Theology

Christian fundamentalism and superstition

[note: there is some swearing in today’s post]

When Handsome and I first began dating, one of the hurdles we had to overcome was the different way we were raised. He had a fairly normal, healthy evangelical upbringing. His childhood was unmarred by any of the things that affected me, and when I tried to explain some of what I’d experienced he was bewildered. To him, my descriptions of my church and college were utterly foreign. It was through seeing his reactions to my story that I finally started grasping exactly how fucked up my life was.

Before I truly unburdened myself with him, I’d only ever shared snippets and bits with coworkers and friends, and usually as funny anecdotes or to seem mysterious. Trust me, “At my alma mater, they gave you demerits if they caught you using the bathroom after 11” gets you a lot of horrified looks. Handsome, though, stated it the most succinctly: they’re literally a prison, right down to the fact that only “well-behaving” students were ever allowed off campus (ie, if you got more than 75 demerits,  you were “campused,” which prompted Handsome to ask if it fit the legal requirements of false imprisonment. Answer: it does).

My life is, to put it mildly, beyond fucked up. It’s a nightmare. It’s the worst possible thing that JK Rowling could envision happening to Hogwarts; in fact, for the bulk of my life I was constrained by all the rules Dolores Umbridge instituted during Order of the Phoenix.

I thought we’d moved past anything that could surprise him, but last night he came into the office because I was laughing so hard at this article: “Adult Coloring Books and Mandalas, a Warning for Christians.” It was nothing I hadn’t heard before, and I read him some highlights, such as:

The thing is, how is the devil going to get Christians to meditate on mandalas?

No Christian would put one in their house and sit and stare at it for an hour, chanting the sacred word! But if the enemy can get a Christian to stare at a mandala because they are coloring it, he can have them absentmindedly focus their attention on the image and they will unknowingly open up their subconscious to this image in almost the same way.

Handsome sort of laughed, but his first reaction was “wait … people actually think that coloring books can cause demon possession?” I attempted to explain the difference between “demon possession” and “demonic influences,” using examples like listening to rock music could allow demons to enter your home, or how bringing a piece of Harry Potter fanart into a church sanctuary could allow “demonic influences” to infect the congregation. There’s a particular horror with all things related to “eastern mysticism,” the form of racism that gave birth to the post I quoted above.

It’s why we held things like book burnings– to cleanse the evil spirits from our churches in home. One of my cult’s regular evangelists was a man who claimed he had pictures of demons being released from Beatles albums as they burned. I saw one. At the time, I thought it was convincing, so I brought along an old copy of a Steve Green album I’d kept hidden under my bed and tossed it into a fire.

I was laughing as I explained, but his incredulity slowly halted my amusement. Once again I was forced to acknowledge just how abnormal my experiences are. I was raised with a set of beliefs that literally amount to nothing more than tossing salt over your shoulder or putting rose petals across your threshold to protect your home from the fae folk.

Earlier that night, at small group, we ended up talking a lot about Young Earth Creationism and I tried to explain why Creationists think that radiocarbon dating is a lie, and how their argument basically amounts to nothing more than maybe the laws of Physics worked differently in the past. Connected with that post about mandalas, I realized that the “science” I was raised with is just as fucking ridiculous as thinking that a pile of rags in the corner turns into rats.

It suddenly hit me: it’s not an exaggeration to say that the understanding of the world I was given was roughly the same as a child growing up in Medieval Europe. And that’s when I got angry. No, not just angry. Furious.

It’s been a while since it’s made me angry. Most of the time I’ve learned to accept it. But every once in a while I am just so fucking pissed off because I was lied to. More than deceived– I was inculcated in a worldview that had more in common with fairy tales than reality. I was robbed of an accurate understanding of how the world works, or any ability to explore it. Sometimes, I feel violated. The leaders I admired exploited my innocence and trust in order to twist my mind into believing superstitious drivel.

As a child, I actually fucking believed shit on the level of “vampires can only enter your home if you invite them in” and “keep a lot of garlic on you.” Handsome and I joked about waving around a decorative cross we have and reciting incantations, or making a salt circle in our bedroom, but it’s still infuriating that I used to think that way.

