Posts Tagged ‘emotional abuse’

Highs & lows of interviews

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

We learn by our mistakes. I have been privileged to tell my story of my journey from religious faith to unbelief in the media in recent months. First, there was my RTE Radio 1 documentary, From Belief to Unbelief, which was shortlisted for a prize at the New York Festivals world radio awards. There was a great profile done of me by John Meagher in the Irish Independent on the day last October when the documentary was first broadcast. And my appearance on TV3 on 30 Oct. 2012 was contented, calm and balanced.

I was very happy with my Newstalk interview on the Tom Dunne Show on 26 June 2013 (my bit starts 26mins and 50 mins into Part 1 of show). I was also delighted with my interview on Gerry Kelly’s Late Lunch show on LMFM on 2 August 2013. He said I seemed very happy in my skin. And I am, (generally!).

I think it’s fair to say that in all of the above I was balanced and respectful of all views, even those I disagree with.

However, I wasn’t happy with my performance on yesterday’s The Last Word show on Today FM. I am entirely responsible for this, and nobody else. I hadn’t slept the previous night. I have been overwhelmed by the number of inquiries I have received to conduct Humanist ceremonies – more than twenty-five requests within my first two weeks as a celebrant. And I was asked, quite understandably, before the interview, if I would comment on the Bishop of Meath’s recent directive that there was to be no secular music and no eulogies at Catholic funerals in his diocese, and that these represented a ‘dumbing down’.

Unable to sleep, I checked out the actual words he had used on the diocesan website. Reading it, I felt very angry. It is a long time since I’ve read diktats from a bishop and it instantly brought me back to a very negative space in my mind. I saw ‘control, control, control’ all over it. I was offended by his suggestion that secular music is a dumbing down of the faith and I reflected, honestly, that faith itself involves the greatest dumbing down of the intellect imaginable – since there is not a shred of evidence to support the presumed authority of any bishop nor the dogmas of any church. Religious faith, by definition, involves believing in supernatural deities and powers that somebody else tells you exist (even though there is no evidence for the existence of these imaginary powers, angels, spirits and deities) which, in my understanding, is the last thing that any responsible adult is meant to do. I was annoyed with myself that I had submitted my mind and my will for so many years of my life to religious nonsense. And, having liberated my mind from that, and analyzed what the bishop had said, it pulled me back into a very negative place in my head, the likes of which I have not revisited for a very long time.

And so, rather than present the positive things about humanism in general and humanist ceremonies in particular I kept reacting to the bishop’s words which I’d read in the middle of a sleepless night.

The church is a dysfunctional organization. It prohibits free speech, censoring its priests and theologians and silencing those who don’t toe the party line (even though much of the current party line is at odds with previous teachings of the church). It indoctrinates young, innocent minds and that continues to trigger justifiable anger in me and others, not least because it does not teach children to think for themselves and to make their own meaning in life. It (and other religions) marks infants out as Catholic or Protestant or Muslim from birth rather than teaching children their common humanity. It insists on segregating children through the education system that it still largely runs. This is the organization that used to burn ‘heretics’ and that still silences those who disagree with the party line, depriving the church of the voices of the loyal opposition within the church. As you see, the anger has not gone away. And why should it? This is the church that teaches that gays must be celibate for life. It is the church which forbids its tens of thousands of married priests to serve the church, even though they remain priests for life. In this, the church places its man-made rule of compulsory celibacy (it admits that it is man-made) above what it pretends to be the god-given vocation to the priesthood. It forbids even discussion about women priests. It threatens priests that don’t agree with the current status quo that they will be stripped of their right to exercise their ministry. And I haven’t even mentioned its criminal protection of pedophile priests which were left freehand to rape and abuse young children.

I cannot deny the anger I feel about all the foregoing. And yet I regret my focus during yesterday’s interview on that negative aspect of things. As I have stated in pretty much all my previous interviews, it’s all about love and nothing else. It doesn’t matter, ultimately, whether one is a believer or an unbeliever, so long as one treats one’s fellow human beings as you would like them to treat you: the golden rule, which, of course, predates christianity by centuries, although the chances are students won’t have been told that in what passes for religious eduction in our schools.

The Beatles did indeed get it right: all you need is love.

While I regret my negative tone yesterday, I don’t think that it has at all really come on to the public agenda the extent to which individual lives have been damaged or in some cases ruined by their indoctrination into Catholic or other religious beliefs from infancy. People who are not born into a belief system never have to clamber out of one. I had to rethink everything. Nor is the issue only about intellectual abuse of children. There is also the emotional abuse of teaching children to fear god, to fear hell. Catholic guilt is not just a cliche: it is real. Men and women have lived their whole lives believing in nonsense and many have died without ever really having lived. Or thought! This is a human rights issue.

