Religious oppression
July 21, 2006 7:49 PM   Subscribe

Could you describe any notable incidents when you, personally, have suffered or faced oppression from organized religion in Europe or North America? How did you deal with it?

A friend of mine has recently had a run-in with some overly aggressive members of a local religious community (I'd prefer not to disclose the details for privacy reasons), so I wanted to get some perspective on how these things can occur and what the best ways to respond are.

I'm looking for relatively involved or prolonged incidents (e.g. if someone offered you a tract on the bus, and you refused and were left alone, that probably wouldn't qualify).
posted by Krrrlson to Society & Culture (33 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I was the student representative to the school board from my public high school during the early 90s. I was quoted in the local newspaper supporting the availability of condoms on campus. The parish priest called me for a series of one-on-one chats in the rectory during which he'd lecture me about church doctrine. I explained my role on the school board was not religious. Eventually he told me that he would not be able to provide communion if I did not repent of my sinful ways.

In all it was probably 3 meetings over 3 weeks, with maybe a word after Sunday mass or whatever. The priest tried to involve my guardian on his behalf. Not exactly oppression, but maybe interesting. He never did deny me communion and was sent away to deal with his alcoholism shortly thereafter (a priest has to really love the bottle to run afoul of the Catholic Church). I still think that having condoms available on campuses is good social policy.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 8:17 PM on July 21, 2006

I've been an "out" atheist for a long time, so I've had more run-ins than I can remember.

The most recent one was at a flea market in Oakland. A friend and I were wandering about when we were cornered by a big, loud preacher man. I can usually just nod and make non-committal grunts when confronted with this kind of behavior, but he got all up in my face and started talking about how he was a big bad man before he found Christ. He wouldn't leave me alone until my friend promised he'd make sure that I found Jesus' grace.

I've seen the local evangelicals send emissaries to stand outside my favorite coffee shop (which just happened to be the local gathering point for the punks, freaks, goths and perverts) with one of those "Mr. Microphone gizmos and harangue the lot of us for hours at a time, week after week.

I've had walking, talking Chick tracts follow me down the street telling me I'm going to hell.
posted by lekvar at 8:22 PM on July 21, 2006

My mother's family lived in Salt Lake City, Utah during the 60s and 70s for a couple of years each time. They were a military family, and they were not Mormon.

My grandmother, in particular, was quite isolated from the community the first time around. If I remember correctly, people used to pull her laundry off the line and that sort of thing. Her family also long suspected that their dog was poisoned by neighbors. I'm sure there were other incidents, but I don't remember what they were.

I should note that my grandparents had no interest whatsoever in converting to Mormonism - my mother's father's parents were apostates and had, I think, instilled a distrust of the religion into their children.

Things went much better the second time around in the 1970s. I think nowadays non-Mormons will feel quite comfortable in Salt Lake City, but they will certainly still learn a lot about the LDS lifestyle.
posted by anjamu at 8:29 PM on July 21, 2006

When I was a Navy wife, and my son was 6-7 months old and I was first pregnant with my daughter, we lived just outside the Navy base in Millington, Tennessee. We were seriously poor, and didn't have a car, so my entertainment options during the day were these: trying to get to know the neighbors, the local library, and this servicemen's rec room place.

I used to go there with my baby and play the piano, or sit in the air conditioning and read, or play pool. At first the guy in charge was very welcoming, gave me a lot of stuff about supporting the families of America's heroes, making them feel at home, bladda dadda. I bought it; I thought it was some military service organization, like the MWR, only with actual stuff to do. My husband started going there with me some evenings, and we'd eat the cookies and hang out. We knew they had Bible meetings there, but we just declined politely when they asked.

Well, one day when I was there with just the baby the guy insisted I attend the Bible meeting. I said, no, I am not interested in religious study. He started actually yelling at me in the middle of the room, I had been eating his cookies, etc, and was refusing to take the path of salvation for myself and my child. The idea was that he had been nourishing a snake in his bosom, or on his piano or something.

