount of guilt, lies and manipulation to get her way. Not to say that the psychological abuse didn’t drain me of all life at times. I was for a time foolish enough to believe her lie that my depression was my fault. At least I knew I would never have to face physical violence again.
I can’t even remember what started this incident, but I know it was something relatively minor. Anyone who has lived through fundamentalism and has left it behind knows that it doesn’t take much to anger a fundamentalist parent.
There are so many extreme and over reaching rules, and a lot of insecurity it seems on the part of the parents. They feel like they have to go to sometimes abusive measures to “show their authority”. They look down upon their children, almost like they are little more than their property, with no rights or respect.
Sometimes telling my story is something that I really don’t want to do, but I feel it’s necessary. I’ve encountered people online (even atheists), who think that fundamentalism is crazy, but relatively harmless. Anyone who has ever experienced it knows better. I try to expose the harmful beliefs and actions of this world to outsiders, and give a platform for others to do the same.
If you have a story to tell, something about your religious past that you feel you are ready to share, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m always ready to accept guest posts.
Check out Sheldon's Bio Page or jump directly to The Ramblings of Sheldon.