I was pushing forty before I was able to articulate this:
Religion and philosophy are bad for me.
Not “are bad”, but “are bad for me”, specifically me, in the way the same liquor that drags one person down passes quietly over the next. I don’t drink. I’ve another poison. I’m fatally attracted to unanswerable questions. I’m always slouching toward a downward spiral of obsessive philosophical and religious thought, trying to resolve irresolvable thought problems, torturing myself over that failure by trying ever harder, until I develop old-fashioned clinical depression. From my teenage years onward, throughout all of my twenties, I was transfixed by big, vexing questions. The usual suspects: the problem of evil, the existence of god, blah blah blahd nauseam. But not in a casual way. Never in a pot-fueled like, what if we’re all in a simulation, man reverie. This pain cut deep, pervaded every moment of my life. I tore apart books, filled journals with angsty blather, changed jobs and majors like clothes, looking for answers to questions that have none. I was addicted.
"The Upper Zoom" by @MythAddict.
That notion — those words even: religion and philosophy are bad for me — is not a thing I’ve ever heard before. It’s not a part of any tradition I know of. There are no shortage of true unbelievers who’ll blame the human condition on religion1. This ain’t that. I’m saying that they’re bad for me, and it doesn’t matter whether they’re a cause of or the cure for society’s ills. I can’t safely be around them. I was raised in an evangelical subculture that was profoundly committed to a certain view of right living, often harmful, sometimes heart-breakingly beautiful, spotlit by a few passages of truly moving literature. One thing evangelicals and atheists and whateverists of all stripes have in common is the assumption that the nuts n’ bolts of religio-philosophical thought are value-neutral. Abstracted from any conclusions drawn, the practical mechanics of the thing aren’t considered a threat. “Assumption” is too strong a word. It’s simply not under consideration.
When I finally figured out that I am not like other people, that sustained religious and philosophical thinking poses a perpetual threat to my mental health, it was liberating. In practical terms, I was able to spot the warning signs and put myself out of harm’s way. Put down that book, jackass, go do something grounded.
I can’t say for sure, but I attribute at least some of my predicament to my evangelical roots. That contradictory tension of “you must believe this but you had better not actually live this,” the impossible sacrifice we were all expected to recite but never required to follow, — so many contradictions — it’s inevitable that it’s going to churn out some kids like me, kids who go into adulthood feeling like they have no home, can’t go back to the bullshittery of the past, but are still addicted to Jesus.
Faith traditions are powerful motivators both for good and for evil. Don’t @-me with your religion-is-the-cause-of-evil bullshit. ↩