I wish it were limited to just book burnings and thinking an analogy about potatoes could single-handedly defeat radiocarbon dating, but it’s not. That mode of thinking permeated everything. I was trained to be superstitious about spiritual matters and physical ones. I was explicitly instructed to not only accept a premise without questioning it, but to vociferously reject any evidence that contradicted it– that my salvation depended on blind faith. I was severely castigated for my doubts, and the end result was a grown-ass woman who couldn’t sleep for two days because she’d spooked herself with the idea of thinking there was a demon in her dorm room.

In my experience, Christian fundamentalism is completely dominated by superstition, and not just of the “karate is spiritually dangerous” variety. It’s indelibly a part of how they view anything. Their entire religious experience is bound up in processing all information through a set of ironclad beliefs, and they see any new piece of information as incapable of contradicting them. Instead, something that’s actually a contradiction is just incorporated as another piece of “evidence.” It’s like someone being shown that flies hatch from eggs and them saying “yes, those little white things are of course tiny bits of beef.”

Fundamentalism is dangerous because it clings to a view in the world that isn’t based in reality at all. I’m aware that religion, as a matter of faith, is hardly in the same arena as science and demonstrable facts, but even as a Christian I can acknowledge the difference between what the Bible says about the beginnings of Israel and what archaeology says. To a fundamentalist, there is no line between religion and science, nor can there be. Being a Christian, to them, means elevating ancient mythologies above the level of proven, demonstrable fact.

Photo by Martin Brigden
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  • Amanda Morrow

    i can definitely identify with this. from being told by a pastor’s wife whose day job was teaching high school biology that my autoimmune condition was caused by demonic manifestation… to attempting to repent of sins my great great great etc grandparents committed to “break the bonds of generational sins”… being instructed on how to cleanse a new apartment of any demons… confessing like a thousand times that in third grade my friends and i played ‘light as a feather stiff as a board’, believing that somehow that interaction was affecting my life 16-18 years later… my first major act of rebellion against the cult before leaving was going to a yoga class. Yoga!! like, we all get indwelled by satan there, right? lol. it’s all anchored in so much fear.. and when the physical world around you does not show anything you should be afraid of, they have to make up invisible things to keep you scared.

    • LNae

      Oh my god, I remember when yoga was viewed as evil in Baptists churches (though it may still be viewed as that, I’ve moved away from that world). My sister couldn’t do a camp activity because it was yoga and a Frank Peretti novel had demons using yoga for evil.

      • Been there! I must admit some confusion in regards to the phrase “healthy Evangelical upbringing” in the original post … My mother was terrified of Ouija boards and I wasn’t even allowed to watch shows like Smurfs–SMURFS!–because there was a witch on it. While she was raised more conservatively in regards to dress, we were allowed to wear pants eventually…
        Oh, wow. I think I just realized that my upbringing might have been more influenced by my mom’s more fundamental upbringing than I realized, even though I labeled it evangelical in my head.
        I remember being surprised that Liberty
        U, where I attended for a year, offered yoga classes.

      • Stephanie Rice

        Yoga is still viewed that way in evangelical Christianity and not just Baptist churches. It’s sort of an unspoken rule that yoga is evil and that you are practicing Eastern religions if you do it. Stretching, breathing, exercising, relaxing – all tainted by demons.

  • Can’t take 10

    This is a great post. It “feels” very familiar, but you put it better than I’ve ever been able to.

    I can still recall the time I used a stupid BJU rule as a joke, and rather than laughing, the person I was talking to was shocked, and my own mental shock at realizing that they were right, felt very much like you describe.

    And Dolores Umbridge! I can remember my own slight confusion as to why Harry Potter and friends found her rules to be so unbearable – they weren’t really that strict, were they?

    I never attended a book or music burning myself – fire code made that sort of thing difficult in the area I grew up in if I recall correctly, so I missed out for pragmatic reasons only – but my dad did throw out a bunch of items over concerns that it would allow demons some sort of access to our house, and I vividly recall him doing an exorcism in each room of our house when my baby sister was suffering from night terrors – maybe demons were the cause of the night terrors?

    I also remember feeling very guilty about the night terrors thing – the “umbrella of authority” stuff we were taught meant that I was personally not holy enough to protect my sister, as the demons would have to “get through a hole in my umbrella” in order to get to my sister.

    I used to think that I needed to find another ex-fundie to talk this stuff out with – who else could understand where I was coming from? But recently I’ve been able to talk it out with an atheist friend, who has been incredibly helpful in helping me realize that this stuff isn’t a joke, it’s wrong.

