A reader by the name of Scott sent me this message, and I wanted to share it with the rest of the dogma debate readers. My response to him follows...
I'd like to hear your opinion on something being that you're further down the trail than I am. Today, I'm proud and happy to say that I'm an atheist even though I don't broadcast it without first having a reason to announce it. But, I grew up in a mildly warm Lutheran home and did the whole baptism, confirmation, communion, take my heart, tell others, and play in the worship band at college thing. Like you, in my twenty's I started deviating from the plan and began to question my upbringing, educate myself, and get into conversations with people outside the bubble. It all proved to be beneficial to me. I feel free and happy with no sense of guilt, remorse, or nervousness toward afterlife.
But I am still "grumpy" about the theft of 21 years of my life. I know I'm not the only person to wish growing up had been different and I had a good childhood so I'm not complaining about that ... I just wish I had some inspiration earlier in my life to correct my theological position. Granted, being a good little Christian boy probably kept me out of some situations that a 16 or 17 year old non-believer wouldn't have been in so in hindsight I am largely OK with it, yet I harbor these intense feelings towards nobody particular and no organization in particular that I grew up and promoted myself the way I did.
I want to move past this. I want to have peace with the situation and only look to the future. Have you had conversations with other people who are still pissed from the teachings inculcated into their brains as children and want to know how to gain "closure" to the situation like a bad ex-girlfriend and keep skipping down the trail? Any advice you can provide would be more than welcome. Kudos to you and your work.
I completely understand where you're coming from. I've been there. At times, it's hard not to have a chip on your shoulder about the times you've been mislead, lied to, and forced to be in fear. I get it.
First of all, let's all take a deep breath and realize that now, you're finally in your happy place. So congratulations on the realization that is atheism. Seriously—what a huge load off, right?
Secondly, we have to ask ourselves the true intent of the people that taught us these horrible things. You know them. They may be gullible. They may be blind followers. They may be afraid to question authority. They may choose to ignore science. But are they bad people? Do you honestly believe they intentionally lead you down a path of deceit to pull the wool over your eyes?... or were they blinded as well?
I'm no longer angry at the people that taught me about religion. Why? Because they were taught to teach me. In fact, they were indoctrinated—and even brainwashed to teach me. If I thought for one second they knew better, I would have a different opinion. But they didn't and still don't. I don't believe they have malice in their hearts or actions.
I truly think they wanted the best for me, and that's how they thought I would find it.
Looking back on it, we're just two of the lucky few that got out alive. So being mad at them now, is like being angry at other victims of a fire for not pulling you out. They're still suffering through it as we speak. They have their own demons... pun intended. If they knew how to get out, they'd help themselves, too, just like we did.
They simply don't know any better.
I understand, a lot of what religion brings is horrible. The fear, the stonings, the rape, the racism, and suppression, so don't think for a moment that I'm letting these people off easy. I'm not. But anger towards individual family members won't resolve the world's belief in fantasy. We have to fight that on a different front.
So my advice to you would be to let it go and love them as the part of humanity they are. Just don't let it happen to you. If you have children, start them off right—scientifically, logically, and challenging authority in a respectful way. Personally, with my daughter, we pretend the tooth-fairy is there, and have pretend talks about Santa Claus around other kids... but she knows it's pretend. I sneak into her room to put money under her pillow, and the next morning she wakes up, laughs, and says "thanks for the money, Dad."
Funny enough, it's the same reason my little girl is the only 6 year old I know of that isn't afraid of the dark, or monsters, or ghosts. We put them in the same category with demons, gods, and tooth-fairies, and she laughs at them.
Don't hold a grudge, Scott. Just move forward making this place better than you found it, and change the way people think about atheists.