Rethinking My Beliefs about God Apart From Traditional Christianity

The Whole Point Of Being Brainwashed Is That We Don’t Know We Are Being Brainwashed

In Freedom, Life, Relationships, The Bible on March 6, 2011 at 7:20 pm

One day as I walked out of class, I felt like crying. What the heck was wrong with me? It wasn’t that time of the month. I wasn’t overwhelmed with the material covered in class. Well, actually I was, but that wasn’t why I felt so depressed. I was simply going to miss my instructor who I had for my last three courses which I completed. We had something, her and I. And I’m not talking about a lesbian relationship.

During my first day of my first college course, I remember thinking that this particular instructor didn’t know everything but she knew a lot more than I did in the field of web design. If my non-expertise was going to get anything out of her expertise, I needed to listen and connect to what she was teaching, whether I understood her or not. After challenging her with a few of my ignorant questions (which she kindly welcomed) I could understand better the whole subject matter, at least from her experience and perspective.

She continually reiterated that she has her own manner of writing HTML/CSS code and us students needed to find our own style too. She also kept saying that it wasn’t possible to cover everything in class that we needed to know. We still needed to go home and build our own websites.

And then the course was over. I was alone and it was time to stand on my own two feet. Yikes.

I procrastinated on creating my first website for weeks and when I finally plunged in, I discovered that it wasn’t so hard after all. I also discovered that we really didn’t cover everything in class, and I was thankful for that fact. I had to continually do my own research in order to solve my own special coding problems as well as common problems for every web designer. Thanks to the world wide net, I could obtain this info from a wide array of different resources. Along with echoes of my class instructor’s voice in my head, my own research helped me make what I personally consider to be the best decisions in order to accomplish my personal goals. I was standing on my own, and it felt great.

As valuable as my education might be, there seems to be so much more to the story outside of the classroom. Observing facts in a lab can take on an entirely different dynamic once real life variables are added to the equation. So imagine for a moment if I never left school and if I never learned through a lot of trial and error to use my own two legs to walk. I’d still be sitting in a mental, educational wheelchair.

While students graduate from educational institutions, and for a very good reason, this isn’t the case with church institutions. Church-goers might sit under the same pastor week after week, year after year and decade after decade, as in my case. When I think about how much my web design instructor influenced my entire life in one short school quarter, the idea of a teaching church pastor sounds downright freaky.

Sure, when I went to church I listened to other Bible teachers along the way, and I even did a lot of my own research at home. But it was always within the confines of the same general, powerful belief system.  I never dared to challenge or question the system because I believed it imparted to me the exclusive truth which it possessed and I did not.

If you’ve read any other part of my blog, you’ll see that after I stopped going to church, I found the freedom to begin questioning that exclusive truth. And I have found way too many blatant contradictions in my own “personal” belief system. There were so many holes in it, I could have used it as a shower head.

How could I have ever placed my trust in such feeble (and damaging) beliefs and actually believed they were true? It would be completely baffling except for that mind control idea. It happens when a teacher isn’t just a teacher anymore, but our life source. It’s when a teacher or group of teachers turns into our life support. At least in our own mind, if we were to separate ourselves from them, we would die, or worse – suffer in hell for eternity.

This is exactly what I believed about my church teaching and yet I had no idea that I believed this. I would have vehemently denied it, in fact. And that just ruffles all of our feathers, doesn’t it? I mean, to think that we can’t even trust what we believe is the truth. Nobody really wants to go there. That’s a scary, insecure, vulnerable place to be… or so we think.

Personally, I have discovered that yes, it is challenging and even lonely to walk with my own two spiritual feet. There is a sadness in walking away from our teachers. And we will often give every irrational reason for staying. But detaching is also the only way to really live a whole life.

To admit that I don’t have all the answers about God keeps me always searching, always asking questions, always considering different viewpoints. It connects me to other people who are also seeking and this connection is actually deeper when we are not codependent. Instead of relying upon the knowledge of another, I now must face my own fragile mind. This humbles me but it also empowers me.

Learning and growing has never been so fulfilling and I think it might be what life is all about….