  • April Kelsey

    Yep. This. I didn’t have it as bad growing up as you did, but I remember these things well. Our house was regularly “anointed” over the door posts, and my parents walked around praying in tongues and commanding demons to leave. Action figures and troll dolls weren’t allowed in the house for a long time. No watching cartoons or movies that portrayed magic. When my brother and I finally got a Super NES, my grandmother swore it was somehow demonic. I remember at least one music trashing party.

    I spent a year abroad in Japan during college and took hundreds of pictures of ancient temples and shrines. I came home to hear an evangelist talk about how he destroyed a beautiful painting of two Chinese dragons that had been generously given to him by a Chinese friend, because “Satan is represented by a dragon,” and he realized that the art was “bringing demonic activity” into his home. My mom leaned over and asked me if I had any plans to destroy the photographs I had taken in Japan. I said, “Nope. This guy is ridiculous.”

    And that’s when I knew I was free. It was a huge moment of courage.

    I’m so glad I don’t live in that environment anymore. The fear was crippling.

    • poetrymafia

      oof xenophobia for the win. people like this guy are the reason for the Dark Ages. i’m glad you’re out. it feels good being free 🙂

    • That reminds me of a talk given by a visiting missionary at my former church. She was a missionary somewhere in Asia and described feeling demonic spirits when she went near a Buddhist temple. That comment felt more than just paranoid. It felt racist, in a way.

  • poetrymafia

    My parents weren’t quite this extreme but I had friends whose parents were. My best friend’s mother told her she was inviting demonic control into her life by having imaginary friends. Women in my church spoke out against synchopated beats in music. I think my parents starting seeing through a lot of this bullshit before they even had me, and by the time I was in high school, they had begun to leave fundamentalism completely. Still… my mom would pray protection over my sister to be safe from demons. It only made her more terrified that there was something sneaking up behind her. And Harry Potter… why the fuck was this such a big thing? It freaked me out because Focus on the Family would be on in the car, with Jim Daly or someone talking about how obviously demonic it was and kids were becoming versed in dark magic. My friends in HIGH SCHOOL informed me that the spells from the book actually worked and could kill you. Yeah, it all sounds more whack with each passing year. I’m so so SO glad I’m out of that.

  • I’m reading this, and struggling not to cry, and feeling so sick. I’m 30 and I’m out mostly, but I’m still a Christian, my in-laws are conservative firsthand though more evangelical less fundamentalist, and the church we attend is Calvinistic and stuffed with otherwise nice people who still fall into many superstitious beliefs and behaviors, so while I’ve personally tried to leave it all behind it still pops up around me of and on and is horribly triggering. But I feel like I can’t talk to anyone about it because it’s like saying I’m a heretic!! I hate it. It scares and depresses me.

    • <3 I'm sorry. I feel your fear and depression – knowing I'm a heretic according to my nice old community's beliefs. It sucks. You're not alone, for what it is worth.

  • Sheila Warner

    I was pissed off, too, when I realized I had been lied to for my entire pre-adult years. I remember saying that I had been betrayed. I’ve been married for 34 years to a man who is still convinced that some activities are demonic. We simply avoid that topic.

  • Adam Crowl

    I left such nonsense behind – though reflexively indulge when I’m feeling spooked. It’s really not much better than old style Paganism, which had a multitude of localised spirits and small gods that one had to acknowledge or face their wrath. Believing in the Invisibles pushes God off into the distance, which might explain its popularity.

  • The fundamentalist version of God must be pretty weak if he can be overpowered by a coloring book…

    • Trevel

      He’s not weak, he’s just an abusive asshole. The moment you do anything that displeases him, you’re pretty much dead to him until you get rid of it/repent/beg forgiveness.

  • Laila

    I’ve left the church for several years now but can’t seem to shake this. I find myself struggling to sleep and being in fear of a demon appearing in my room, and I’m 24 years old. It’s especially spooky because I’m living on my own. I’ve put behind other backwards fundie beliefs except for this and it feels like I’m brainwashed (I probably am!). Do you have any advice on how to move on? Are there any books you read that helped you get over the superstition?

    • Jackalope

      You said you left the church; do you still consider yourself a Christian, or would you say you’re more of an agnostic/atheist/member of another religion? I ask because when I was younger and was afraid that there was something evil in my room (demons, other things), I would tell myself, “Jesus is stronger than this,” and imagine whatever it was coming in contact with Jesus and being miraculously transformed into something good. (My favorite memory of this was when Chucky [the evil doll from horror movies] became a Christian and went around evangelizing and sharing his awesome conversion story.) That might sound a bit childish, but if it’s something that is spiritually frightening then using a spiritual solution may help. Telling myself that Jesus is stronger and is watching over me will often help. (YMMV) (If you’re no longer a Christian then maybe this will help you come up with a similar idea that will work for you in your current belief, whatever that might look like.)

