In the sect that I was in until age 33, no questions were allowed to be asked that might threaten the tight religious control or their very narrow worldview. People of true and secure faith are not afraid of questions. But they were afraid. I was a naturally inquisitive and deep-thinking child. A true introvert. I had existential crisies – that was the type of anxious child I was. Therefore in this environment I grew more and more anxious and isolated because no adult would answer my questions, and they shamed me for even thinking them. I know now that the adults were afraid of my questions because they could not answer them or dare face their own doubts. Though they never admitted that they did not have answers. Some of the questions I had the courage to re-ask at about age 35, once I had left the control and the system of fear. Even then I didn’t get answers or an open dialogue. No conversation allowed.
Some examples of questions I would ask:
Where is heaven?
Why can we not adopt children from outside the sect? Why do you say that they are the devil’s children?
Why are we on this earth? What is the point of life?
How can Jesus hear me pray?
What will God do with hermaphrodites, who have both sexual organs? Will they burn in hell if they choose to be the sex that God didn’t intend?
If we will be in heaven with other Christians, then why cannot we socialize with them now?
Why does God only answer the prayers of the 1000 people in our particular group?
What about the books that never made it into the Bible?
Why can I not attend religious studies class at school? Why do I have to sit outside the classroom?
Why can I not attend the large school gatherings where a visiting pastor will say the Lord’s prayer? The other children in my class make fun of me for not believing in God, but I tell them that I do believe in God – which is why I cannot hear the Lord’s prayer being spoken by a pastor who doesn’t belong to my church. (I was very very confused about this one!)
If you think all Muslims will burn in the lake of fire eternally then why do you not attempt to evangelise to those Muslims you know? Do you not care that they will be tormented eternally?
Why would God, who is in essence love, create humans who he knows beforehand will spend eternity in hell? Why doesn’t he just stop them being born?
How do I know Christianity is true? What evidence is there?
I understand that many adults don’t have all the answers to these questions – I don’t either – but it was their reaction that was shaming. I was “bad” for asking. I was “bad” for having a mind of my own, for thinking critically. They didn’t say “oh, I’m not really sure” and discuss various options and answers, they blushed, and scoffed, and grunted, and left the room.
I lived with a deep shame until my late thirties because I thought there was something wrong with me for asking these questions. I had existential depression. I didn’t want to be alive. I was “bad”. Something was gravely wrong with me. I learned to be quiet and not ask questions. To follow blindly and to conform in silence.
About 6 months after I left the sect I had the courage to turn on the Christian radio station in our city (radio was Satan’s tool) and there was somebody doing a talk show from a Christian university who said that it is normal for people in their teens and twenties to question the faith of their parents and ask questions. He said they have counselors to help with this and to walk through all kinds of questions. I was driving on the highway at the time and almost swerved my vehicle in shock, and disbelief, and relief – I wasn’t a monster after all! A huge weight lifted from my shoulders. The lie that I was deeply defective started to subside. Often the parents’ shame and fear become the child’s and so the cycle continues. What a waste.
Why would God give us minds that are capable of thinking and reasoning if we are supposed to be “robots” who follow blindly and take everything at face value? Even when it goes against our God-given conscience? In fact, I think that doubt is a healthy part of faith – and can very often lead us into a deeper and more genuine faith. Actually, it was my keen and analytical mind that got me out of the sect – while all of my family members remain in – their refusal to entertain my questions didn’t work in the long run! I’m free!