Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Background & History Part I

I would like to use these first posts to give a little bit of history about myself, where I come from, how I was raised and where I have been. Moving forward through my posts this will help any readers understand how I got to where I am and how I have developed my belief structures. Please also understand that to protect my family and friends that names have been changed.

I was born and lived the earlier part of my life in West Texas. My father works in the oil industry and that has taken us all over the world. I spent my early years, until the age of 12, mostly in a small town.

My father was thrice married with 2 children (son and daughter) from his first and me from his second. I never really knew my mother, thankfully I have to say. She was a drug addict and all that the description entails. My father was granted sole custody of me when I was about 3 after which time I had almost no contact with my mother. His third wife, who had also been married two times before, became my mother. She legally adopted me, and raised me as her own. Unless stated otherwise when I speak of my mother in any subsequent posts you can assume I am referring to her.

She brought 3 other children into this union. 2 older daughters and a son. They were all somewhat older than myself. My new-brother Roger, for better or worse, shaped a lot of my views on religion is about 12 years older than me.

Both of my parents are religious. They are very moderate, I think in part due to our opportunity to live in various parts of the world and in part to my fathers intelligence and common sense. I am quite thankful that they are moderate, I would hate to imagine where I would be today if they had been right-wing conservatives.

We attended church every Sunday, and, when we were not late for services, I attended Sunday School. Growing up I attended church camp regularly during the Summers. Sometimes this was out of town at various camps, other times it was locally, spending the day doing arts and crafts and bible studies at a local church.

The church we attended was also quite moderate, looking back. We had, from my memory, some very kind church leaders who genuinely cared about their congregation, though as an adult looking back I am sure some things were going on outside of my realm of understanding at the time.

During alternating summers and winters my 2 siblings from my fathers first marriage, Gabe, my brother, and Mary, my sister, would come and stay with us. They were being raised somewhat more open to other religious possibilities than I was so they were somewhat reluctant to go to Church or bible study etc. I cannot attest directly to their home upbringing as I never lived with them, but I have met their mother, on several occasions, and found her to be a very lovely woman. Gabe was an avid fan of role play games, such as Dungeons and Dragons and Marvel Super Heroes. He was also a big fan of rock and roll, in particular Kiss at one point. He used to, with great patience, teach Mary and myself how to play D&D and we would sit in the room and play all day, it was great fun and he, thanks to a great imagination and ability to tell a good story, really brought it to life. We treated it as a fun way to pass the time, using our imaginations and just enjoying.

We often did the same thing elsewhere without the game. We would play Cowboys and Indians out in our fort or play like we had a spaceship built into the ladder against the house with big plastic buckets. Once we even made an airplane out of two sawhorses, old dinging table chairs and scrap wood and would play like we were flying around. Good old fashioned imagination play. The kind of thing you don't see any more.

Mom took an exception to us playing D&D and any other role play game that used dice. She had heard some stuff about it and thought it was evil. It was really popular at the time so, as with anything popular to kids, the church and religious groups would bad mouth it.

Not long after this all the kids in church were kept back once after services to watch a special movie. I don't remember the name of the movie but it was 100% religious propaganda. It was telling us how D&D and other such games were evil. They were from Satan and he was using it to train us for his army. They showed all sorts of disturbing images about hell and how players wound up there. For a kid of no more than 7 or 8 it was quite scary. Then the film started attacking rock music. How it was the devils music and Kiss, worst of all, emulated Satan by wearing makeup and using the two lighting bolts for S's at the end of the name. These lighting bolts were supposed to symbolize their worship of Satan because when God cast Him out of Heaven He was sent to hell in lightening bolts just like these. They said that this shape was shown to us in the Bible as being evil (I never knew the bible had pictures).

As a kid, in awe of my older brother (even though I am sure he found me to be an annoying bastard at times), I found this quite unsettling. I thought about it long and hard. I think this is the first time I ever started to question, to reason and to think for myself.

I knew that I listened to this music with him, sang along with him and my sister and played our imaginary games all the time. I did not feel evil, nor did I feel as if anything I had done was wrong or something that I should be punished for. That started my questioning of religion that has continued to this day.

During the same period my other brother, Roger, was going through his own issues. He was never an easy person to live with. I think my addition to the family gave him someone on whom he could take out all his pent up frustration about being the youngest. His/our two older sisters were pretty hard on him growing up and this was kind of his chance to get even, in his own way. Being so much older than me and me be being so young I don't have a lot of memory about all the things going on in his life. We have never been close, and certainly were not close during that time. I know he was a typical teen though, going through the typical issues. He had a collection of nudie magazines that would make a prostitute blush, that much I do remember! I can also say that while he walked the family line on religion, going to church and the like, he wasn't what one would call a "true believer", but that was soon to change.

During his last couple of years at High School, sophomore or junior year, he and a lot of friends took a road trip. From memory of the incident a number of his friends had a lot to drink and while coming home there was a vehicle accident. His best friend at the time was in the affected vehicle, just in front of the one my brother was riding in. My brother held his best friend in his arms as he died from his injuries. It is safe to say that this would mess anyone up.

Shortly after this incident my brother "found God". He went away to a bible camp and while there had a religious experience. I no longer remember all the details of it, but for him it was a very powerful experience that converted him fully. While he was away I was in an accident of my own, I lost control of a four-wheel quad and went through a barbwire fence. It cut my throat in several places and missed my jugular by mere millimeters. It was a scary experience.

When he returned from Bible camp, basking in God's glory, he wanted to pray for me. I remember this rather disturbing experience vividly. Roger, if you ever read this, don't be insulted, but it was quite weird. He called me into his room, which was something he never did. If I wanted to enter his room he would expect me to rightfully knock, no problems there. He would ask "Who Is It" to which I would give my name. "Author Who" would come the response. To cut a long story short, I would have to give him my full name, middle as well, before he would consider letting me in, often times the answer was to go away.

So, he calls me into his room to pray for him, but he is sitting on the toilet, taking a crap. He calls me into the bathroom and asks me about my accident. At this time I am still unable to really move my head much, my neck was all bandaged up, almost like wearing the padded brace whiplash victims wear. He then places his hand on my head and begins to pray. Apart from the location, and the smell, the prayer goes along as one would expect. Then he starts jibbering. Christians would call this "Speaking in Tongues", something he evidently picked up at bible camp. That freaked me out. It went on and on and finally when he finished I was able to leave.

I bring this up not to spite him for caring, but as a funny anecdote about my experiences with religion. Regardless of my faith now or then, I found the whole speaking in tongues fairly odd.

The problem I had was with his new faith, was his interference the interests of Gabe, Mary and myself. This included our music interests, movie choices and activities, such as D&D. The further he fell into this faith the worse it got, and where more of my direct problems with religion stem from, but that is much later in my story.

After he moved out of the house prior to, and during, University I didn't have to deal with this interference near as often. Life was, in a way back, to normal.

More to follow in Part II.......................


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