  • Melody

    Realizing so much simply wasn’t true made me feel really betrayed by nearly everyone around me. They still believed most of that and although I was very relieved to no longer have to fear quite so much things/demons etc. it also makes me sad to remember how afraid I’ve always been of totally unneccesary things, people and beliefs. Now I have to refrain from rolling my eyes at some of this stuff to not offend people who do still believe it. I sort of try to be politely skeptical whenever I think it won’t cause too much trouble.

  • Spooky Fox

    I never realized people burned stuff to release demons. I always thought it was just to prove a point. Interesting… and horrifying, of course.

  • D Liston

    When I was a kid my dad would get psychotic breaks and throw out everything he thought was evil – like my toys, playing cards, dice, music, etc. As an adult I now know this wasn’t his fault; he was struggling with a mental illness (that he is now doing much better with due to his own efforts and successful modern treatments). But couldn’t it be that a common symptom of schizophrenia is probably not how a loving God would ideally want his children to interact with reality and inanimate objects?

    I feel like these bouts of ‘stuff-hysteria’ in Christianity as well as the precedents in Bible stories reveal something about how humanity copes with trauma and fear. I really want us to be able to work through the fear and reconcile with and trust in Love Itself. I believe that’s possible.

    For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

    • Wow, you’re very insightful! I’m glad you’re dad got help, and is doing better. My father did that, too; fits of mania and paranoid rage, throwing away my toys, and believing demons are involved. Unfortunately, he was also a pedophile. He’s serving life in prison.

      • D Liston

        Sorry about your father. 🙁 … At least you know other kids are safe from him forever.

  • Jackalope

    I had to laugh, because when I read this I thought, “This seems so fringe!” (Not that I haven’t known people who believe this sort of thing, but because I’ve thought they’re a small portion of the population.) Then today I had a friend post this Mandala article on Facebook (you will be relieved to know that she posted it with a comment along the lines of, “People, it’s a COLORING BOOK, let’s talk about real problems now.”) and I thought, “Maybe I was wrong about this!”

  • My experience was Australian rather than American, but I still remember the fear we were taught by the church. From backward subliminal messages in rock music (aka ‘back-masking’), through ‘New Age’ symbols (like rainbows and dolphins!), to all things of ‘Eastern’ influence (yoga, meditation etc), the world was a horrifying minefield! Later, I learned about having to repent of generational sin and break off generational curses! The list of dangers and demonic traps never ended.

    It seemed that it was only by staying safely in the church, and repeating the ‘magic words’ of the leaders that we had any hope of surviving.

    These days, I see that all wisdom and truth comes from God, and I trust that he is big enough to do what he has said he would. My life is no longer dominated by fear, and I have found the peace and joy and freedom that Jesus promised all along 🙂

  • keefanda

    I would like to make a few observations in reply to all this talk about demons and superstition.

    What good comes from belief in demons? Is it a primitive superstition that yields no good? (Judge a tree by the fruit it yields.)

    Consider that this belief yields the “sin” of one whale of a copout. That is, if to some degree we blame demons for some of our attitudes, feelings, thoughts, actions, or inactions, then it should be clear that to that degree, we are not fully accepting personal responsibility for our falling short or missing the mark.

    And so, noting that these last two points are parts of the definitions of some terms translated “sin” from the Hebrew or Greek, if we want the ecstatic peace of mind from the *total* assurance of salvation (this means true eternal security or once-saved-always-saved) that we can obtain from receiving *total* forgiveness for *all* our past, present, *and* future sins, should it not be clear that we must accept *total* responsibility for *all* our past, present, *and* future sins, and therefore stop blaming demons to even the smallest degree – and wouldn’t one way to do this be the acceptance of the view that the existence of demons is merely a primitive superstition?

    (On this receiving *total* forgiveness for *all* our past, present, *and* future sins without ever having to confess sins *for salvation* after coming to Christ, note that in the Greek for the passage 1 John 1:9, the author uses the noun form “harmatia” rather than the verb form “hamartano”. Therefore the translation should be something like “sin state” instead of “sins”. This may mean that the only confession of sins we ever have to do *for salvation* would be to confess – or accept personal responsibility for – our sin state. And so, to tie this to the above, this means accepting *total* personal responsibility for our sin state, and this means *no* blaming of demons, even to the smallest degree.)