So how can we know if our beliefs are under the control of another for the benefit of that other and not for our own learning experience? If you are sitting under a single teacher week after week with no intention of ending that authority in your life, you can be sure that you have exchanged your mind for someone else’s. If you are reading and studying the same book over and over again, you can be sure that your mind is a slave to that book. If you are performing the same rituals repeatedly in the same way (and this goes for any ritual) you can be sure that it will become an unchallenged second nature, so that you will hardly be conscious of even doing it.

Just like most students go to school to learn, so do most Christians seem to go to church in order to “grow in their walk with the Lord.” I don’t see anything wrong with learning from others; in fact, this is a necessary part of a human being. We need each other in order to learn and grow. The problem comes in when our teachers do not give us the freedom to eventually walk on our own. We’re helpless, dependent creatures when we should be using our own God-created cognitive ability. And when we’re helpless, we’re open to anything taking advantage of us. Mind slaves.

I can hear the fear behind Christian comments loud and clear. “Don’t listen to that heresy. It’s dangerous…. The devil is trying to deceive you…. What would our pastor say about that? ….Read your Bible! …Pray for a hedge of protection…. You are confused…. If you skip church you are opening yourself up to Satan and the world which entices you…. Let me see what my husband has to say about that…. God hates sin because it will destroy you…. God is giving you a free choice and if you choose wrong, then God will have to punish you in eternity.”

Can you see the fear behind these statements? Let’s examine them for a moment. We’ve got a fear of heresy. A fear of the devil. A fear of going against a pastor’s teaching, or a certain Bible teacher’s interpretation of the Bible. There is a fear of confusion or of not knowing the truth, as well as the female fear of disagreeing with her husband who does her thinking for her. There is a fear of the world. An apprehension of sin. The unimaginable fear of inescapable suffering forever. And last but not least, a fear of God’s personal hatred.

Wow. I mean, that’s just a lot of fear. Do we really want to live our lives this way according to these threats? And yet someone is using them to control it subjects, although that someone has no idea they are doing so because they are under the control of the belief system themselves. And the thing is, this fear is not blatantly taught from the pulpit. It would profusely be denied, in fact. And yet, this fear in disguise of “the truth” is what everybody walks away with.

The sin of pride is another fear used by Christianity to control people’s lives. Supposedly it’s a sin to use “I, me or myself” too often in my blog posts. I’ve actually had Christians accuse me of this. But I can see the brainwashing behind their pointed finger. It’s what they themselves have been told, over and over again.

If someone teaches you that you are a sinner and God is holy, and that you must exchange your life for someone else’s life, say the life of Christ, a red flag should go up – don’t you think? Exchange your life for that of another? What kind of a God would demand such a thing? What if another human being required it of you?

“You must deny yourself, stop thinking for yourself, believe that you are ignorant, unworthy and incapable… and you must replace yourself with everything I teach you. You must stop using the term ‘I’ and replace it with my name so that you will give me all the glory.”

The manipulation tactic becomes a lot more clear when we apply our beliefs about God to another human being.  A Christian argues, “But God is holy and another human being does not deserve any glory.” Ah, there’s your brainwashing kicking in again, my friend. And just think about how that affects your view of yourself and your relationships with other human beings.

“But the Bible says we must deny ourselves and pick up our cross…” More brainwashing. That is only an interpretation of the Bible, and not necessarily what “the Bible says.” Even if the Bible did say this, and your interpretation is correct, why would you give up your life to be in a relationship with someone such as God? They wouldn’t be relating to you, but only to themselves… and what kind of a relationship is that? You cannot relate to someone unless you have a self of which to do the relating.

And this is why it is virtually impossible to have any kind of deep communication or friendship with Christians unless we subject ourselves to the same mind control. Most Christians would condemn the Westboro Baptist Church for its hatred and disrespect toward fellow humanity. But there is that necessary blame-shifting again. How are other Christians any different with their view of sinners, the world and Non-believers? Most seem to be simply too ashamed to take it to its logical conclusions out loud. But the WBC, in my opinion, is simply carrying out traditional Christian belief beyond the boundaries of social acceptance.