It was really intense; I went home crying. My husband and his pal went down to confront the guy, but received little satisfaction from it.

Despite having tolerance and respect for the sincerely religious, who actually live what they say they believe, I feel from the bottom of my soul that there are no assholes like "Christian" assholes.
posted by Methylviolet at 9:09 PM on July 21, 2006 [2 favorites]

Haha... Mormons... As a teenager in Omaha, NE I attended a Unitarian church and was somewhat active in the youth group. As part of a program to reach out to other members of the religious community, our youth group visited other denominations around town. When we visited the Mormons... Well, they kept us in a room for over an hour and showed Mormon assimilation videos to us. They didn't lock and bar the door, but they stood in the way of us leaving and were very insistent about showing us videos. We had to open the door ourselves and squeeze by the door Mormon on the way out, who was telling us to stay the whole time. It was creepy if not aggressive.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 9:40 PM on July 21, 2006

When I was pretty young, a friend of mine told me about some lock-in (for those who don't know, basically gathering a bunch of kids to stay up all night doing all kinds of fun, safe activities, like watching movies etc), and having been to one at my middle school, I was happy to go to another. It was at a YMCA, and mainly it had activities like air hockey, volleyball, movies, things like that. At one point, a guy came out and started giving a speech in the main area, and went into a preach about how sex is bad, jesus is awesome, blah blah blah. Keep in mind I was probably 11 or 12 years old. Not once did any of the other kids say anything about the religious content, and certainly the friend that brought me with wasn't from a family that was into deceptive preaching like that, so it was just sort of out of left field. I remember feeling quite uncomfortable with the whole ordeal all of a sudden and went to sleep a lot earlier in the sleeping rooms (everyone bought sleeping bags in case they got tired).

Not that oppressive, but rememberable after all these years.
posted by cellphone at 10:43 PM on July 21, 2006

does my (mormon) family count?

when i was 16, i decided I didn't want to go to seminary anymore (church school before school @ the ass crack of dawn) because it was getting in the way of my real education. They essentially grounded me to my room untill i changed my mind. I taught myself qbasic on my 386 instead and they eventually gave up after not seeing me for 3 months.

recently at a family reunion, my uncle told me not to come anymore if i insisted on smoking cigarettes in front of the family. I intend to bust that little gem out the next time they try to guilt me into going. Thanks uncle Randy!
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 11:18 PM on July 21, 2006

At around twelve years of age my father's catholic upbringing finally overcame him and he went from spiritual apathist to devout catholic, dragging the rest of the family along with him. I was around twelve at the time, had been an atheist for years, and had no desire to convert. Despite my protestations I was force-enrolled in confirmation classes and given a daily browbeating at home from whenever he got home that night until whenever he got hoarse.

Given the then-disparity in our rhetorical skills and my own weakness it only took about three weeks of his effort -- and another week or two of the good-cop routine from my mother -- before I decided just to play along before he might decide to progress to spankings, etc., and so for the next six years I just played along with the new program, until I left home. I don't go back very often.

My own experiences tie into the broader religious community in the following sense: very few people convert to the mainline christianisms alone, and fewer still remain alone once they've converted -- there's the other members of the congregation, the pastor/minister/priest/whathaveyous, and so on -- can you imagine how embarrassing it would be if my newly-unlapsed father had to keep confessing to his confessor that he was unable to get his headstrong young boy to convert? And what would the (catholic, where I lived) neighbors think, or the parents of my fellow classmates at the catholic school he had me enrolled in shortly afterwards? In this case playing along did not stop at the home but extended to much of the rest of my waking and social life.

The unexpectedly harsh responses at home and out-and-about to my occasional facade slip were enough to keep me in line for those six years. So, I experienced nothing terribly dramatic or overt, but quite a bit of the threat of sharp social disapproval that can be so ominous to an adolescent and that can still make life markedly unpleasant for a supposedly worldly-wise adult.