    If one won’t give up this belief in demons, then please recall such passages as 2 Peter 2:4. Here
    https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/2%20Peter%202:4
    is this passage in almost every English translation. If demons are these angels who rebelled against God and now are in chains in hell, then how can they even put a single thought in my mind or otherwise be a *cause* of my sin to even the smallest degree?

    Final point: My view is that the idea that demons are “the enemy” rather than ourselves (consider the saying that we can be our own worst enemies) and the idea that we can lose of our salvation are two ideas that one should look for when looking for a church – meaning you want to find a church that rejects these ideas. These are two ideas those in the power class in religious systems use to “keep people in line”.

    • Jackalope

      The Bible does also talk about demons actually affecting people’s lives, and shows multiple interactions of Jesus with demons, so I’m not ready to say they don’t exist at all. Many groups become too obsessed with them and think they are hiding everywhere, and getting too focused on them leads to a lot of the unhealthy superstition that we’ve been talking about. On the other hand, throwing the whole idea out feels to me like throwing out the baby with the bathwater (and I’ve seen groups that manage a healthy balance of believing that in addition to God there are spiritual forces like angels and demons without getting obsessed with them). (I know that what I just said is probably going to be very controversial, and I hate to even write something like this here where so many people have seen this play out in a damaging way, but I’ll put it out there anyway.)

      Regardless of what one thinks on the idea of demons, I’m a bit wary of saying we must accept 100% responsibility for everything that we do or say and that it’s ALL OUR FAULT because that can be used in bad ways and can keep us from being able to solve the problem we’re actually facing. For an example, recently I was dealing with a problem that crops up on a semi-regular basis in my life, and I was reminded that part of the problem was an important adult in my life during the second half of my childhood who taught me some pernicious lies about myself that I’m still struggling to let go of. These lies are still swaying me today by twisting my view of the world. It’s my responsibility now as an adult to figure out how to move forward and reshape my world view so I can make better choices, but it’s not accurate or fair to myself to say I’m 100% responsible for this when I was a kid and had no options for getting out of the situation. It’s much more helpful to acknowledge the other person’s fault in this, work on letting it go (for what it’s worth, they’re mostly out of my life now and have been neutralized as an influence), and then try to find healing rather than flagellating myself to try and take total responsibility here. (Which I recognize may not have been what you were trying to imply, but that’s how I’ve seen this idea play out sometimes.)

      • keefanda

        I meant what I wrote about taking full responsibility to not be taken as an absolute, but to taken with some what I think should be obvious caveats, which would include psychological determinism and brain chemistry disorders (which can cause depression and so on).

        To illustrate what I had in mind, I scoured the Internet for some examples of what I had in mind.

        First, here is a very good article by a former Christian who was part of that conservative way of thinking that blames just about everything on demons – the article centers on sex scandals in conservative religious circles such that they claim it’s demons causing it:

        “When Christians Blame Demons”
        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/excommunications/2015/06/when-christians-blame-demons/

        “This blame game prevents Christians from engaging with the real reasons for why things happen to them-or for assuming responsibility for their own actions…”

        Check this out:

        “The Failure of Evangelical Mental Health Care: Treatments That Harm Women, LGBT Persons and the Mentally Ill”
        http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/book-2.php?id=978-0-7864-9594-8

        “The author concludes that in the majority of cases mental disorders are blamed on two main issues–sin and demonic possession/oppression–and that as a result some communities have become a mental health underclass who are ill-served or oppressed by both alternative and mainstream evangelical therapeutic systems.”

        This last point ties to the following, a touching share by a conservative Christian stand-up comic who talks in the videos about being a committed born-again Christian getting committed (that’s right, committed to a mental hospital for a depression that got so bad she became suicidal).

