Besides the somewhat normal – and widely felt – fear of spiders, which results in a flailing dance of the heebie jeebies, I suffer from a fear that is much more debilitating: Religiophobia. (An irrational or obsessive fear or anxiety of religion, religious faith, religious people or religious organizations.)
What may seem like a simple thing can send me into a panic: church music, accidentally turning on a religious TV show, Jehovah’s Witnesses at my door. I see people on social media respond to an illness or death and say something about Jesus (or God) taking him/her in his arms, and I know that others find comfort in these words. Not me.
Anxiety and panic.
The funny this is I think churches are beautiful. On the outside. Just don’t make me step inside.
This fear stems from an event that happened when I was eleven-years-old, separated from my family, and subjected to hours of religious scare tactics, all in an effort to “save me.”
I was truly terrified I’d never see my family again.
I find my fear difficult to talk about. Not many people know. For one thing, religion can be quite controversial, even taboo.
I’m afraid you’ll judge me or think it’s an invitation to tell me about your church, because your church is good and friendly and I’d love the people. Please don’t. (Yes. This has happened.)
I’m also afraid you’ll think I’m judging you. But that REALLY isn’t the case. (If I’m going to judge you, it’ll be on how you treat other people, and animals.)
My mother understood my fear, but didn’t truly see how it affected me until around ten years ago. We’d decided to treat ourselves to a day at a spa, an hour from home. It was a colorful autumn drive to a beautiful converted hundred-year-old house. We’d had a wonderful, relaxing day.
At the end of the day, we were checking out the gift shop and chatting with the owner. She mentioned we were the day’s last clients, but told us to take our time. I’d noticed a few people come in, but I never really got a look at them. The owner would say hello and direct them to the larger, main room of the house. Then, as I went to leave, I walked past the main room. There had to be almost a dozen people gathered … every one of them held a Bible in their hands.
I turned toward the exit.
Two more people were walking through the door, each with a Bible tucked in the crook of their arm. They meeting for Bible study.
In those few seconds, all the good from a day of relaxation and massage escaped my body. I was sick, shaky, and tense.
The worst part of what happened when I was little was that these were people I trusted, a family in the neighborhood who had a daughter around my age. At first I blamed them; that family, and their interpretation of the Bible and misguided ways of spreading its word. But then I saw that it wasn’t just their interpretation, but a whole religion. And that’s how religion works. It endorses herd mentality. Then the herds clash, causing countless wars and killings.
Did you know there are roughly 4200 different religions around the world? This terrifies me.