How did I deal with it? I learned that the aggressively religious -- no matter what they may say -- prefer being lied to, and that consequently you should tell them whatever it is they want to hear on those matters about which you can safely lie. If this sounds harsh it is -- to the extent I consider myself moral it is not a conclusion I would like to draw about any person or group of them -- and yet in my own experience to be lied to is precisely what they want if the real story is unpleasant (and avoidable!). The aggressively religious have essentially substituted aesthetics for uncertainty and consequently are far more concerned with aesthetics than fact, reacting very poorly to unaesthetic information.

If the other person is a near-stranger simply avoiding them will suffice -- there's plenty of other near-strangers who need to hear the word, and once your friend's not the closest potential catch the fishers-of-men will cast their nets elsewhere.

So my advice to your friend -- if he must deal with them tell white lies whenever they won't discover the truth and be honest when it's inevitable. They will be happier and your life will be easier if you do not unncessarily provide them with information they'd rather not hear -- think of it the same way that you would strip the cursewords from a joke you heard from your friends if you were telling it to your grandparents or in a work setting.

I do think any advice you get that tells your friend to stand up, tell them to fuck off, etc., is misguided without knowing more details: if they're not people your friend is forced to deal with, and if they're not within the normally-tolerated groups of the area, then perhaps the stern approach is called for, but otherwise you've not provided enough info to pass judgment on the stern approach's odds of success.
posted by little miss manners at 11:33 PM on July 21, 2006 [2 favorites]

Three stories...

1) Ten years old, I asked to go to a summer camp sponsored by this nearby youth center, because all my friends were going. Turns out that the youth center, an otherwise wonderful Salvation Army youth center with basketball courts, pool tables and football leagues, had contracted with a freaky religious Bible camp for the summer camp. There were normal summer camp things, but there was also Bible study.

Late one night before going to bed, the cabin counselor was holding the nightly Bible study. Today's topic was Noah and the flood. Being a budding skeptic, I cornered the counselor, who was probably something like 25 years old.

"So," I said, "Noah and his family were the only human survivors of the flood?"
"That's right."
"Everyone else died?"
"So, we're all descendents of that single family?"
"Let's say a few dozen people -- all of Noah's children and their families."
"What's your point?"
"Well, if we're all descended from this single family...," and here's where I turned and pointed to the Asian and black kids in the cabin, "Where'd they come from? And if cousins were marrying cousins, how come we're not all retarded?"

The next morning, they forced me to clean the cabin's bathroom with a toothbrush. I mean, literally, a toothbrush. Like I was in a prison movie or something.

2) My uncle Sean buys a house in a picturesque neighborhood in Salt Lake City. The first Saturday, there's a knock on the door. All the families on the street are on the porch. With food and sodas and desserts.

"Welcome to the neighborhood!"

Turns out, this is a tradition in this neighborhood. Sean just didn't get the memo. So he invites them in, thinking, "Sweet! Cool neighbors." An hour or so of meet and greet goes by in the backyard, when one of the neighbors lowers the boom.

"So, we'll be seeing you in the meetinghouse on Sunday?"
"The what?"
"The meetinghouse. You know ... chapel? Church?"
"Uhh, what chapel is that exactly?"
"The LDS chapel. Latter-day Saints?"
"Oh! Oh ... well ... we're not Mormon."
"Well, that's silly."
"Why is it silly?"
And here's where uncle Sean, bless him, blows his stack.
"You're not Mormon? Then why did you buy the house here?"
"Because I thought it was in America."

And for years afterward, none of the neighbors would speak to him or allow their kids to play with his kids. Although, Sean was a little proud to be the block's Cranky Guy Nobody Speaks To.

