Have you ever wondered how a cult gets started? How people can believe crazy shit that sounds like it was made up by a screwed up and slightly-psychotic teenager? Let me present to you our son. Yes, the one we are working on adopting. Now, for those unfamiliar with kids in the system, mental illnesses brought on through trauma is a fairly normal thing. This doesn't necessarily mean something like schizophrenia, but instead something like maladaptive daydreaming or teenage dissasociative disorder. These kids, often emotionally well behind their physical age, will make up stories in order to help cope with the life they have lived. Sometimes this just means lying to themselves or convincing themselves that they are the cause for being in care, even if the reason was due to abuse or neglect. Some create fantasy stories in which their mom was secretly a CIA agent and that is why they had to be taken away, for their protection. These kids will tell everyone about it, trying to convince other kids that this is the truth and doubling down if someone calls them out on it.
If you are our kid, you make up your own fantasy religion. Here's the basic gist of it: S is secretly a warrior angel sent from heaven to meat out justice to people who hurt him. This god, although having no attributes of any of the written gods, is in fact the Messianic Jewish god. (conveniently the religion his mother converted to when he was eight) Although there are people who have hurt him, he remains friends with those people because they too are secretly angels, therefore letting his friends get away with things that his "enemies" never would. He has no proof or evidence beyond his word, but insists that there is one other person out there who can corroborate his story. (not that this would be evidence in the slightest) When I questioned some of this, the story changed slightly to him actually being the reincarnated Ares, the god of war who is actually an angel. All the ancient gods are actually just angels who people chose to worship as gods. It doesn't matter if they claim to be a god...or even the one and only god. They are just angels who wanted fame and power. Even the good ones who rebuffed fame and power, but it wasn't their fault human beings wanted to worship them. He tried to....get this...use Naruto (as in the Manga) as proof that what he said was true. As if Naruto is a religious holy book. As if the authors of that book haven't explained in detail their thought processes and how they created the series.
I know what you are thinking, holy shit....you are adopting a kid who is clearly schizophrenic. Except I don't think he is. We will be speaking with his therapist tomorrow, but I really think that this is his way of trying to explain all the crappy things that have happened to him. And he so badly wants to be seen as tough and strong. He wants people to be afraid of him and the truth is he is a scrawny, lazy, seventeen-year-old with pimples, greasy hair, and no muscle mass. He is anything but tough. I think someone, probably his step-dad, taught him that he needed to be tough in order to be a man. This has been reiterated at the group home. And in his adolescent and immature brain, the toughest things that he can think of is Ares the god of war and immortal angels. Obviously, if he really believes this, that is deeply concerning, but I really don't think he does.
Let's also add something to this complex situation: Adoption Sabotage. I firmly believe that something we did over this weekend caused this kid to freak out about the upcoming move and adoption. All weekend he was lying, manipulating, and cheating. He and my husband were having a constant battle of wills. The conversation that led up to these revelations were tough foster care stuff. He has also done this before to two other previous pre-placement adoptive families. He chose to back out of those adoptions. It would really suck, especially after 9 months of this back and forth shit for him to decide to back out of this, but that's his choice. We have said from the beginning that this is as much his choice as ours. If he is so fucked up that he sabotages this, then there is nothing we can do about it. Truth is, this kid should have been living with us months ago and we should be dealing with this in our home, not over the phone at the group home.
Last thing: S said that if I ever told anyone about these revelations (even though he has clearly told several people this himself) that he would be killed by God. This is absolutely manipulation and I refuse to remain silent. First, because he needs to get help so his therapist must know. Second, because I don't keep secrets from my husband. Third, because he doesn't get to make up a religion, share that with me, and then try to blackmail me into not talking about it. I can keep a secret, but this isn't one that should be kept nor does it need to be. We are talking about a serious mental health issue here, not some rumor about your cousin's boyfriend. Finally, I am the last person that this kid should have told. Not only am I your mother, but he also knows that I am a skeptic and an atheist. He knew I wouldn't believe him before he even began. But he chose to do so anyways, which tells me that this really was an adoption sabotage technique. Because my husband, Hades love him, would have at least given some credence to this made-up religion in a way that I never would.
So fun times. Can't wait to see how the next few weeks play out. I am so glad I took Tuesday off. I needed a day to recover from S's shenanigans.
Whenever people talk about the atrocities that have been committed in the name of Christianity, they often revert straight to The Crusades and The Spanish Inquisition, which were certainly terrible but in the grand scheme of things, I think were actually small in comparison to some of the other things pious Christians have done in the past 2000ish years.
