I am part of an online group titled “Child Friendly Faith.” It is our collaborative goal to bring spiritual abuse into the light and ask that our religions serve us, rather than us serving them. It is our intent to create an environment of faith that is based solely in love and not in fear, and to create an environment that cultivates faith through desire, rather than force. It is my purpose, in association with others, to create an environment that promotes healing from spiritual abuse.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to spend a few days with Jan Heimlich, the creator of Child Friendly Faith and author of “Religious Child Maltreatment”. Jan is a journalist who has taken great pains to research the subject of religion, and when religious beliefs and practices become harmful to children. She takes into consideration that maltreatment it is more than the abuse of children, but also the neglect that often occurs as a result of well-meaning parents whose minds are influenced by their religious leaders.
On Sunday afternoon I watched a presentation Jan was giving to a group of Atheists. Her presentation was shared in collaboration with Bethany, a woman who Jan interviewed for her book. Bethany’s story was heartbreaking as she described the physical abuse that began when she was only six months old at the suggestion of her parent’s minister. Even more heartbreaking was the expectation that Bethany begin beating her baby sister as part of her sisterly responsibilities.
In my own perspective spiritual abuse is more than just physical or sexual assault, it is emotional and psychological as well. Many of the perpetrators are unaware that they are abusing their children because they themselves are being controlled by their religious beliefs. It is not the religion itself that is at fault, but the interpretation and manipulation of those who use it to assert control over its followers. Spiritual abuse causes trauma to the human spirit, and prevents to connection to God that is supposedly the purpose of religion itself.
Following the presentation, several members of the audience asked me what my religious beliefs are. I could not come up with an answer for them. I am not Atheist, although I do not believe in a man-made deity. I believe that infinite intelligence is energy that does not take the physical form of a man (or woman). It simply is that it is. I thought about the word Spiritualist, but that word is already taken by a church. I thought about the word Energist, but that word has been coined as well. I do not like labels and after great internal deliberation over the next few days I came to realize that I am not able to lump myself into a category. There is no name for who I am and what I believe. And then it hit me, I am that I am. I do not need a label, a person or a group to identify me. I simply am.
I have ascended beyond religion, as religion no longer serves a purpose in my life. I do not need to pretend to believe in something for my own comfort or for the comfort of those around me. I no longer live my life based on how others will judge me for my lack of what they perceive as faith. I do not need to cling desperately to the fear that I will be rewarded or imprisoned for my lack of belief after I transition out of this world. Faith for me is not intertwined with religion but a higher understanding of what is possible, a deep knowing that I shape my reality in co-creation with the intelligence of the universe, aka God. Faith for me is an internal connection to Spirit and freedom from fear and doubt. My faith is stronger than it has ever been and is far more powerful without the interruption of religion.
For me, child friendly faith, is teaching our children about their own power and their ability to experience a life that is filled with awe and wonder. It is teaching them that they are the creators of their realities and that they work in creative collaboration with God, in the energy of unconditional love. It is teaching them that they are born in perfection with the potential for greatness; it is raising them up to their own possibilities and showing them the magnificence that each one of us holds within us.