3) The atheist wife and I wanted to get married. Her family was paying. That meant it had to be in a Catholic church. The Catholics would allow the marriage to be in the church, but only if we were vetted by a Catholic psychologist. So, there were four one-hour sessions with this guy, and 15 minutes into the first one, it was pretty clear that neither of us had anything to say to one another. So we paid him $100 a session and talked about baseball, the weather, etc. I really would've liked that $400 for my honeymoon...
posted by frogan at 11:59 PM on July 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

When I was in the Air Force during a tech school, a teacher asked if he anyone had problems with him saying a prayer before the beginning of class. I mentioned that I would, and I got all kinds of shit from my classmates.

My dad is a pastor and his wife to this day still gives me crap/guilt trips /etc about being an atheist. And my father does not seem to want to give up on converting me. I don't know what to do about that situation.

I frequently get told that I'm too good to be an atheist, and that I'm really saved. Alot of people seem to think you have no morals if you an atheist as well, and get quizzed about where my ethics come from.
posted by bigmusic at 12:07 AM on July 22, 2006

I'm a Christian (and wasn't until I was 21 or so, mostly because of illogical reasoning and social deflection type experiences) but I've read every story here, and none of them are something I'd even remotely relate to oppression. There's a lot of social consequence, but not rights being denied or something you couldn't easily get out of. The reason the "oppressors" were able to inflict such circumstances is because each "oppressed" person believed them to have some variety of authority over them, and the simple disbelief of that authority would absolutely undermine any possible oppression. My idea of oppression is of actual authority, as in over the life-and-death circumstance, of the permanent judgement of jailtime or rights being denied on a permanent basis. Kids will generally do anything you yell at them to do, but that's not oppression by authority, that's just abuse of a perceived authority.
posted by vanoakenfold at 1:05 AM on July 22, 2006

I'm not a Christian but I agree with what vanoakenfold just said for the most part. Mostly people venting some past social annoyances here...

I'd add something except I have never been religiously oppressed. I suppose I can tack on my own little anecodote of religious annoyance:

Once when I was 15 or so I was with a friend at a mall's food court. This whole group of 20 or so Christian youths and an adult leader came up to me. The leader went right into his spiel and I told him to go away. He then responded by saying that he knows where I'm at, because he used to do heroin, too. That was one fucked up assumption to be making about a 15 year old. I assured him that I was not a heroin addict and that I had no interest in anything else he had to say. They left begrudgingly. I then checked the mall entrance and sure enough it said "No Solicitors" so I told a security guard and their spreading of the good word was cut short for the day. "Help! Help! I'm being oppressed!"
posted by rob paxon at 1:59 AM on July 22, 2006

vanoakenfold: for some definitions of oppression your diagnosis is, of course, correct -- but probably not for the situation at hand, as if friend-of-krrrlson was being oppressed by your definition it'd be move-or-shoot time, not 'get help from ask metafilter' time.

I stand by my assertion that the aggressively religious are primarily motivated by aesthetics -- in my experience their stated motivations are always religious-sounding but their actions are seem driven by motivations more in line with those of obsessive music critics and overweening homeowner's associations than of the deeply spiritual: somwhere between people who've found a sound they want everyone else to dig and people who've got an irrational fear of variation in their external environments.

The 'lie to them' advice is perhaps too strongly worded. If the harassers cannot be cleanly avoided I think it is wise to understand that for all their craziness they also have more mundane concerns like their status amongst their crazy peers -- if your friend can find a way to turn down a particualr proselytizer without hurting her standing amongst the rest of the nutters than she'll be less likely to bother again...whereas doing so in a way that embarasses her will likely only redouble her efforts. Similarly, they are trying to convert your friend, presumably, but they're not necessarily really motivated by a desire to convert so much as a desire to confirm that their own brand of madness is as fulfilling as they think it is; this is why a straightforward denial is oftentimes counterproductive when dealing with the real crazies; not only have you rejected the conversion attempt, you have also, ever so slightly, behaved in a maner inconsistent with their particular soulbalm being all it's cracked up to be.

