The Polygamist's Daughter

Stories, Reflections and Conclusions of Life on the Inside


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Finding My Purpose

I am now forty-something and have finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up.  My story does not end with leaving the community of my childhood, although when I left I hoped to write a new story and forget where I came from. I had hoped that by leaving my circumstances that the pain I felt deep inside of me would mysteriously disappear.  I had no idea that I had been a victim of what is now being recognized as religious and spiritual abuse.  All of the pain and trauma of my childhood followed me into my new life as I attempted to navigate the real world, with very little education and very few social skills.

In an attempt to fit in, and to drown the pain I felt, I abused myself through alcohol, drugs, sex and food, not recognizing that it was a form of self-abuse.  I was terrified of telling anyone where I came from or what I had experienced, out of fear that I would be institutionalized.  I floundered in a world I had been told my entire life to fear, in the belief that everyone in the outside world worked for the devil and existed to drag my soul into hell.  After several years of living on the edge of sanity and facing daily thoughts of suicide, I was introduced to self-help books by a roommate. That began the process of what I call self-therapy and took me on a road of self-discovery.  In that journey I learned what it meant to make choices for myself and how choices have consequences. I had never been allowed to make choices as a child, and I had no idea that I played any role in the direction of my life. I was simply a pawn in God’s game.

As I discovered that my choices create my reality, I began to create a life that most people would envy. I married a wonderful man, owned a successful business, traveled the world and eventually had two perfect children. Yet underlying all of the success I was never completely happy and I could not pinpoint why.

Several years ago when the economy crashed I faced what many would recognize as a mid-life crisis, and what I now lovingly call my mid-life rebirth.  I lost my business and my husband lost his work. We were over a million dollars in debt because of business failure and borrowing against our home to keep the business afloat. At one point we had spent all of our savings and maxed out all of our credit cards in the fight for survival.  There was a time when we had only $17 dollars remaining and had no idea where any more money would come from to feed our family.  We found ourselves in the throes of bankruptcy as the only way out of our dilemma and our home was forced into foreclosure. At that same time my children were both diagnosed with learning disorders and my marriage was failing.  Everything I had built for myself was crashing down around me.

In the midst of my chaos I discovered the roots of why I had never been happy and I began to rebuild my life with this new understanding.  I discovered that the fear-based beliefs of my childhood religion were a greater abuse than any physical or sexual abuse I endured. Much like emotional abuse, spiritual abuse affected me in a very deep an profound way that prevented me from finding true happiness.  Only worse, because unlike emotional abuse, which affected my mind and heart, spiritual abuse also caused trauma to my soul and affected inner worth.

In discovering this form of abuse I have now been able to work through it and heal it. This awareness has spawned me to become an advocate for those who have been traumatized by spiritual abuse and to speak out about the abuses that are hidden within religious dogma. Polygamy is one of those abuses that I recognize as a crime against humanity and justified by religion. This understanding has also spurred me to write books about the deception of religion and to become a documentary filmmaker with a focus on spiritual abuse and recovery. In my research I have discovered, that the pain I felt after I left my religion and my attempt to adjust to the real world, is similar to others who have left cult-like religions.  Drug and alcohol addiction, prostitution, teen pregnancy, poverty and suicide are common threads in nearly every story I have come across. While I am not anti-religion, I am not afraid to say it as I see it.  It is time for our religions to evolve.

I now live a life that is filled with pure joy, true fulfillment and inner bliss. This is something I wish for everyone and I believe is truly possible for anyone who seeks it.


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Research on the Perils of Polygamy

This is a fascinating article that has tremendous research behind it. Polygamy is not the same as gay marriage, which for me is like comparing apples to oranges. There simply is no rationale for comparison.
The Perils of Polygamy

by

May 21, 2012
Recent empirical research suggests that, in virtually every respect, polygamy is socially detrimental—to society in general, to men, to women, and to children.

In the course of history, approximately 85 percent of societies have practiced polygamy. Pushed by advocates of same-sex marriage and multiculturalism, some scholars, such as the signers of “Beyond Gay Marriage,” argue that it is irrational and bigoted for contemporary society to limit marriage to just two people. However, there is no bigotry in treating different things differently, and there are many important differences between polygamy and monogamy in practice as well as in principle.

