I've been reading Going Clear by Lawrence Wright. It's about the history of L.Ron Hubbard and Scientology. Reading it is like watching a car wreck...it's horrible and you just can't look away. You can read the book if you want to know more. I do suggest it, but it is horrible. Well, the topic is terrible, the book is well written.
The book is careful not to say that Scientology brainwashes it's people through isolation and disconnection from actual life and the world, but it is implied that it does. Right or wrong, for this post, I'm going to connect those dots and say that they do brainwash people to keep people in their 'religion'. (side note, I believe more in The Flying Spaghetti Monster as a religion than Scientology, you don't have to pay the Flying Spaghetti Monster to learn more about his tenants.) I just can't stop thinking about this book and Scientology...it's the dark side of democracy, of America, of Freedom of Speech and Religion, and of Capitalism. It works slower than the Hitler and the Nazi's, but Democracy has always been slower than Fascism for change, but I see little difference...maybe lack of complete success?
When I was in college, I belonged to a campus religious group that were Born Again Non-Denomination Christians. I went with close friends and I liked learning about Christianity in a way I had never learned before. Before this, I was convinced that most Christian friends I had were brainwashed...nothing they said made logical sense! And then they would criticize me for having an interest in astrology. It was just so confusing and unfair to me. When I joined the Jesus Group in college (I call all of my bible studies and religious groups I join Jesus Groups because it's easier to explain to my non-religious friends) I thought that since it was Non-Denominational, it would be open to more beliefs systems and look at all the different types of Christianity. In my hometown, there is a lot of tension between denominations and we have a 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Christian Reformed Church. Someone recently mentioned to me that as parts of a church disagree, the break-off and form another church in the same town. We have 30+ churches and the rumor mill says they are well known for fighting among each other. So, I thought I had escaped this by joining a non-denominational church.
I was very wrong.
Turns out that Non-Denominational means that all other denominations are wrong and theirs is the only right one. Tricksy tricksy. I sat through a whole talk once on how amazing God is because in the old testament, he made the shadows go backwards...so he turned the Earth backwards to do that. The conclusion of the meeting was to discuss how if we don't believe that literally, well, then how can I call my self a proper Christian? Having Faith meant to whole heartedly jump in and believe literally and fundamentally everything in the Bible. Since I can't believe that the Earth rotated backwards, I felt very alienated and wrong and like a bad person. My Faith was challenged by my Church many times, and I was forced to pray and question what I believed, and it did draw me closer to God and it did strengthen my Faith. It also, simultaneously pushed me farther and farther way from that Jesus Group and the people in it. That's an odd place to be, loving God and Jesus and also being very angry and unhappy with Christians. To the point that I don't like to belong to a Church or group because I don't like the be around other Christians. I really really don't like being told what to do or what to believe, especially if there is an unspoken assumption that if I question or dissagree, I will be judged and ousted. Or prayed for! LOL. That really makes me laugh.
We also had lots of discussions and lectures on how if we truly want to be more like Jesus and to be closer to God and to make him happy, we need to give up all things non-Christian...like modern medicine, non-Christian music, books, movies, tv, and especially non-Christian friends. Even your thoughts, if impure, are sins. The thought is the starting point of sin, so if you can keep your thoughts sin free, you will live sin free. Doesn't that sound like the start of brainwashing? I spent far too much time feeling guilty and like I was betraying God because I hated Creed, the Left Behind Series, and didn't like Mandy Moore movies, and I loved the Gorillaz, System of a Down, Independence Day, and, you know, regular human stuff.
After I went to these meetings and did happy Christian sin-free things with these people (except once when I was forced to watch the unrated sex scene in The Notebook over and over again), I would go out partying with my Buddhist boyfriend.
I have been "saved" three times before I left high school, once by surprise attack, and once or twice in college. Now that I know I am a Christian and no longer need to be saved, people are still trying to save me all the time!!! They just sort of ignore me when I say, I am a Christian. I have been Saved. I chose to remain Catholic. Before I was married, Christians would lecture me on the Unequal Yoke (I always hear Yolk in my head) Bible verse on why I should break up with Josh. Since he is not a Christian, I am like an Ox carrying more than an equal share of the yoke of teaching my child christianity and saving myself or something. The oddest thing is that someone tried to 'save' me since I've moved home and am married. I could tell it was a script and when she got to the Unequal Yolk part, it just didn't work...I'm already married and divorce is a big no-no. HOW THE HELL DO YOU SAVE A SINNER LIKE ME?!?!
In the college Jesus Group, being baptised was a big deal and I went to several baptisms and I was even re-baptized in the Pacific Ocean. It was not the best most happy experience that the group said it would be. I felt guilty and like I was betraying my family and my faith (which I felt every time I was 'saved' and accepted Christ into my life...I was born with him there...it just doesn't make sense). I have never felt the need to be saved my whole life (leading to my suspicion that Born Again Christians are brainwashed) because I was saved as a baby. As a Catholic, I was baptised as a baby. There are pictures, there was a party, I already did it. Just because I don't remember it and just because my parents didn't push religion on me, doesn't mean God wasn't there and that God wasn't at work. But since it was a non-denominational group, my past thoughts and beliefs don't count...what the group thinks is what counts.
I did not like that group because they did try to brainwash me, inadvertently, I'm sure, but I would do it again. It forced me to face myself and my beliefs and I formed a personal relationship with God that was amazing, and I'm so glad I came out stronger and more independent than I was before. At the same time I would discourage anyone (especially my children) from going through that. There are easier ways.