With that said, and this is something that I’ve had to reconcile in my own mind, I do not blame Christians. I do not blame myself for once being a Christian either. I had no idea that my mind was being controlled, so what could I have done about it anyway? Religion would blame. And I do not want to be like that anymore.

Last night I was telling my sister how much I regret my misery as a Christian. I was so detached from real life and I lived in so much fear, and yet I thought I knew, hands-down the truth. How could I have ever believed that God was going to reward me for eternity while punishing the rest of the world? How could I have believed that I would have been happy in heaven while anyone else was suffering in hell? Why didn’t I just take a moment and really think about it?

My sister, being the good sister that she is, reminded me that I was only doing what I thought was right. I was trying to be the best person I could be as well as the best mom I could be. I sought the truth and thought I found it and even though I now believe it is a lie, that experience made me who I am today.

And I am very happy with who I am today even with, especially with, my frailties. I love my life. I love learning, exploring, meeting new people and even facing scary challenges. I’m not afraid of suffering, because I’ve faced it and I’ve overcome it. Without that fear, I am free to fall in love with people no matter what their belief, activities or sexual orientation. I am free to keep seeking the truth as well as God. As I grow, my life becomes more real, more alive. And I no longer feel a desperation to hide under a belief system, husband or anything that will naturally control me only because I give them that power. I give them that power because I don’t know how to walk on my own.

The human being does not thrive under slavery or fear. And yet we must all face our fears and conquer them before we can enter the freedom and security beyond it. I think we are all in the process of learning to rise above those things that scare us, whether they are of a religious nature or not. So, even if we are brainwashed or fully aware, it is all still part of life. It’s how we grow.

We need each other to grow but we also need to stand on our own two feet in order to relate to each other. Codependency can deceive us into slavery. While mind control isn’t the end of the world, I can assure you that there is a whole new beautiful God-created world out there waiting to be explored. Don’t be scared. There are also friends along the way who are experiencing the same thing. And I’m one of them.

  1. I wrote a couple posts about the brainwashing that happened in my family.

    The first one:
    (the second is linked in it)

  2. Thank you friend.

  3. I know…isn’t it just good to think your own thoughts and not worry if it’s a “wrong” thought?
    In my own opinion I think most of the thoughts we had about God was making him/her/it in our own image…
    And how could we possibly steal god’s glory? I mean there is no separation between god and anything or anyone…it’s all ONE….the whole earth is filled with his glory…we are infused with glory….we are that glory…perception is everything…

  4. As Elizabeth said, “Students graduate from educational institutions” but one of my biggest bleats about the educational system is that teachers do not teach their students how to teach what they have been learning, and only the best of teachers seem to admit that they should be learning from their students at the same time.

    Bit bad as all that is, it does seem that ‘church’ is the only educational establishment from which the great majority never graduate – and those who do are encouraged to believe that they are superior to the rest of the membership.

    It took me over 40 years to escape to freedom and liberation from the slavery of legalism.

    A great post!

  5. Just stumbled across your blog last week. Really enjoyed this post! So, so true…we must think for ourselves, we must work things out for ourselves…but organized religion is terrified of that prospect.

  6. Great Post Elizabeth.

  7. Kudos Elizabeth. I remember decades ago being targeted by my church because I started to understand the importance of self esteem, and the need for the church to teach it.

  8. keep em coming

  9. This is a very thoughtful post Elizabeth, I enjoyed it just about as much as the one concerning Christian Fundamentals. 🙂

    My own perspective can perhaps be touched upon simply as this, I was in a cult for most of my life and can now be somewhat shocked when denominational churches employ the same tactics and manipulation. And while my situation was in many ways more extreme than most I relate very easily to those such as you who relate your experiences openly and honestly.

  10. This is a wonderful article Elizabeth… down to earth and from the heart, I apprecitate it. It’s amazing how some people have such a gift for writing things down, thankyou!

  11. Here is a comment on my Facebook page from Mark Tindall concerning this blog post:

    Brainwashing can happen to the most intelligent people. All it requires is the right mix in the environment. It is a form of hypnotism ….