Watching a recent documentary about archaeology and the Mayan civilization reminded me of it. Of course, if you recall your high school textbooks, the Spanish arrived on the shores of what is now Mexico and began to systematically enslave, torture, rape, and vandalize the Inca and Mayan peoples. What those textbooks usually gloss over the the absolute annihalation of an entire people group by destroying their culture. The Mayans had books. Carefully written and preserved on accordian-like paper made from fig trees. Everyone in their civilization was taught how to read, but only priests wrote down the histories of their people. In 1562, Bishop Diego de Landa ordered the destruction of these codices declaring the books to be "lies of the devil". He rejoiced in the pain of the people as they watched their history burn. The Catholic church and priests also banned any kind of worship to their ancient gods, the destruction of instruments, and killed anyone who they heard singing songs. Only church hymns were allowed. With two generations the Mayan way of life was extinct, destroyed by a church who believed fully that they were in the right to bring their religion to these savages. As a book lover, there is a great deal of sadness in knowing that such priceless works of art and history were destroyed because one group of people believed in a god and the others believed in another.
This was the fate of many native peoples. Christopher Columbus said, "I certify to you that, with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter in your country and shall make war against you ... and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church ... and shall do you all mischief that we can, as to vassals who do not obey and refuse to receive their lord and resist and contradict him." The smallpox epidemics that ravaged the natives was seen as a "marvelous goodness and providence of God". Within 4 years of Columbus landing in Cuba, nearly 4 million people had been killed and within 50 every single local indigenous person had died either by disease, starvation, or murder. It was actually considered sport to hunt them and shoot them full of arrows. An Indian chief named Hatuey tried to flee with his people and was burned alive. He refused to convert and told the priest that "if heaven was where the Christians went, he would rather go to hell." The deaths of these people all across the Americas was seen as a judgment from the Almighty God. The few who opposed such violence were seen as soft-hearted fools. The pious New-Englanders successfully wiped out nearly 98% of the Natives living near them, delighting in their deaths. An estimated 50 million Native Americans were killed directly by violence. That makes the Holocaust seem almost paltry. And here's the best part, I actually knew people growing up who were missionaries to Native Americans. My parents supported their ministry financially and always seemed amazed that more people weren't converting, sure that it was just a matter of time. Why would anyone convert to the religion that not only supported, but also rejoiced in your genocide?
Christians also have an idealic version of how Christianity spread throughout the world. They often use the illogical fallacy of 'argumentum ad populum'. Look at all the people who are Christians now. They can't possibly all be wrong. But how did Christianity spread? Was it because people like Saint Patrick walked around the countryside putting children on his knee and showing people three-leaf clovers? This was the version I was taught. That everywhere the disciples (disciples referring to anyone who was a follower of Christ), they shared the good news and people converted. What they didn't teach were how Christian mobs would enter towns and destroy pagan temples and the priests within them. Remember, pagan in this context is not referring to witchcraft, but rather anyone who wasn't Christian. By 356 AD, anyone attending a pagan service would be punished with death. Even children were executed, sometimes for benign reasons, like when Christian Emperor Theodosius executed a child for playing with the remains of a pagan statue. This man prided himself in following the Christian teachings meticulously. By the 6th century, anyone claiming to be pagan was declared void of all rights. The world famous philosopher Hypatia, a librarian at Alexandria's library was torn to pieces by a hysterical Christian mob. Being non-Christian was dangerous. There were converts everywhere and they were happily turning in their neighbor in an effort to please their god. Worship of the old gods was driven below ground. Some probably converted in order to just stay alive. Wherever Christianity spread, it brought death, destruction, and pain along with it. I have actually heard Christians say that those early peoples abandoned their faiths and idol worship because they never really believed on those old gods anyway. Because who would abandon their faith so easily? I imagine that if Christianity was being treated in this fashion though, that there are a great many people who would leave their faith behind, perhaps secretly still believing it, but knowing that to have a cross in their house would be death and destruction to their families. You only have to look at majority Muslim countries in which apostacy is punishable by death. Those who don't believe must remain eternally silent for fear of their lives. Is it any wonder that such a devastating and brutal religion would not have converted people by the droves?
Let us also not forget how the church and politics were tied together. When Emperor Charlemagne overtook cities, he demanded their immediate conversion. Those unwilling were beheaded. In one town, 4500 Saxons were beheaded for being unwilling to convert. Taxation was was also tied to faith because the money went to the church as well. Those who refused to pay the church tax were often killed. In May of 1234 thousands of peasant men, women, and children were slain in Germany for just such a refusal. In Ireland, in an effort to civilize the barbaric wild Irish, Humphrey Gilbery beheaded some of them and laid their bodies out on the ground for the people to see what would happen to them if they didn't convert. But I'm sure it was really the good news of Jesus Christ, that really won these people over.
Not even Christians were immune to such hideous treatment should they end up on the wrong end of theology. Thomas More disagreed with King Henry VII break from the Catholic church and was an adamant opponent of Martin Luther, for this he was beheaded as a traitor to the crown. Did you know there was a sect of Christianity called the Manichaean's who believed in birth control and for this they were savagely wiped out? Same for the Albigensians, Waldensians, Paulikians, Runcarians, and Josephites. Most of these sects were exterminated. In the 17th century a Catholic mob killed the Protestant leader Gaspard de Coligny. After murdering him they cut off his hands, head, and genitals before dumping him in a river and then decided that being eaten by fish was too good for him so they took him out again and strung his body up in the gallows to be eaten by worms and birds. Yeah, that's some serious Christian love right there.
