This summer I took a Creative Writing course. It will come to no one's surprise that I wrote a rather atheistic short story as a part of my final. My college writing career is getting to be a little one-note, but at least I'm getting it out of my system, right? Anyway, here it is, in all its self-published glory.
Child abuse. Defining what it is and what it is not is a tricky thing nowadays. But it always comes back to a single dynamic—the one between the child and an authority figure. It’s my job as a Deprogrammer to determine on a case-by-case basis the extent of the damage—of a type referred to as iatrogenesis in our business—and whether the State has the right to interfere in such a relationship. And if I determine that it does, I deprogram.
It’s an audacious position to accept in society, and requires no small amount of intelligence, self-righteousness, and tact. It’s a relatively new branch of social services, and practitioners are paid according to its importance in the survival of our society. Let me put it this way: I make more money doing this than any thirty of the highest paid social services employees made all together fifty years ago. In other words, I only make slightly less than teachers do.
“Mr. Jacobs, do you understand why your son was taken into protective custody?”
“Yes, I understand your reasons.”
“Mr. Jacobs, your son has been routinely abused. He’s terrified, and he may need years of therapy. We’ve brought you here to determine if you were the one responsible. I’m here to help you and your son.”
“Is it abuse to teach a child the discipline and values of his father? Is it a sin to teach my own child right from wrong? I understand the law, but I also know that the bond between a father and his son is sacrosanct and that interference by the law of man goes against the laws of God. I have the right of a father to raise my child as I see fit, to make him see the world for what it is and to prepare him for the horrors that are coming.”
“Perhaps that’s true, Mr. Jacobs. But you’ll forgive me if, from the outside, it looks like a simple case of abuse. Doesn’t the right of a father to raise his child include the rights of the child? In the old days people beat their children black and blue in the name of discipline and ‘raising them right.’ We have found better ways.”
“Perhaps, perhaps not. In any case, I do not beat my child black and blue, Miss Taylor.”
So, you see what we’re up against. It isn’t easy, regardless of the fact that society has largely come out against this type of cult behavior. The saddest part in all this is of course that Mr. Jacobs is not simply an abusive parent. If it were that simple then our jobs would involve a lot less self-recrimination and stress. No, the fact is that Mr. Jacobs is himself a victim. What he did to his son Reuben is only what was done to him first by his parents, and if we had been unsuccessful at deprogramming Reuben then he would most likely have gone on and passed the same abuse on to his children. This is how this particular meme operates, of course. Children are hard-wired by evolution to unquestioningly believe whatever an established, trusted authority figure tells them—and to thus meekly accept whatever harm is done to them—because they haven’t yet developed their full capacity for reasoning. It is because of this that deprogramming children is so difficult. But it’s our duty to break this chain, for the good of society. We are in conflict not with individuals or their bizarre ideologies per se, but with a potent mind virus that has held humanity in its grip for far too long.
“John, please tell me why you’ve stopped caring about your education. Your transcript says that once you were a fairly decent student with a good mind. What happened?”
“It’s all so pointless. School, I mean. What difference does it make if I do well in class?”
“What do you mean, John? A good education is the best way to understand the world we live in, and it enables us not only to succeed, but to make a difference in life.”
“We’re all gonna die anyway. I could die tomorrow. We could all die tomorrow! Judge’s Day will be here soon enough! All that matters is living life according to the Hallows, only people who do that are gonna have a life to look forward to anyway.”
“All that science and junk, it’s crap! I mean, it’s fine for what it is. I like watching holos and thank God for the Pont Tubes. But all that crap about climate change and overpopulation; it’s just signs of the end. It’s arrogant to think that anybody can change the plan. And don’t get me started on all these dupes who actually believe that the Universe ‘evolved’ from some primal multiverse somewhere. It’s so obvious, man, ‘Uni’ means one! People who fall for those lies are gonna be sorry. That’s why I don’t care about my grades; all that matters is avoiding the traps, and honoring the Judge of the Quick and the Dead!”
“John, what would be so awful about Universal Evolution, if it were true? What are you afraid of?”
Once we got John to open up about the specific reasoning behind his behavior, we were eventually able to help him see why his beliefs were detrimental to his own well-being, but that’s not always the situation. As in the case of Mr. Jacobs, many people who reach mid- to late adulthood infected with these destructive ideas are nearly impossible to deprogram. They have held on to them for too long and invested too much of their time and energy to allow themselves to be convinced that their entire lives may have been based on a cult-induced misconception.
