That immediate shut-down response when religion is involved

Religion (specifically Catholicism or anything remotely close to it) and the mention of any “god” or “higher power” triggers an immediate shut-down & “shut-out” response in me. I stop listening, and twangs of panic tease my brain and my chest… I’m not quite sure what to attribute it to. It’s not like I was ever physical abused by clergy or in the name of religion, but there have been less overt abuses over the years…

At a time when I sought help from a guidance counselor after a particularly disturbing night at home, I was offered to “pray about it” instead of any concrete assistance. I was told that if I prayed and “let god”, then the dangerous situation would be resolved (for perspective, I went to catholic school nearly all my life). Needless to say, my request for immediate human intervention was not honored and the situation continued to get worse. No amount of pleading to any deity helped. It was explained to me that I was either not paying hard enough, being “tested” in my faith, or that “god” was punishing me for some horrific wrongdoing committed by my soul…

Later, when trying to explain some disturbing ptsd symptoms to someone in mental health (in a non-religious, locked hospital setting), I was again told that I needed to turn to god. I was assured that if I prayed, this imaginary being would “take [my] pain and make [me] whole again”. When I asked not to be harassed about religion, this worker insisted that I was being punished for my disbelief. She said that my lack of “faith” was the reason for all my troubles. She insisted that I will continue to be “punished” until my “faith” returns. I attempted to walk away from her, but she continued to follow me while reciting prayers and asking her god to “heal [my] godless heart”. There was no place I could go to get away from her, as it was a locked unit. It was also late at night, so my only options were the hallways or my room. She didn’t relent until I screamed at her and one of the night nurses to stop (this night nurse had joined the tech in her prayer”) in front of the nurses station, waking other patients and the night supervisor… so much for feeling safe there any longer. I didn’t sleep the rest of the night. If they were so insistent that I was being punished for wrongdoing, what guaranteed they wouldn’t continue the punishment? (I was going ever deeper into a flashback at the time)…

While those are not the only instances of neglect or emotional abuse in the name of religion, they are the ones that stand out to me the most. Others were more subtle. There is the ever-present “your going to hell” from random haters if they figure out I am gay (which isn’t too difficult to figure out, as I’m quite open about it). There’s the well-meaning “god only gives you as much as you can handle” or “this is just a test of (insert appropriate: your faith, your soul, what you can handle…)” or my favorite: “everything happens for a reason”. The problem with all those is the inherent invalidation and dismissal. While there are times I just want to hear that “everything will be ok”, I generally just want someone to understand that things suck immensely.  I want them to listen to what I have to say without feeling the need to either fix it or minimize it… sadly, both religion and social convention push for both minimizing and fixing.

But I digress. My main theme in writing this was to express how completely and pervasiveness this impacts my life. Any mention of religion and I’m at once hyper-vigilant and tuned-out. Any positive message or insight there may be in the message is lost to the panic reaction. I block anything on my Facebook that even remotely hints at religion. If someone posts too much about their religion, I un-follow them. The minute any professional tries to bring even “spirituality” into the mix, I lose all trust in them…
It’s like that meme floating around the Internet: “religion is like a penis. We all know many have it, but there’s no need to go flaunting it.”


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