Editor’s note: Please read also Michael Talon’s “When Right Doesn’t Mean Correct – Religious Influence On America. Part 1.”
The term “religiously motivated hatred” is used incorrectly when used solely to describe the hatred fostered by a religion towards those on the outside, the sinners and apostates. I firmly believe it should describe the hatred religions foster within each human that is directed inward, to the heart and soul that this very religion is attempting to save and protect.
Learned behaviors are a natural part of society. However, within religiously guided and centric communities there is a word that runs deep, particularly within Christianity, inculcate. Few people actually appreciate the full weight that this word carries. In speaking with a friend the other day, I brought up the disconnect between what the word means to the average member of society and the actual weight of the practices that are employed by religions to allow the inculcating of each generation and convert.
Being from a military background she was able to understand. Simply put, to inculcate the teachings of God in your children is no different in intensity than the practices that the U.S. Army employs to reconfigure new recruits. Through the mental tear down and rebuilding the military is able to create human beings that are able to kill with lessened to null emotional impact, carry on missions that would go against the very ethical fibre most of the world views as a conscience and finally to endure fear and the possibility of death for believing in what they believe.
One vital area of programming/reprogramming deals with the view of homosexuality. An issue that seems to transcend all religious organizations and affiliations. With varied and colorful to frightening doctrine and dogma in the world, it begs the question of what do the world’s religions say about homosexuality, just one of the many topics where misguided “experts” have relied on their supposed knowledge of what their God(s) are truly saying or commanding.
The response of Christian faith groups to homosexuality thus cover a wide range. An individual faith group’s stance, can be predicted, based on upon their position in the liberal – fundamentalist continuum:
- More liberal denominations and Christians tend to view homosexuality as a civil rights matter; they generally believe it is fixed, unchosen, normal, natural, and morally neutral sexual orientation for a minority of adults.
- More conservative denominations and Christians tend to view homosexuality as a profound evil; they generally believe it is changeable, chosen, abnormal, unnatural and immoral behavior, regardless of the nature of the relationship.
- The more liberal denominations, like the United Church of Christ, have changing their positions on homosexuality, in recent years, to adopt a more inclusive stance.
- Mainline denominations such as the Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians are actively debating the question. Denominational schisms may result., particularly in the case of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and Episcopal Church. USA. Similar splits have occurred in the past over human slavery, whether women should be ordained, and certain theological debates.
- More conservative denominations are taking no significant action to change their beliefs and policies at this time.
- Fundamentalist denominations commit significant effort to prevent equal rights for homosexuals. For example, they:
- Opposed hate-crime laws that protect persons of all sexual orientation,
- Opposed laws that prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation,
- Opposed the elimination of the military’s ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
- Occasionally expel congregations from their denominations over “the issue.” In the case of the Southern Baptist Convention three of their congregations were expelled. The latter had conducted a study of homosexuality, had concluded that the denomination’s beliefs were invalid, and had welcomed gays and lesbians as members.
Religious beliefs are a strong motivating factor in gay youth suicide. Homosexuality is often depicted as a sin, morally wrong and evil. Families frequently turn to the place of worship for guidance and understanding; yet many religions continue to condemn this behavior as immoral based on their interpretation of religious writings.
From the LGBT activists, the questions surrounding conversion therapy, is irrelevant. It has been seen as a social phenomenon, one that is driven by anti-gay prejudice in society and anti-gay prohibitions in religious organizations. These attitudes, once internalized by an individual, may lead to self-negation and fears of a compromised life as an LGBT person including the possibility of discrimination and violence, rejection from family, and social marginalization.
The long term effects of growing up in a community and home that are often disparaging of a “lifestyle” that is connected to sin, will increasingly wear away the dignity and self-worth of the individual. Abusive relationships are common, with the victim of religiously taught self-hate being further victimized by a continued pattern of external and self abuse.
Emotional child abuse, which is exactly what happens when there is a rejection and unyielding wave of homophobic comments, can result in other more serious psychological and/or behavioral problems. These include depression, lack of attachment or emotional bond to a parent or guardian, low cognitive ability and educational achievement and poor social skills.
One study which followed emotionally abused children in infancy and then again during their preschool years consistently found them to be “angry, uncooperative and unattached to their primary caregiver.” These children more often also lacked creativity, persistence and enthusiasm.
The effects of emotional abuse in children who experience rejection demonstrate that they are more likely than accepted children to exhibit hostility, aggressive or passive-aggressive behavior, to be extremely dependent, to have negative opinions of themselves and their abilities, to be emotionally unstable or unresponsive, and to have a negative perception of the world around them.
The consequences of emotional child abuse can be serious and long-term. Emotionally abused children may experience a lifelong pattern of depression, estrangement, anxiety, low self-esteem, inappropriate or troubled relationships, or a lack of empathy.