    From “The Hypnotic World of Paul Kenna” (Faber & Faber; London: 1993) *[…] my additional comments

    An altered state can be induced through the repetition of a word – a popular practice in many of the eastern religions *[and charismatic / pentecostal churches] The word for this is mantra, meaning ‘thought’ in Sanskrit. The repetition can be of any sound, movement or picture. When something is done or said for the first time it, the conscious mind processes and reality-tests it, but if it is repeated the reality-testing become unnecessary and the stimulus moves out of your conscious awareness and is monitored by the unconscious. … After initial repetition the mantra is monitored by, and implanted into, the unconscious through the bombardment of repetition. Remember the golden rule, ‘You always get more out what you focus on.’ That focus can be conscious or unconscious. So by continually focusing upon the mantra you get whatever the mantra means to you. p. 131

    Another very hypnotic experience is going to church. There is the cross to fixate upon, and then the repetition of prayers and closing your eyes *[and singing Jesus Jingles over and over again … and repetitive praise slogans like “Praise the Lord! Glory to God! Bless the Lord! Amen! Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!”], and in some cases the personal magnetism of the priest or vicar can carry you away. Many of the American TV evangelists are really effective hypnotists. Listen to the content of what they are saying. ‘Close your eyes and let the Lord come into your life’ is very similar in structure as my telling hypnotic subjects on the stage to close their eyes and let relaxation come into their bodies. pp 204-205

    … today’s spiritual groups and cults. During a meditation session *[aka church service], which is a consciousness-altering process, a cult member may receive suggestions that mould him or her to the cult’s doctrine.

    Disruption of eating and sleeping patterns, restricted contact with the outside world, repetition, forced attention and hyperventilation are disorientation tactics which alter awareness and reduce a person’s critical faculties. Then irrational beliefs can be implanted, such as ‘The outside world is the area of falsehoods’ or, ‘The cult is made of chosen people who have to save the world.’ many of today’s cults practise mind control in a social context. Individuals are immersed in a social environment where they must let go of their old identity and assume the new one of the group. The process can take place within a few hours and then a few days later will be established. The fundamental essence of mind control is to encourage dependence, conformity and devotion and discourage individuality and personal freedom *[IOW what church is all about] p209

  12. Excellent post Elizabeth.. shared on Twitter 🙂

  13. Enjoyed reading your thoughts on freedom (and have enjoyed/benefited from reading a lot of your older posts). I had a pang of misery myself reading your fears or misgivings about your Christian years. I thought about how much time I wasted doing things I really did not have time for in college, and later with young children. But what your sister told you is good advice. And I can tell myself that without “wasting” my time on the Christian things I did in college, I would be someone different today. And I do not doubt I would have found less worthwhile or more harmful things to waste time on had I not had the constraints of Christianity.

  14. It’s not an easy topic at all. For me, some questions come to mind such as, when is singing just singing? And when is reading and quoting scriptures just that and not part of a brainwashed (thought reformed; in some circles) agenda? When is a person deciding to not be a criminal anymore brainwashing and when is it a miracle?

    For people such as us (hope you don’t mind the inclusion here.) who have experienced such things in our own lives to our own detriment, IMO the proof of the brainwashing is partly governed by the truth that for us, that’s what it was. And also, by us learning and recovering from in this case, the religious abuse.

    But it isn’t always easy to explain to someone why singing and preaching proved to be disastrously devastating to us IMO. But to others who have been educated through experience and/or academia there is of course varying levels of comprehension as to what it is like.

  15. Another great article, Elizabeth! I enjoy all of your articles, but rarely have time to respond. But it’s almost 4:00 a.m. here, my bladder woke me up, and there’s no distractions! However, I will be going back to sleep shortly, so I will keep this brief!

    Basically, I think we’re all brainwashed (and some of us could use a good brain-scrubbing with bleach!)

    But I’m always drawn to the scripture that says that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. We truly have all we need within ourselves to learn our own truth.

    Like you, I still have a lot of unanswered questions, but the one thing I can rely on is that as long as I seek, I will find.

  16. Ready for your next blog article. Love reading them.

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