I knew a lot of this even when I was a Christian because obviously I am a bit of a history buff. My cognitive dissonance was off the charts though because I somehow convinced myself that all those people weren't really Christians. They couldn't be. Who would be okay with murdering innocent people? Except that I understand now that those people loved a god just as much as the ones today. We are appalled by mobs killing people for religious reasons now because it is considered cruel and inhuman. Yet, I know many people who I think are capable of murdering someone in the name of Jesus should societal norms shift in a particular direction. My mother believes that women who have abortions deserve the death penalty. She would be more than willing to support a proposal to say as much and would probably, happily, report on women she knew who had one. And she would do so believing she was doing God's work. That is no different than a woman in ancient times reporting that the family next door is hiding a statue of Aphrodite under their floorboards. I use Christianity in this because that is the religion I know well, but we all know that this kind of behavior is not unique to Christianity. Muslims are notorious for their draconian apostacy laws, which often result in imprisonment and death. I've seen quite a few Hindu mobs in the news lately that are quite disturbing. It saddens me the amount of knowledge that has been lost over the centuries due to religion's fervent desire to be right. I can only dream of a world in which we discover a wealth of Mayan codices hidden away somewhere, revealing a world we will never fully understand without it. And although I am still a closeted atheist and agnostic, I will defy this notion that I have to remain quite forever.
Husband and I spent three days in D.C. with the sole purpose of the trip being to visit with our nieces and nephew. The kids belong to one of my husband's brothers and wife who live a two days drive away so when they announced that they would be taking a family vacation only a few hours from us, we jumped at the opportunity to visit. I've known my husband for over five years now, but this is only the second time we have met. They are also the family members who have adopted before and are huge adoption & foster care advocates. It is nice to have someone to ask questions of and who understands this whole process, even if they lived in another state when they did it.
But these people are also super Christians with a very different idea of what adoption should look like than us. For example: They recently took in a nineteen-year-old they had worked with while working in a group home many years ago. He was welcomed with open arms...although their home and love were contingent on two things: He needed to get a job and he had to attend church with them. That's right, in order to move in with a family and receive the love that you so desperately crave, he is required to go to church with them. This is all kinds of messed up to me, but for them it was a no-brainer. They didn't even think twice about it. Any kid of theirs has to attend church with them. This was the requirement when I was a kid living with my parents too. Skipping church simply wasn't an option.
While touring one of the D.C. museums by brother-in-law and sister-in-law were approached by a man who recognized them through their various work with foster care and adoption. I thought it was super cool that they have earned a bit of celebrity status and were actually recognized on "the street" by one of their fans. As they talked, I entertained some of the littler ones with Snapchat...as you do. But my ears perked up when I heard my SIL say, "I am just so glad you are here and doing this work. We need more Christians in this. There just aren't enough of us advocating for these kids."
What the fuck are you talking about? The adoption community is FULL of Christians. Full. There isn't a single adoption or foster care support group in my immediate area that isn't Christian based. Some are basically Bible studied veiled as a support group. Every single conference I have been to has been chock-full of language like, "God blessed us" and "We are blessed" and "We prayed and..." All of them. Even though our adoption agency is not religious, I have yet to meet a single other foster or adoptive parent who doesn't profess to believe in a god.
I mentioned it to my husband later and he scoffed at this too. I know I have had some complaints concerning my husband's faith, but really, most of the time we are on the same page. He agrees that not only is it stupid to think there aren't enough Christians in the adoption/foster care world, but also thinks it is insufferable that something that shouldn't be so wrapped up in religion--is. For example: After a county run adoption conference where God was praised throughout the day by social workers who work for the state, my husband was quite annoyed. "It's just inappropriate." Nevermind that we both believe that such an environment will deter people who are not religious or Christian from doing foster care or adopting.
No sister-in-law, we do not need more religious people in adoption. What we need are more people of many different kinds of backgrounds because, contrary to their beliefs, not every kid should be dragged to church. And not every kid is religious or Christian.
Side note: BIL & SIL have had a rocky relationship over the past few years due to stress, starting a new business, the belief that porn is the equivalent to cheating, and six kids under the age of 10. When husband and his brother were alone, BIL kind of assumed that husband and I were having marital problems because why else would we want to hang out with them besides to get advice. Husband's family is dysfunctional, but seriously? I don't think BIL understands at all how important family is to me and how important it is that our nieces and nephews know us and hang out with us. I honestly don't give a shit about the adults. I mean, it would be nice to have a good relationship with my brother-in-laws and sister-in-laws, but I am perfectly okay with the children being the buffer of the relationship. Also, our marriage is fine thank you very much. The one major issue we have had has been sorted and we wouldn't tell them about it anyway. I am pleased to report that we are four years in and although marriage is certainly a careful balance of two individuals, we are very happy and comfortable.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.