“Reuben, have you ever heard of the theory of Universal Evolution? The Multiverse?”
“Hmm. Let’s go a bit further back. Are you familiar with the general theory of Evolution? Natural Selection?”
“Oh yeah, that’s the one that if you learn it, it will kill your soul and the Judge of the Quick and the Dead will spit you out on Judge’s Day.”
“I… H-how about the age of the Earth? Do you know how long our planet has been in existence?”
“Well, Dad says that some people think it’s only six or seven thousand years old, but that’s silly.”
“Well, that’s certainly true at least. How old does your father say it really is?”
“He doesn’t know for sure because it’s impossible for people to know something like that, but that it doesn’t matter ‘cause we’ll find out all the real answers in Heaven anyway.”
“But… Reuben, according to your family’s beliefs, you will have to… what is it…? ‘Die the hallowed death.’ You will have to die the hallowed death here on Earth to go to Heaven. What good will those answers do you then?”
For those of you who decide to stay with it and devote your lives and careers to the cause of Deprogramming, these case studies and others—including the actual deprogramming sessions—will be examined further in future classes. The methods for repairing the mind of a very young child are at the heart of what we do and will be better understood after you’ve received some basic training. We will delve further into the point-by-point methods of dealing with every mental roadblock you will come across as a professional Deprogrammer.
The difference which I mentioned earlier—the one between childhood indoctrination and Deprogramming—is that as you’ve just seen in Reuben’s case he was sheltered from a proper education by his family, which is a large part of the disturbing framework of what child abuse really is. He was denied the chance to form his own reasonable conclusions grounded in evidence-based knowledge by being pre-programmed with an unprovable and frankly quite primitive belief system which he most likely would have been unable to break free from later in life and additionally, as we saw with John, would have made him incapable of accepting any contradicting information, no matter how factual.
Deprogramming, on the other hand, is the careful breaking down of this mental barrier. That is all we do. Despite some of the media paranoia we’ve weathered, we don’t actually replace old ideas with new ones, their beliefs for ours. We simply make sure that they know they can safely evaluate conflicting ideas without fear of some sort of divine retribution and then provide them with the impartial tools they need in order to do so. In the meantime, however, you can see from what I have shown you the damage that can be caused by indoctrinating a child with a debilitating fear of the afterlife.
Once the idea of an eternity of unimaginable torture and suffering is planted in a young, impressionable mind, it is very difficult to overcome that fear enough to become a fully functioning, mentally healthy human being. Now, if you try to instill this fear in a relatively normal, educated adult who has never before encountered the idea of a hellacious afterlife, he will engage his critical mind—which he will have become well accustomed to using in the weighing of evidence against various claims—and most likely come to the conclusion that it’s an irrational doctrine without a single fact to support any of its assertions, and he will dismiss it out of hand. Most of you here know exactly what I’m talking about. However, the point here is informed consent. If as an adult you were confronted with this particular brand of belief, and you still decided that the idea had merit and you converted your worldview to this outlook, you would be well within your rights to retain your beliefs in that case. But you would not have the right to abuse a child with this idea, not even your own.
But as we now know, the concept of Hell was invented solely as a way to violently coerce impressionable young minds into adopting a pre-determined viewpoint—usually a particular interpretation of a particular religious doctrine—and as such constitutes mental and emotional abuse of the worst sort. I’ve casted a document for you all to read which will help to understand the utter depravity of such a worldview. It’s an annotated copy of one of those doctrines that used to be a publicly endorsed book of acceptable moral behavior, and which was used as an excuse to terrorize children for generations. Now, if you will all please search and open the section titled ‘Exodus,’ chapter 20, verse 5.
So it's not so much a short story as it is a monologue, but hey, it got me the grade. In any case, before you start to worry that I'm in favor of some sort of Orwellian Nightmare where children are taken away from their families for the crime of Religion, well, actually I see why you might think that. But I got the idea for the story from this news item that appeared at the time my class was starting, and I thought it might be fun to write a little Spec-fi about what such an unlikely future society would be like. If religion were to become considered a mental illness, how would it be dealt with? There are no easy answers to the problem of religion.