After growing up in organized religion, I left that bubble and learned the world is not as I thought it was. Certain fundamental assumptions I’d been raised with did not match what I observed, and in retrospect they seemed to serve the purpose of suppressing inconvenient truths. So I’d like to explain some ways that organized Christian sects condition the minds of their children to resist any information that conflicts with their chosen doctrine.
First, many of them pretend doubt is morally wrong, which is ridiculous. Why would it be a moral issue to not know information, or to be unsure if the information you have is correct? Uncertainty is, in a way, the source of all technological progress. You wouldn’t have modern life without people who doubted and questioned unsatisfactory explanations, and who responded to those very natural thoughts by obtaining evidence and finding the truth.
Of course, since religion teaches falsehood, anyone trained to think in a logical way about doubt and evidence would be less likely to remain faithful. So instead they make certainty into a moral issue, promote confirmation bias, and condemn anyone who doesn’t fully buy into it. Being taught from infancy to fear and disregard thoughts of doubt makes a child more receptive to indoctrination, and cripples their ability to think rationally (at least about religion). Fortunately this tactic doesn’t work on everyone; some of us are inherently more skeptical.
Children are also taught that their bodies and minds don’t belong to them. God is often presented as a legalistic father figure who listens to every thought you have and watches everything you do. This idea bothered me a lot when I was young, and whenever a “sinful thought” popped into my mind I’d be afraid that punishment would follow. It didn’t help that my fears were reinforced if I got injured or sick and questioned why it happened to me.
God must be punishing you. Don’t know what you did wrong? Well, god does.
If so, he never seemed interested in letting me know what it was, leaving me to speculate how exactly I could avoid future suffering. Since I was attributing the suffering to the wrong cause, my conclusions were doomed from the beginning.
The concept of sin is probably the most effective and damaging psychological trap laid by Christianity. As I’ve mentioned in several previous articles, people who grow up accepting the idea that humans are inherently evil often end up with an attitude of helplessness toward their own desires and actions. Tell people they can’t stop doing wrong things, and if they believe you they’ll keep doing wrong things. Then they keep returning to the religion because of a fear of hell.
I can think of few ideas more evil than original sin combined with an eternal hell. Both are considered by many Christians to be essential to the religion, in some cases so essential that people who hold alternative views are labeled “false Christians”, even if they believe in Jesus. Taken together, these ideas produce the philosophy that every single human, for no reason except that they exist, deserves to suffer unimaginable and unending torment. It is astounding that anyone can believe this is good and just.
Hell is one of the most manipulative and abhorrent ideas found in any religion. Not only is it entirely unnecessary (an omnipotent god would have plenty of other options), but the fear instilled in children through the doctrine of eternal hell can cripple rational thought. I rejected original sin and hell years before I finally left Christianity, but I’m still occasionally struck with the familiar old fear of hell, until I remind myself that it’s a fantasy invented by demented religious people to enslave and control their followers. I’m sure there are many Christians who would leave the religion, except that in doing so they would have to confront the idea of an eternity in hell.
Most Christians will try to skirt around hell and focus on the “relationship with god” aspect, but if they refuse to let go of eternal torment it still hangs like a malevolent cloud over everything else they say. We can barely comprehend the basic concept of infinity; to imagine suffering the worst agony possible for an infinite time is overwhelming. It is not easy to dismiss, and that makes it a powerful psychological fence to keep children’s thoughts away from other belief systems. This should be obvious given the popularity of Pascal’s Illogical Wager.
The way Christianity uses the idea of sin is basically psychological abuse. The abuser maintains control by undermining the self-image of their victim, convincing them that they can’t trust their own judgment, blaming them for their own suffering, and refusing to take responsibility for any wrongdoing. If the victim would just submit to the authority of the abuser, their problems would go away. All their suffering, the abuser says, is caused by the victim through their disrespect or rebellion.
This is the essence of Christianity. Humankind is so evil that everyone deserves to suffer for eternity, and no matter what you do it’s still your own fault if you go to hell. Since hell is unnecessary and excessive whether you subscribe to original sin or not, it’s simply abuse inflicted by an abuser who blames his victims for the suffering he causes. All you have to do is imagine a human parent treating their child like the Christian god supposedly treats humans, and you can easily see how evil he is.
Unless you’re a small child being terrified with stories of hell. Get to them early enough and they’ll be too afraid of the looming specter of eternal torment to consider the possibility that maybe it’s all made up. The worst part is that the parents, in most cases, honestly think they’re doing what’s best for their baby heathens.