There are three main forms of polygamous relationships: polygyny, polyandry, and polygynandry. In polygyny, by far the most common form of polygamy, one man may marry a number of wives. In polyandry, one wife has two or more husbands. This form of polygamy is extremely unusual, and often takes the form of two brothers marrying the same woman. In polygynandry, two or more wives marry to two or more husbands. Polygynandry is even more rare than polyandry, but will be similar in some respects to polygyny, insofar as a man has more than one wife. Since both polygynandry and polyandry are virtually non-existent, I’ll focus on the more common case of one man with multiple wives, and use the more common term polygamy to describe this arrangement.

Now let us turn to the practical considerations drawn from human experience. Recent empirical research suggests that, in virtually every respect, polygamy is socially detrimental—to society in general, to men, to women, and to children. These problems arise because of the nature of human reproduction.

In human reproduction, slightly more male than female babies are born (approximately 105 boys to 100 girls). As boys are more likely to die of natural causes as infants and from violence before they marry and reproduce, ceteris paribus, at any given marriageable age, there will be approximately 50% males and 50% females. Given roughly equal numbers of males and females as found in nature, polygamy and monogamy shape society in radically different ways. In a monogamous society, for each man there is a corresponding woman. William Tucker notes that this gives “every man [and every woman] a reasonable chance to mate.” By contrast, in a polygamous society, some men take multiple wives, but this leaves other men with greatly diminished prospects of marriage or an exclusion from mating altogether. The question under consideration, then, is what social effects does this arrangement bring?

In their 2012 article, “The Puzzle of Monogamous Marriage” appearing in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Joseph Henrich, Robert Boyd, and Peter J. Richerson used converging lines of evidence from the social sciences to compare polygamous and monogamous societies. They found that polygamous societies differ from monogamous societies in terms of violent crimes, female educational attainment, domestic violence, parental investment in children, and economic productivity.

A wealth of sociological information points to the fact that single men commit the vast majority of violent crimes. Women and married men seldom murder, rob, rape, and assault in comparison to single men. So, since there are many more single men in polygamous societies, polygamous societies have higher rates of violent crime. As Henrich and colleagues note:

Faced with high levels of intra-sexual competition and little chance of obtaining even one long-term mate, unmarried, low-status men will heavily discount the future and more readily engage in risky status-elevating and sex-seeking behaviors. This will result in higher rates of murder, theft, rape, social disruption, kidnapping (especially of females), sexual slavery and prostitution.

With little reason to invest in the established social order, single males are more likely to turn away from activities conducive to long-term productivity and turn toward the quick thrill, if not a violent overthrow of the established social order. These tendencies are detrimental to society as a whole, including to single men who are the most common victims of theft, violent assault, and murder.

In a polygamous society, the age of marriage will be lower for females than in a monogamous society. With a relative scarcity of possible mates of their own age, men seek wives among women of younger ages. Early marriage in turn leads to much higher rates of reproduction. Rather than delaying marriage and childbearing until their twenties or thirties, women marry and have children as teenagers. In modern social conditions, teen motherhood is detrimental for both these young women and their families. For a female teen, marriage to a much older man makes it unlikely that she will have an equal partnership with her husband and makes the completion of her education difficult, if not impossible. Indeed, marriage at a young age to a much older man is also linked to lethal domestic violence. In the words of one study:

The larger the age gap, the more likely it is that a husband will kill his wife, and vice‐versa (the young wife murders her husband). … This suggests that polygyny is relatively (potentially) much more dangerous than monogamous relations because age gaps of 16 years are not uncommon when accumulating young wives.

The difference in age exacerbates gender differences, and, for men, is more likely to give rise to jealous fears that their young wives will be unfaithful.

The phenomenon of “co-wives”: (a misnomer since polygamy typically involves a hierarchy among the wives) also undermines the well-being of women. The senior wives worry that they will be replaced by younger wives, and the younger wives in turn worry about the power exerted in the home by senior wives. Research indicates that levels of domestic strife and violence are higher in polygamous homes than in monogamous homes as wives seek to preserve their place with their shared husband as well as struggle to secure resources for their own biological children. As Henrich and colleagues point out:

Co-wife conflict is ubiquitous in polygynous households. From anthropology, a review of ethnographic data from 69 non-sororal polygynous societies from around the globe reveals no case where co-wife relations could be described as harmonious, and no hint that women’s access to the means of production had any mitigating impact on conflict.