And again on vanoakenfold: if a child from past experience had determined that 'spankings' and other physical coercions often followed after her father's yelling failed to yield the desired behavior, would you still consider that merely perceived authority whose oppression is entirely within the mind of the 'oppressed'? What if, instead, your brother was kidnapped without warning at 3am in the middle of summer by a bunch of ex-military types, disappeared for a couple months, and when he returned explained he'd been taken against his will -- after all, as a minor he is effectively at his parents' disposal -- to some kind of survive-in-the-wilderness reeducation camp? Is that, also, the kind of 'oppression' that would have vanished in the twinkling of an eye had he but manned up and realized that fatherly authority was only perceptual?
posted by little miss manners at 2:38 AM on July 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

All of us are oppressed by religion in ways "you couldn't easily get out of" every time we pay property taxes or rent. Your local churches don't pay those taxes, and that means yours are higher. Why should people not members of organized religion, or people whose faith has no church in a town, have to subsidize the churches in that town?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:49 AM on July 22, 2006 [2 favorites]

"All of us" being all those in the U.S. at least. Apologies to those in places where religions pay property taxes, if there are any such places.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:18 AM on July 22, 2006

"My idea of oppression is of actual authority, as in over the life-and-death circumstance, of the permanent judgement of jailtime or rights being denied on a permanent basis."
by your definition, a rich white neighborhood shunning the one black family on the street isn't oppression. your definition sucks.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 5:43 AM on July 22, 2006

Mod note: please take further discussions about what it and isn't oppression outside of the OP's framework "overly aggressive members of a local religious community" to metatalk or email.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:04 AM on July 22, 2006

When I was young I used to go to every religious group in town just because I was curious. I found that I fit right in with the Seventh Day Adventists. They were vegetarian like me and all the people there, I felt in my heart, were good people. Once a month we would wash each other's feet in church (supposedly like Jesus did). Hard to explain but this ritual was very meaningful to me. We had get-togethers where we stayed up late making candles that we would sell and give the money to people in third world countries. I loved the commeradery of that. And there was more that I loved.

Then my parent's minister at their new-age Christian church found out I was going. He had a meeting with my parents explaining that I was embarassing him and the church by going to a "fundementalist" church and that I would have to stop.

So I stopped to please my parents.

And I have regretted it my whole life. That was my home! My parents turned out to be the most self-centered and shallow people I know. I feel lost with them. They have not been supportive of me in any way. And I never felt I could go back to the church because of the way I left. I remember telling my best friend at the church that I couldn't go anymore because they weren't cool. I guess I said that to protect my parents.

I feel like this has dis-connected me from a network that would have helped me survive. My life has been very difficult without the support of family or a church. I have just barely survived. I think I would have had a much better life if I had been allowed to stay in that church and that support system.
posted by cda at 6:14 AM on July 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Before I read the hysterical beginnings of the "oppression" debate here, I was going to question the use of the word, too. (But in what I hope would be a more helpful way). There are a few anecdotes here that I would classify as oppression, and fewer that seem to fit the OP's requirement: relatively involved or prolonged incidents.

Krrrlson, I wonder if by "oppression" you meant general harrassment, or a more institutional denial of civil rights? If the latter, I would look into instances of censorship (banning/burning books, etc), public schools in religious communities ostracizing atheist kids for various reasons, that type of thing.

If the former: if it's serious harrassment, I'd deal with it the same way I would if it had nothing to do with religion: in the workplace, HR, otherwise, the police. If it's less serious, staying strong in ones own personal convictions is the only way. Knowing no details about the situation, it's hard to be specific, and I hope not to belittle your friend's experience. But a firm "I'm never going to [do whatever they want you to do]. Ever. Leave me alone/stay off my property/etc" as many times as needed might work. In my experience, those who would convert me have always been pretty quick to give up when they see just how impossible it is. (And the stronger they come on at first, the quicker they are to give up). They want their numbers high, so they like to spend their time on the more gullible.

But if you're dealing with abuse or threats, go to the police. If you're dealing with denial of rights, go to the ACLU or your state CLU. (If you're not in the US, I don't know).

