Overcoming lifelong indoctrination, also known as losing your faith, doesn't happen overnight. It takes a lot of time and effort to brainwash someone into a religion, but once in place you are dependent upon it for your identity. Religious leaders understand this, and the most successful of religions invest a great deal to gain a captive audience where religious memes will go unchallenged taking root.
The religions that many Americans consider to be cult-like, Scientology, Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, all attempt to cut off potential converts from outside influences. Before the brainwashing has taken root they are "vulnerable" to critically examining what the religion is telling them, and rejecting it, if those ideas are challenged by non-believers.
Mainstream Protestant and Catholic Christians may not take this approach with adults, but they have an easily captive audience in the form of their children. Pastor Gugger (formerly of Crossroad Christian Church in Farmington Hills, MI) frankly states, "We have to reprogram the children early." Reprogram them.
Without realizing it, he admits that knowing the Christian god and yearning for him is not the inherent human trait that they teach it to be. The children must be reprogrammed to accept it, and soon. Do not let them get old enough to question, do not let them become intellectually mature enough to critically evaluate what you are trying to teach them. Bring them to Sunday School every week, make sure to talk about god and the bible every day so that they remember that its words are inerrant. Send them to plenty of church retreats where they will be surrounded by hundreds of others who think exactly like we do. If we don't catch them early, if we don't reprogram them to accept Christianity before they learn to think for themselves, we might lose them forever.
But for as much effort and control of the social environment as is required to indoctrinate the laity, once a religion is successful in getting its talons in, it is an incredibly difficult process for you to shake its grip. You've been convinced that you need it, that it is an essential part of your existence and identity. You are trained to feel guilt for questioning or doubting it, and to fear what a bad person you would be without it. You're trained to see unusual events as confirmation of your faith, and trained to ignore or rationalize anything that might challenge that faith. It is easy to see the flaws and inconsistencies in all other religions, but the blind spot that has been cultivated through your reprogramming prevents you from applying the same criticisms to your own religion.
The deck is stacked against the individual, and so if that programming can fall away at all it will only do so gradually. The first things to fall away for me were the political and social agendas disguised as religion. The fear mongering of people that are different than me was incompatible with my values, whether those values originated from religious or secular sources in my life doesn't really matter. It was only much later and after great emotional turmoil that the rest of the superstitions of Christianity also dissolved from me.
Last week author Anne Rice posted via Twitter that she was quitting Christianity. Some in the secular community I follow have reacted with indifference, because she asserts that she still believes in God and Jesus, "What is the difference between a 'Christian' and a 'Follower of Christ?'" Not much, I do agree with that. But she has given up the anti-intellectual and intolerant aspects of her religion, and that is a difficult first step.
Will she ever give up faith and superstition entirely? Maybe she will, maybe she won't. For her sake I hope she will, with the scales shed from my eyes I can appreciate the wonderful diversity and complexity of our universe more than I ever could when I believed it was placed here intentionally. But even if she doesn't, at least she's condemned the Christian Reconstructionist agenda, and that makes her another voice of secularism, and a friend to atheists.
“I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of ...Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.”
-Anne Rice (Author) Via Twitter 7-28-10
In search of reason,