        Here is a review of the book “Laughing in the Dark: A Comedian’s Journey Through Depression”:
        http://www.bookreporter.com/reviews/laughing-in-the-dark-a-comedians-journey-through-depression

        “Pierce also comes to believe that her depression was not because of a sin she had committed as so many Christians are told…”

        Please take the time to watch these two videos folks, since they’re pretty funny and serious at the same time, quite a profound testimony – it starts getting serious in the last half of the first video, and in the second video she actually sings the praises of secular therapy (especially group) as opposed to conservative Christian “therapy” (and its obsession with dealing with sin and deliverance from presumably demons or their oppression), and on this she makes a plea to her fellow conservative Christians:

        “Rehab & Recovery” By Chonda Pierce Part 1″

        “Rehab & Recovery” By Chonda Pierce Part 2″

  • Joy_F

    Yes – sadly yes. As an adult I have had to deconstruct so many of my childhood beliefs and experiences – they now seem like magical incantations that avoid the bigger issues. The prayers of faith because we didn’t have money for health insurance would be a great example. The magic olive oil for healing and casting demons out of my house…..it was all useless magic. But we believed it.

    It was the realization that it was just magic that led me down a different journey. But what a crapload of baggage to go through and realize I’d really just learned fear, paranoia and superstition.

  • wanderer

    I was raised in some ways similar to what you’re talking about. At least my parents went through a phase where everything was evil or an open door to the devil.
    The funny thing is, we looked down on people who were superstitious. We thought they were naive and silly. We had no self-awareness that we were exactly the same, it’s just that we called things by different names.
    It was legit to say playing with playing cards is an open door to satan, but not that your horoscope said today was unlucky. No understanding that it was the same.

    • Sarah S

      So true! I guess it was because we KNEW we had the TRUTH. We were RIGHT and everyone else was WRONG. *shudder*

  • Eileen

    Ugh, I had a similar experience in my college classroom recently. The professor asked me a question about the Ice Age… Apparently an easy one, since one of my classmates snickered aloud at my fumbling. In an effort to help me save face, the kindly professor asked me when Homo Sapiens evolved, and stared at me in disbelief when I didn’t know that, either. I sat there with my face flaming, and I was FURIOUS.

    I’m 21 years old. I’m an honor student. I’ve been called the brightest student in my program. And when it comes to science, I’m not even operating on a fourth grade level… Thank you, Abeka and Jonathan Park.

    • I’m taking my first college science class this summer, and I’m dreading those moments. My entire home school science education can be summed up in two points: color changing carnations, and magnets. >:(

  • Timothy Swanson

    We certainly did some of this, particularly during our Gothard years. I remember burning our Lord of the Rings books (which I did NOT agree with at the time, but a kid doesn’t get a say), and throwing out a Cabbage Patch doll. (No burning in that case. Can’t burn garbage in California…)

    Even at the time, it sure felt like a bunch of superstition. Once I left my parents’ home in my early 20s, I never looked back. In retrospect, this is indistinguishable from Medievalist belief, as you have pointed out.

    Another thing that occurred to me while reading your post is that Fundamentalism is essentially one endless protest against progress. It fights the idea that women are not congenitally inferior, it fights against the ideas of the equality of humankind and human rights, it fights against democracy, and it fights against any and all scientific discoveries that threaten the theology.

    • MarjoramNewt

      What on Earth did they say about cabbage patch dolls??

      • Timothy Swanson

        They claimed that they were demon possessed, and that they caused infertility. One of the anecdotes Gothard used in the seminars was of a woman who supposedly was infertile until they got rid of the Cabbage Patch Doll and then she got pregnant. It wasn’t just Gothard, though. A book my mom read called “Turmoil in the Toybox” pretty much claimed most modern toys were demonic.

        • CinnamonNewt

          That sounds like quite a read.

  • Aubrey Miller

    I remember the day I threw away all my non-Christian books and CDs because someone made me terrified of their demonic influences. I still regret it to this day. I can’t believe I threw away the first copy of Hamlet I ever owned, underlined and filled with my first awestruck notes. I’ll never get that record of my life with literature back. It makes me very sad.

    There are other things I’ve been through (and others have been through) with the church that are much, much harder to bear, but the memory of my Hamlet in the garbage can always makes me tear up. The church scared me into turning my back on myself.

  • Fee

    My mom went through an intense fundamentalist phase in the 80s. She thought I was demon oppressed (not possessed) because my dad once let me play with a Ouija board. I was furious to find out many years later that my demon oppression was just sleep paralysis which was is fairly common in young teens. Way to encourage years of anxiety and panic attacks!

  • Tenel Ka

    I was super-secretly interested in this post when I saw the title.