(slight derail to cda: I don't see why you can't go back based on your comment. Are you still a minor? That you called one fellow church member uncool doesn't seem like an adult reason not to return to a church you really want to be a part of. Most churches I've come across love to welcome back prodigals. Seems like the worse the circumstances of the departure, the happier they are to get them back).
posted by lampoil at 7:23 AM on July 22, 2006

Also see answers to this question.
posted by bleary at 8:11 AM on July 22, 2006

Response by poster: Krrrlson, I wonder if by "oppression" you meant general harrassment, or a more institutional denial of civil rights?

The incident I had in mind when I posted the question is more of the former category, but it would be interesting to hear the more severe cases as well.
posted by Krrrlson at 9:17 AM on July 22, 2006

This is not me personally, but Foodbunny's post on the JREF forums is mind-boggling.
posted by martinrebas at 9:28 AM on July 22, 2006

I was late on the scene for this, but a group of local evangelicals surrounded my wee gothish, pentacle-wearing friend and began praying over her in a McDonald's. Actually surrounded (at 85lb and 4'10", it's not hard to do) and wouldn't let her out of their circle of prayer and speaking in tongues. She panicked and fainted. They had selected her and had been bothering her for a couple of weeks. My response to the situation was to befriend that circle of people and corrupt two of their members, leading one to dabble in witchcraft and the other in bisexuality.

Another instance in the same town was a route to the main campus from the dorm that was pretty much the only way you could go, unless you felt like dodging traffic on the highway. The evangelicals camped out there and would spam us with copies of the New Testament and harass anyone who looked particularly different. My response to that situation was to fake a few occult "incidents" around the town, and that location, to drive them away and divert their attention to your basic Satanic Panic.

High road? Probably not. But if you want to convert me, expect that I might try to convert back. If you want to try to freak me out, expect freakiness back.

And, yeah, forcing a kid to clean the bathroom with a toothbrush for displaying common sense and asking a perfectly reasonable question, that's definitely someone in a position of authority working on some brainwashing. Punishing people (especially kids) for asking questions is a great instance of oppression.
posted by adipocere at 10:44 AM on July 22, 2006

When I was sixteen I refused to continue going to church and my parents threw me out onto the street. They let me come back after a week once I'd promised I'd keep going.
posted by Ryvar at 10:44 AM on July 22, 2006

Most of my childhood and teenage years I knew not to discuss or mention my lack of religious belief in public. See this post for reasons why not. When I was a kid, it was go-along-to-get-along sometimes, but never all that bad, usually just tactical silence. But then, it became second nature and wasn't anything I had to think about that much. Eventually you kind of learn who's safe and who isn't, and it becomes instinctive. I'm fairly open about it now, and in fact people usually assume I'm not religious.

Muslims have a word for a similar concept: taqiyya. It feels a little cowardly, but it's not that hard to avoid religious discussions, and you can't spend all your time arguing.

My grandmother, however, was a Pentecostal, a Holy Roller, and she almost never went to church. When asked why, she would quote Matthew 6:5-8. If the people harrassing your friend are Christians, this may be a useful passage to know.

Without knowing more detail about your friend's situation, though, I'm inclined to think it's too late for him to try either of these options, and that he's already outed himself.
posted by dilettante at 10:52 AM on July 22, 2006 [2 favorites]

I wish you could give us some more details, Krrrlson. For a lot of incidents, the classic Walk Away would suffice, but we don't know if it's the local community or your friend's boss or the police or who or what your friend is dealing with. I have been fortunate to avoid actual life-or-death confrontations about these things, and I credit both luck and my refusal to associate with serious fundamentalists. If he can remove himself from the situation that's one thing, but sometimes it's not possible.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:41 AM on July 22, 2006

