Hi, I am Carl, and I am a recovering fundamentalist.
I entered a 12-step program in 2010. The particular program is non-incidental to this book. There are many 12-step programs. I was hesitant to participate in this particular program due to the emphasis placed on the “higher power”. I associate that ‘higher power’ with my own entrenched definition of ‘god’.
I was born in a suburb outside of Philadelphia, PA – a town called Levittown. Levittown was a dreamer’s vision of the perfect suburban environment. My suburbia was Catholic, and my extended family consisted of Catholics, ex-Catholics, Protestants, and spiritualists. For the most part, in my very early formative years, I was raised with no formal religion.
I was christened and baptized Catholic. My mother was excommunicated before my birth because of her prior divorce from her ex-husband, and subsequent re-marriage to my father. She was neither wealthy enough, nor politically powerful to warrant an annulment – that is where the Church makes believe that something that happened, never happened. Sort of like pedophilia among priests. But this will not be an anti-Catholic rant; as this book will show, the Catholics haven’t cornered the market on pedophilia among their clergy.
After my baptism, which was to ensure my entry into heaven, I rarely saw the interior of a Catholic sanctuary. I never considered myself Catholic; I never even knew what a church was until I was an adolescent.
In my pre-adolescent childhood, I used to have vivid dreams – nightmares – of walking down a hallway. In these dreams I was leaving my bedroom, seeking the comfort of my family, I passed shelves and shelves of statues of saints down a long hallway. The shelves reached from floor to ceiling. The cold white alabaster statues packed tightly, haunting me. I walked down the hallway, and the further I walked, the further the exit stretched, as if I were playing a part in some corny horror movie.
I ran, and the door at the end of the hallway was further off the faster I ran. The benign icons of the saints became menacing, toxic. They leered at me. They laughed, at me, but their laughs were silent. They mocked me. They scolded me. I just wanted to run into the comforting arms of my mother, but the more ferociously I ran the further my destination receded.
I had never been inside the sanctuary of the Church, other than the baptismal ceremonies which I do remember; never (to this day) been alone with a priest. I have no desire to.
My father was a spiritualist. His mother knew Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, she was a medium. My father was more Buddhist at the time, a follower of Edgar Cayce. He was a hypnotist, and any discussion of the religious nature in our household touched on reincarnation.
So I have to admit I was raised in a spiritual family, but not a “Christian” household. The focus of those religious beliefs metamorphosed in time.
When I was age nine, my younger brother died tragically. I witnessed his death; his blood-soaked head still intrudes into my memories of him. That single event shaped the formative years of my life, changed the dynamic of our family, and served as my induction into organized religion.
This blog is in part a tell-all. It begins with my journey through adolescence, my family’s conversion to fundamentalist Christianity, and my own search for a “higher power”. This book is part treatise, part autobiography, and mostly the by-product of my compulsion to spew my innermost feelings in some sort of tangible product.
I will not name many names; this is not a work of vengeance. I have learned through life that the people that have wronged you are more than likely the ones that have taught you the most valuable lessons. Nor is this a blog to persuade people to abandon their religious beliefs. I am not sure of my own, far be it from me to advocate any system of belief, or non-belief.
Today, I am agnostic. I am one that does not know, or profess to know. In my own humble opinion, I believe atheists are as bad as fundamentalists; each assured in their own opinion. Both atheists and “fundies” have come to a conclusion, and will not be swayed. Both display intolerance for any deviating point of view, or difference of opinion. Religious extremists want to force their belief system on everyone else, either by way of legislation or jihad; Atheists demand that all public acknowledgment of religion be censored. All I have to speak from is my own experience, and all I demand of other people is deference to allow me to have my own opinion without being judged by their narrow standards.
Please excuse my references to “The Almighty” as god – all lower-case. I don’t think god will be offended. In the Christian scriptures, in the original languages, there were no upper or lower case letters. God was god; god was God. I believe Jesus’ words when he cited the Psalmist, “ye are gods” (Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34).