ne thing religious people cannot stress enough is that they're all about family. Their organizations even have names like Focus on the Family and the American Family Association (branded a hate group out of MS). For the most part I find this to be true so long as everyone's keeping the faith and maintaining the status quo. I can say from my upbringing (aside from corporal punishment and having no say in church attendance) that our Christian family was very tight-knit and we spent a lot of quality time together. It wasn't perfect, but it was far better than a lot of other families I've seen. Now, to clarify, some of these not-so-happy families I've seen are religious as well so it's not as though they have a corner on the market. I'm just speaking to the Christian view that family is important.
As I said, religious families are close-knit and happy so long as everyone's keeping the faith. They don't say, "The family that prays together stays together" for no reason. It's literally true. I found this out myself when I started to upset the status quo of my family and I was made to feel like an outcast. My family's treatment of me was mild compared to what some people endure at the hands of their religious parents, grandparents, and siblings.
s soon as I was old enough to figure out how much fun weekends were and how much shorter they seemed when you have to spend more than half of Sunday sitting in church I began to ask my parents if we really had to go to church. The conversations usually went something like this:
Jon: Do we have to go to church today?
Parent: No, you don't have to go to church today. You get to go to church today.
Jon: But I don't want to go to church.
Parent: You ought to be happy we have such a nice church to go to. Besides, you're not staying home alone. Now get a move on!
This was exasperating every single time. I'm sure it was frustrating for my parents as well. They wanted to raise their children in the church with good, Christian values and their children seemed to want to be little unwashed heathens. What irritated me the most about this exchange was the unreasonable nature of the argument. I, as an autonomous human being, didn't have the desire to spend most of my day cooped up in a building listening to people talk when I could be running around the woods with a toy gun, saving the world. My parents, as dictatorial heads of the family, didn't acknowledge my autonomy. How unfair.
ow that I was saved (theological debate surrounding the sincerity of the act notwithstanding) from Hell, it was important to those charged with my education to ensure that I became the best possible Christian. In order for this to happen, I had to become familiar with the doctrine of Christianity -- namely, that god created me and loves me and that Satan is trying with all of his might to destroy god's creation and claim the souls of believers for himself. This means war!
etting saved through Jesus Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit sounds like it would be a really big deal. I mean, the sheer mechanics of opening up one's heart and having the Holy Spirit move in like a college kid moving into the dorms is difficult to wrap your head around. Oddly enough, Christians seem to think it requires nothing more than the ability to repeat phrases told to you by another person. This applies mainly to children who are too young to formulate a sentence based on the premise that a person died for you thousands of years ago so you won't go to Hell when you die. It goes something like this:
Heavenly Father, I know that I have sinned against you. I want to be a better person. I believe you sent Jesus to die on the cross for my sins, that you raised him from the dead, and that he hears my prayers. Please forgive me and let Jesus come into my heart and life. I give my life to you, Lord. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.
hen you grow up in Christianity, one thing is made very clear to you over and over: you are a horrible sinner and deserve to burn in Hell forever. This sentiment rears its head pretty early on, as soon as you're able to understand and repeat the name "Jesus." The adults begin to prime you for the doctrine of salvation through grace. In order to do this, you must first accept that you are undeserving of anything but the worst punishment imaginable. Just to clarify, this punishment can be presented in a number of ways. My family subscribed to the "lake of unquenchable fire, eternal torment and darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth" doctrine. Other sects of Christianity view Hell as simply the complete lack of the presence of god. Still others view Hell as obliteration (which, Heaven aside, aligns quite nicely with the atheistic view that once you die you simply cease to exist).