Not really sure if this is what you want, but: When I was five, there was no local public kindergarten, so I was sent to a private kindergarten run by the local Lutheran church. My teacher was the pastor's wife. Every Monday when she called the roll, you had to respond by saying either "Church," if you'd been to church the previous day, "Sunday School," if you'd been to Sunday school the previous day, and "Here" for neither (I don't remember what happened if you'd been to both church AND Sunday school). My folks were pretty casual about religion back then, and weren't in a church at that time, so I always said, "Here." And week after week that teacher gave me shit about it: "How come you didn't go to Sunday school? Why don't your parents take you to church?" Like a five-year-old would know any of this. She never talked to my parents, just to me. I finally got so miserable I ended up lying to her each week so she'd get off my back about something I didn't even understand. Witch.
posted by JanetLand at 11:58 AM on July 22, 2006

Aside from the normal "you're going to church and seminary or ELSE" stuff I received growing up in a Mormon family, the following rather creepy incidents happened:

On three separate occasions after I had moved (under the radar and off the paper trail as a cash subletter, and as someone who didn't have credit cards or a bank account.) and had not informed anyone of my location or address I've had Mormon/LDS missionaries show up at my doorstep and ask for me by my full name.

On a lesser scale I've also been subscribed to newsletters without my permission under the same conditions.

While on the grand scale of oppression via organized religion it rates pretty low compared to beatings or physical coercion, it's still really damn creepy that they could figure out where I lived when the best bill collectors of the era couldn't.
posted by loquacious at 12:01 PM on July 22, 2006

Oh boy do I have stories of religious oppression. Here's one:

My daughter, who was about 6 at the time, was asked by one of her closest friends from school, rather innocently, what church she went to. My daughter responded that she'd never been to church.

The next day at school, my daughter's friend came to her and said that her parents said she wasn't allowed to play with her any more, because she's not a Christian. Then, as if that wasn't enough to break my daughter's heart, this girl then said to my daughter that "your parents don't love you, because if they did, they would take you to church so that you don't burn in hell."
posted by deadmessenger at 12:05 PM on July 22, 2006

My bisexual brother went to a Christian high school in Australia where one of the mottos propegated by teachers was "don't be a tall poppy or you'll get mowed down" -- i.e., don't be a non-conformist or else. I don't know all the details of what went down there, but he dropped out of high school because of the stress. It took him six years to get back on the academic track.

Now he's really good at dealing with religious nutsos and he's working on a degree in philosophy. I think he'll be a great dad and professor some day.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:12 PM on July 22, 2006

I think children are most at risk of oppression due to religion, because parents do have authority. I know several people (well, I'm one) raised in a born-again, pentecostal Christian church who were socially isolated within the church, then removed from their families for abusive practices within the church, then completely ostracised by everyone they'd known previously. Having to start your life over at age 10/11/12, knowing that everything you'd known before was crap AND dealing with PTSD from the abuse is pretty oppressive. As is death, as demonstrated by these stories (links from this thread).

But I think that any church that withholds information children need to keep themselves safe (such as sex education) is oppressive, as is the denial of reproductive freedom or harassment outside legal abortion clinics or laws allowing pharmacists to refuse to provide perfectly legal prescriptions, so YMMV.

adipocere, I've too been surrounded by fundies speaking in tongues (a skill I also learnt as an 8-year-old, one of the best NLP tricks evah!) over me in the street. I started screaming, which made them pray even louder - eventually I was rescued by a policeman who threatened to charge them with harassment. I've also been spat on by a group of boys as I walked by a mosque - I received a written apology from the imam for that one, but none from the Christians.
posted by goo at 4:50 PM on July 22, 2006

And, to answer the poster's question, I found reporting the incidents to the police to be the most effective solution.
posted by goo at 5:03 PM on July 22, 2006

The best "dealing with fundies" story I have ever, ever read was a rather famous one from a New York girl's LiveJournal. Alas, the original site seems to no longer be online, but a reprint of the text is here.

Jazz hands!
posted by Asparagirl at 5:59 PM on July 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

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