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Toxic religious organisations

By Kamogelo More, 20, Gauteng

When I was elected as the Learner Representative Council president (still a proud moment for me), I knew that it would not be an accomplishment I could share with my friends from church, who I was very close to at the time – so I did not. I was becoming well-known at school and my fellow learners called me ‘president’. I can recall one day on a Sunday afternoon after church, one of my school mates shouted ‘president’ while I was walking with my church friend. 

We were always discouraged from partaking in outside church activities, and of course, certain bible chapters were used to validate this. Parents were also encouraged to discourage their children from partaking in outside church activities. These activities might have been sports, speech contests, leadership camps, and being friends with children who are not part of my former faith. I believe this effort was done to keep us indoctrinated. Books that were not of the church were discouraged. I can recall vividly the fear that was used to keep us in the religion. Imagine being a child and not being able to partake in these activities because you might just stumble upon ungodly people also known as a ‘worldly’ person who might influence you. I believe this is how religious cults condition their followers, they make them believe that their self-worth is tied to how much they dedicate themselves and time to churches, that there is no life worth pursuing outside the church. That’s why people give up so much. They give up careers to serve the church, they give-up large amounts of money and so much more just to show their dedication to God, as they have been taught by the religious organisation.

I started reading self-help books and leadership books and I started to deviate from the church. I was less and less active. I stopped preaching to people, because as a person who values honesty, how could I continue preaching and trying to convert people to a way of life that I didn’t even believe in? I was confused as to how my needs and interests could be wrong. I just could not understand why my life had to revolve around church. My career would be determined by what my religion accepted and not what I necessarily believe in, and I had a problem with that. How could God give me a brain but not allow me to use it? If I choose relationships with friends or even partners, they had to be from the church, I found that absurd. How limiting to the person I knew I could become. I always knew I wanted to further my studies and even get a Ph.D., but that too was discouraged, because one had to spend time on godly matters preaching or whatever that had to do with the church.

I am glad that I escaped that cult. I believe that not living in one’s truest self causes sickness in humans. I believe that I matter and my needs matter and even my dreams. I now know that it’s okay to live a life dedicated to myself and not someone’s definition of God. The God I believe in now, wants me to reach my fullest potential here on earth, and not work towards being Jesus (well, we can learn from his characteristics, both as believers and non-believers). I feel now that my imperfections are allowed and I am still worthy whether or not I pray ten times a day or not. 

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1 response on this

  1. Lusanda Molefe May 10, 2021 2:30 pm

    These religious talks are always to some extent controversial. In fact, I felt my heart beating so fast as I was reading through this because of my own personal version of God. But I must say, this is powerful.

    Reply

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