In times past, sexual abuse of children took place and children were not believed. Priests got away with it. And now everyone knows the price of that in the lives of adults who were sexually abused as children. But spare a thought, if you would, for those of us, myself included, who were intellectually and emotionally abused by the church. We have every right to be angry about it. Just as I was taught that 2+2=4, I was indoctrinated as a child to believe that everything the pope said was true. I was taught to obey and not to question. I was taught to repeat and not to think. I was taught that to leave the Church would result in the loss of my ‘eternal soul’, or if I left the seminary I would not be happy. I was taught all kinds of manipulative and untrue things. I absorbed them and believed them, things that I now know to be false or silly or crazy.

While the sexual and physical abuse of children was an abomination, the emotional and intellectual abuse of children was, and remains, a crime against human rights. It is a violation of the rights of the child.

Saying these things aloud in public places is a bit like it once was reporting sexual abuse. People weren’t believed. Or the crimes – of rape or molestation – were hushed up. Well where are all you good people out there whose minds and emotions were raped by priests and religious and nuns and ardent lay people? And can we stand idly by while young children continue to be taught crazy beliefs as if they were scientific truths in schools paid for by the taxpayer? I cannot stop being angry about this no less than I’d be enraged if children went on being knowingly beaten or raped in our schools.

Outgrowing religion

Monday, September 12th, 2011

I used to be a seminarian but now I have outgrown religion and, although I’m pushing 50 years of age, I’m still trying to unlearn the nonsense I picked up having been raised in a Catholic family, gone to a Catholic school, been born into what was in all but name a theocratic State, and having spent nine years of my life in a seminary.

I’m interested in education and especially in the need to teach children to think for themselves. This is impossible within any school which seeks to ‘inculcate’ (i.e., indoctrinate) faith. By definition, they are not teaching children to think for themselves. They are presenting the party-line and hoping it will stick.

Having been abused myself as a child by a Christian Brother in school, I find Cardinal Brady’s remaining in his post unconscionable, given that he failed to act like an adult and report abuse to the civil authorities and that he hides behind it not being his call. Of course it was his call. He is, and was at the time, an adult. But then again, an adult who believes that Mary was a virgin before, during and after the conception of Jesus, which, let’s face it, isn’t exactly an adult belief to maintain. However whacko the ‘before’ bit, how exactly can a baby be born without breaking his mother’s hymen? And yet that is what, as a Cardinal of his Church, he is obliged to believe. It being a dogma of his Church, one gathers he believes it too.

I am appalled at the emotional abuse of children in Catholic schools, or any faith school for that matter. Rather than teaching children that today is all we have, they peddle lies to children. They inculcate fear and obedience in nonsensical beliefs. They insist on the ‘right’ of indoctrinating children because they know that most adults of sound mind would never for a second believe the gibberish they teach.

I’m angry as hell about the Church, to be honest. Their dogmas are loopy. Why are they afforded such ‘respect’? Historically, they controlled what people could think and say. They usurped rationality. They burned people who didn’t fit in. They laid down, and still lay down, heavy burdens on those they claim to serve. As a recent poster I saw said: ‘Jesus, protect us from your followers.’

If I die without this said my life has been in vain, so let me say it. I do not believe in ‘god’. Today is all we have. Live this day to the full. I abhor that the civil authorities permit people of religious faith to indoctrinate young minds. In time to come, and I hope sooner rather than later, it will be considered a crime to fool children into the lie of any religious doctrine. When I think of the years I wasted, nine years in a seminary, trying to believe the incredible. And the nonsense that somehow those who didn’t believe were morally inferior. Absolute hogwash! I remember meeting a girl at university whom I used to know in a prayer group. She, good for her, had moved on. She no longer believed and it was manifestly obvious that she was in ever fibre of her being a person of conscience and moral courage. Her presence and goodness alone challenged me. Pity my lesson took so many more years before the penny dropped.

And when I think about the ghastly attempts to live celibacy during nine years in the seminary and how unnatural it was. And when I think about the so-called virtue of obedience when the real virtue is in obeying yourself. And when I think about the lie of religious poverty when, in fact, few millionaires enjoyed the financial security of being a priest or member of a religious order and the real poverty was the risk of leaving the congregation and having to find my way in the world. When I think of all that and then see little children today being indoctrinated into a heap of lies as I once was, yes, I get mad as hell.

Children: do not listen to your so-called ‘betters’ if they are trying to fool you to believe in a religious myth. They are not better than you. Most of them don’t really believe the bilge they try to ‘inculcate’/indoctrinate into you. And if they really do believe what they peddle, then protect yourself. Find someone of sound mind to support you. Someone who will tell you not to worry about going to Hell: it doesn’t exist. And not to waste your time praying before a box thinking that the creator of the universe is in it. Don’t let them fool you. Do not let them mangle your thinking with their potty views.

Religious people are quick to shout ‘blasphemy’ because they want to control you. They do not want to expose just how unutterably ridiculous their beliefs are, and how bankrupt their thinking is. They seek to control what people say because they don’t want it exposed in black and white for all the world to see. They are, par excellence, like the naked emperor who for so long has basked in the adulation of a controlled crowd and how dare anyone, young or old, yell that they are naked: unutterably nude, without a stitch of truth.