As teenagers, they find it difficult to trust, participate in and achieve happiness in relationships, and resolve the complex feelings left over from their childhoods. As adults, they may have trouble recognizing and appreciating the needs and feelings of their own children and emotionally abuse them as well.
I never thought I would have the opportunity in my life to discuss these things with such a large amount of people. Therefore I came to the table unprepared when it came to being able to share a deep part of myself that is the driving force behind what I write. Below you will find the letter I wrote to the world after one of the scariest turns I ever took on the road to a suicidal-thought free life, because I am born this way…
Death and I were friends beginning in my early teens. I ate seventy-five tranquilizers one night and laid down to doze off, never to awaken, I thought… What a simple way to rid the world of its problem, fall asleep and simply pass into oblivion. Thirty-six hours in complete blackout, every single minute of that time is a blank page that I know is there but cannot recall.
Walking, talking, doing all the things of daily life that I do yet not being there mentally… it was the harshest realization of what my life actually felt like when I was present. Detached and alone in a world where people reacted to me and yet never acted with me, in step or knowing, understanding the truth of what was inside me – no wait what I was inside. Realistic ghost stories were manifesting themselves before my eyes in the days that followed. I could hear people talking, whispering, just behind me, but when I would turn to look they were never there. If these voices said something funny, I would laugh and everyone in the room would look at me, just a little frightened. I answered their questions and forced people to walk away from the lunatic. Maybe though this was the true voice inside of me manifesting itself, speaking in the conversations I should be having with people, honest conversations instead of the bullshit smoke and mirrors that my family, community and God apparently required.
My heart didn’t stop and my mind recovered to normal thought, at least for me. I would try again with cocaine, with deeper recesses of my mind swallowing me whole. Surprising death as an unexpected arrival was becoming a common place thought in my mind, yet I never really admitted to myself that it was death I was after the whole time.
Five times the attempt to reach freedom failed, all different, desperate aching. I can’t explain how I lived, I simply don’t know. We are now familiar lovers, death and I. She, always leaving me broken and alone, on the edge. And I, always begging for just one more kiss.
Much of my teenage life and pockets of my adult life have been enveloped by the omnipresent knowledge or pseudo-knowledge that I was going to die, not in thirty days, but today, right now.
Months, seasons, sometimes even a year, I would spend trying to laugh, wishing for a gentle caress, a kind word, a knowing smile. Inevitably the only constant was the path that led right back to waiting for that moment when I would be free, no more hurt, crushing pain from simple mistakes and emotionless response to the craters of destructive behavior — people telling me I was wrong, stupid, childish, mean, evil, a mistake, worst person, disgusting and ultimately the person they love at the same time.
Too much time to think, stew, fester in the conflicting tales that have been told to me inflicted upon me and ultimately chosen by me. This isn’t anything new for me, I have a thinking problem. I have always described this movie that plays in my head, replaying words over and over, but not just the words, I can see, smell and even feel the emotional discharge from all parties in any of the memories that play like the new IMAX feature, in depth and on a screen and volume level you can’t ignore.
Tell me you love me and I’ll spend a week wondering why. Tell me you hate me and I’ll spend that same week reliving the conversation; having a different reply in each, in some you will wish you had kept your mouth shut.
Inside my head there is a chaos that is often hidden, that when the chaos explodes into my daily life there is a peace inside my head. Staying in that theatre replaying all of those moments like Sunset Boulevard’s nightmare version, I do know is that it is dark in there. It can be hard to see at times, I get confused—lose sight of where I started, and can sometimes come out on the wrong side of what most people call sanity. The worst part about madness is that it lives in your peripherals, always lurking just outside your field of vision.
To question is human, taught to do so at an early age, seek and ye shall find, and hopefully I was going to find the truth. Instead what I learned was that when you discovered truth you discovered lies. Lies about God, who we are, what we are, how we should live and even what I am. Early in life I knew that the false teachings coming from my parents and others about the fundamentals of life, via our religion, was wrong. So wrong in fact that I never believed anything adults said to me, hell I never believed anything anyone ever said to me. Why should I? If you were going to lie to a kid about the most powerful being in the universe, the being that I was supposed to dedicate my life to then why should i believe you about how to treat another human, what to wear or any one of a billion decisions I would make throughout my life, from the mundane to the corner stones?
I find myself questioning every choice I make, not once or twice, but enough times that I will have played out up to 20 different scenarios. I then turn to every word I utter…every word you utter. I ponder everything until I have robbed it of every secret, then I wrench it inside out and ponder it again. I shine a light into each corner looking for hidden meaning or false walls.
United States – 2008
Growing up in Northern Ontario as a Jehovah’s Witness, Michael Talon experienced firsthand the struggle for equality. Now living in the U.S. with his partner, they work with advocates for federal equality, including immigration. Working side by side, Michael and his partner Brad, head of Luna Media Group, help to deliver messages for equality to the nation.
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