I've become a casual student of childhood indoctrination, and I hear stories from those raised to accept the religions of their parents as Truth without question. I, myself, see my own childhood cloaked certainly in the security and sacrifice of two loving parents, but also growing up to the constant drumbeat of the Christian religion. We children were taught what to think much more than how to think, and the stories of Jesus, Noah, Moses, Adam and Eve were taught to us on the same factual tier as science, history, English and mathematics.
We were trained to accept that there's an invisible presence in the sky watching us. We were told to believe in angels, demons, pearly gates and hellish torment. No question. No grey areas. No kidding.
We children never learned about any arguments against our parents' position, unless they were mentioned for ridicule. Our religion, our belief, our doctrine, our worldview was the correct one, and somehow everyone else on the planet was deceived. Weren't we fortunate to be so enlightened?
Growing up, then, it seemed perfectly normal to accept as reasonable an origin story of our planet which involved two naked people in a garden and a talking snake. Noah's Ark was a happy tale filled with animals and rainbows as we children barely acknowledged Yahweh's drowning of men, women, teenagers, infants, the mentally disabled, the deaf, the mute, the unborn, the animals, everything and everyone because (although he could've foreseen all of this) he had to fix the world through genocide. We accepted without question tall tales of water walking, men living inside the digestive systems of giant submerged fish, talking donkeys, flying chariots of fire, Bronze Age men over 900 years old, the undead, curses, demon-infested pigs and supermen who gained strength from their hair.
We ignored or excused Yahweh's monstrous, bloodthirsty and often bizarre deeds in the scriptures:
- God hardened Pharaoh's heart (Exodus 7) and executed babies to prove a point (Exodus 12). We did not call him a murderer.
- God endorsed slavery and the beating of slaves (Exodus 21), even to the point where they were incapacitated for days. We did not call him an oppressor.
- God executed people for trivial acts like picking up firewood (Numbers 15). We lauded his holiness.
- God instructed Moses to kill non-virgin Midianite women but keep the female virgins for themselves (Numbers 31). We looked the other way.
- God led Joshua to supernatural victory at Jericho (Joshua 6). The armies destroyed men, women, teenagers and infants with the edge of the sword, and the soldiers pillaged the silver, bronze, gold and iron and burned the city to the ground. We sang happy songs about how "the walls came a'tumblin' down."
And he was just getting warmed up. Let's just roll through a short section of the bible.
- God's plague killed 14,700 (Numbers 16:48)
- God's plague killed 24,000 (Numbers 25:9)
- God destroyed the men, women and children of Sihon "...we left no survivors" (Deut 2:33-34)
- God destroyed the men, women and children of Og, plundering the city. (Deut 3:6)
- God called women, livestock and possessions "plunder" for the armies (Deut 20:13-14)
- God instructed Israelite soldiers how to kidnap women and keep them as wives, letting them go if ever displeased. (Deut 21:10-13)
- God helped Joshua slaughter 12,000 men and women in Ai. None escaped. (Joshua 8:22-25)
- God helped Joshua slaughter the Gibeonites. (Joshua 10:10-27)
- God helped Joshua put the city of Makkedah "to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it." (Joshua 10:28)
- God helped Joshua kill every man, woman and child in Lachish by sword. (Joshua 10:32-33) In Eglon (10:34-35). In Hebron (10:36-37). At Debir (10:38-39)
- God had the horses hamstrung at the Waters of Merom. Hamstringing is a torturous practice. (Joshua 11:6)
- Under God's direction, the Gideons defeated the Midianites. They killed and decapitated their princes and delivered the heads to Gideon. (Judges 7:19-25)
And this bloodlust extends to Yahweh's own house. God's solution for rescuing humankind was the torture and execution of his own son, a completely unnecessary act if God was indeed omnipotent and could forgive and save the planet with the blink of an eye. Theologians tap-dance around this concept with the term "atonement", but like other apologist drivel, it's really just lofty-sounding crap.
We've only tipped our pinky toe in the bloody ocean. Yet while our parents decried monstrous acts from tyrants, dictators, oppressors and warlords here on planet earth, we children were programmed to give unquestioning adulation to our God, justifying any and all with platitudes like, "His ways are not our ways," "God is love, but he is also just" and "Who are we to question The Almighty?"
When push came to shove, if we minnows dared to push back beyond a comfortable limit and start asking difficult questions, we were quickly and deftly put back in our place with a little place called Hell.
Hell is a tremendous, horrific and almost overwhelming concept for a child, and I now see the teaching of such a place to children as psychological abuse. I hear stories from all over by people raised in religious homes, terrified of hell and living in a cocoon of acceptance in order to avoid it. The parents would justify this abominable concept by saying that, yes, God created Hell, but he doesn't want you to go there. We never stopped to really consider the idea of proportionality, infinite punishment for the finite crime of non-acceptance. Apologists dodge this concept often by asserting that hell is simply death, or darkness, or separation, or temporary, ignoring their own holy book: ..."Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matthew 25:41)
Forever. Wailing, screaming, unimaginable, indescribable blackness and torment. Worse than anything ever perpetrated by Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, anyone. Ever. It's not even close.
But God is love. He's up there in the sky. He's watching us. Worship him. That's what we were programmed to accept. We adjusted our morality to excuse Yahweh, and the corpse-laden bible was posited as The Good Book.
And along with this Ultimate Moral Being, we swallowed whole the absolutely ridiculous (and contradictory) accounts of cattle-sacrificing primitives who authored a book under cloak of anonymity requiring human beings 2,000 years later to wrestle over basic questions like, "Who really wrote the book of Genesis?" (Heads up! Here come the apologists again!)
I grew up in The One True Faith. And at that very moment, there was someone in Mexico saying the same about Catholicism. In Saudi Arabia about Islam. In China about Buddhism. The list goes on...and on...and on.