    I’m 30, and while I haven’t been going to church for something like 10 years, my beliefs have been so imprinted on me that I can’t shake *THIS* part – the superstitious part. I grew up with a very macabre fascination with demon possession and exorcisms, the only protection I ever felt I had was Jesus.
    I still believe in Jesus – the rest I’m fuzzy on.

    It’s causing huge problems and unrest for me though (like literally lying awake at night with the blankets over my head, heart pounding). I’ve taken to watching Supernatural with my partner because I only got through season 1 way back in ’05 and never went further. Scared me too much. So now I watch it with him because he’s a seasoned horror fan and he makes it easier to watch because he knows all the signs before a jump scene. I finally realized my “superstition” was causing me a severe amount of unrest after episodes (even though I enjoy them) because part of me is convinced it’s real.
    I had a long, but very tentative and scared conversation with my partner one night about why these shows/movies don’t scare him. (Speak words into life type of shit, I was scared to voice my thoughts)
    He finds my fears utterly perplexing, he just says “Because I know it’s not real”. And I find his views confusing: he truly believe in spirits & ghosts but has absolutely no fear after being exposed to these shows, and virtually no fear of malicious spirits. I on the otherhand don’t believe in ghosts (just demons – always demons like was beat into me), so I struggle to shake my fear of dark rooms and shadows and those damn mirrors etc. Anxiety disorder doesn’t help.

    Has anyone else experienced this – that the fear doesn’t go away – even though you realized you were raised with silly superstition? I’m so frustrated. I haven’t reached anger yet because I’m still scared. :/

    • Talking about it is one of the best ways to take away the power of the superstition. I’ve had to do that. I’m 30, too, and it gets a little easier every year. I’ve actually found Supernatural really helpful for me, to do just that – name it, call it what it is (silly), and find a new way to look at it. That show’s actually been very healing for me. My main issue has been Halloween, at this point. I was taught a bunch of terrifying things about it, and for years I’d start to have panicky feelings and even full panic attacks, leading up to it and then especially on the actual day. After a few years of working hard to retrain my thinking, to reframe the holiday in a way I can handle, I’m doing better, but really scary costumes still freak me out, even though I know it’s okay. It’s in my bones. 🙁 But I have hope that it will get better with time. Other things have.

      • Tenel Ka

        That’s good to know. Sometimes it feels like I’m going to be stuck in this limbo forever.

        I think in ’05 the show was mainly attractive to me because it was SO “taboo” for me. But now, like you said – it is helpful because it gives names to the monsters under our beds that we were threatened with from our cradles onward.

        Now that I think about it, it also carries another element that’s hopeful: defeating evil by knowledge/research, faith in Good, and sometimes banding together with those you love (I won’t say family in this case) and supporting eachother in the fight so to speak.

        Maybe someday I’ll be able to say I think demons are silly and looking over my should every second step will be a distant memory – till then though, it’s a struggle to fight this world view when you *know* one things but feel another. :/

  • I got some of this as well, but much of it came from watching The 700 Club at an impressionable age. They’re totally into demons and words of knowledge and other stuff that screwed up my first couple of years of college. 😛

  • JainaGrace

    This resounds with me incredibly deeply. A few years ago, I was living on a Christian campus and a few of my friends and I started playing Dungeons and Dragons once a week in a friend’s room. It went unnoticed for a full semester until someone walked through the hall and saw us (we had an open-door policy ALWAYS to make sure you were never up to anything devious). She created a huge uproar, bringing forward students experiencing nightmares, failing grades, struggles with mental health, and irritability, and said they were ALL attributed to the demonic influence that we had unleashed! As a group, we decided that her fearmongering would only cause more harm in the school and she wouldn’t stop if we continued, so we disbanded. I only realized in reading this post just how messed up it really was. At the time, I conceded with the knowledge that she meant well, even if she was ‘a little off.’ Now I’m several thousand kilometers away and I’m fuming at the realization of the damage she caused. It’s not just her, she is the product of an incredibly fundamentalist school after all. I cannot BELIEVE the fear that rushed through the school and the absolute helplessness I feel in not being able to do anything about it.

    • Tenel Ka

      I’ll never forget reading the Ishbane Conspiracy as a teen. I’d been online RPing for 2 years and thought nothing of it, but the scenes about D&D causing oppression with that one kid threw me right back into fearful/legalistic mode. :/ It took a long time to realize it was all crock, now I have a partner who is super old school D&D and I spend a lot of time explaining and educating Christians on role playing in general. It makes me so angry how much misinformation is spread entirely for fear & control.