These conflicts lead polygamous family units, particularly those with three or more wives, to have in general higher rates of divorce than monogamous couples. In the supplementary materials to their article, Henrich, Boyd, and Richerson point out: “Systematic and controlled analyses from polygynous societies generally show higher divorce rates for polygynous vs. monogamous marriages in the same society. … Relative to monogamous families, polygynous families with more than two wives are five times more likely to divorce.”

As bad as polygamy is for women, it is perhaps even worse for the well-being of children. Because the polygamous wives tend to be younger and less well educated, their children suffer in not having more mature mothers, as would be more typical of their counterparts in a monogamous society. The children suffer also from having multiple stepmothers involved in ongoing struggles with each other. Half-siblings must compete for limited resources while having weaker genetic bonds to mitigate the conflict. While these extended-family relationships could in theory be a source of support, more often they endanger children. Henrich’s study explained:

Much empirical work in monogamous societies indicates that higher degrees of relatedness among household members are associated with lower rates of abuse, neglect and homicide. Living in the same household with genetically unrelated adults is the single biggest risk factor for abuse, neglect and homicide of children. Stepmothers are 2.4 times more likely to kill their stepchildren than birth mothers, and children living with an unrelated parent are between 15 and 77 times more likely to die “accidentally.”

Polygamous families are also more likely than monogamous families to be in poverty, since typically only one breadwinner supports numerous children.

Polygamous societies also dilute the investment of fathers in their children in at least two ways. First, because marriage to other young women is still an option, a husband’s resources of time, attention, and money are diverted away from his own children and toward finding new mates. Secondly, in virtue of the greater number of children in the polygamous family, it becomes increasingly difficult to give each child sufficient time and attention. Indeed, some fathers of polygamous families have so many children that they do not even know each child’s name. This dilution of paternal investment is similar in effect to being raised by a single mother with all its attendant risk factors (especially for males) for drug abuse, trouble with the law, and dropping out of school.

A final harm brought on by polygamy is economic. Henrich’s study notes:

When males cannot invest in obtaining more wives (because of imposed monogamy) they invest and save in ways that generate both reduced population growth and more rapid economic expansion (increasing GDP per capita). Thus … the nearly threefold increase in GDP per capita between Comparable Monogamous Countries and Highly Polygynous Countries is partially caused by legally imposed monogamy.

Economic well-being contributes in turn to the stability of families which is a benefit to men, women, and children alike.

Finally, even aside from the sociological data, there is an inherent inequality in polygamous marriage. In monogamous marriage, spouses give themselves as spouses to each other unreservedly, unconditionally, and entirely. Now, giving oneself as a husband or wife to one’s spouse does not exclude giving of oneself in ways that are not distinctly marital to other people (such as playing tennis with a business partner, or going to the movies with a group of friends). Part of the marriage vow is the promise of sexual fidelity, the bodily manifestation of one’s commitment as spouse entirely to the spouse and to the spouse alone.

In a polygamous marriage, the man does not give himself qua husband entirely to his wife. A polygamous husband gives himself qua husband to however many wives he has. Wives, by contrast, are expected to reserve themselves in a sexual way for their husband alone. Moreover, wives face inequality among themselves as “senior wives” enjoy rank above “junior wives.” The polygamous relationship can never attain the mutual and complete self-donation of spouses in monogamous marriage because it is intrinsically impossible to reserve oneself in a sexual way entirely for one person and at the same time reserve oneself in a sexual way entirely for a different person (or persons). Marriage understood as a comprehensive union can exist only between two persons, and never more than two persons. Society, therefore, has good reason not simply to proscribe polygamy, but to endorse monogamy.

Christopher Kaczor is Professor of Philosophy at Loyola Marymount University and the author of The Ethics of Abortion: Women’s Rights, Human Life, and the Question of Justice (Routledge 2011).

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Child Friendly Faith

Child Friendly Faith

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.