This all started several years ago, when I was still living at home. I was around 15 or 16 years old at the time. I was like most guys, really. I kept myself busy with a healthy dose of cable TV, violent video games, and of course, my secret collection of porn. Most was on my computer, of course, hidden in a directory I knew no one would ever find. Well, as it turns out, someone did find it. My mom of all people.
Most moms would be upset. Maybe embarrassed, angry, worried, whatever. Some moms might say something, some maybe not. But not my mom. She isn’t like most people you meet.
She’s a saint. Well, at least, that’s what she’d have you believe—and most of our church did. She was the woman who always prayed, who was always available for spiritual advice, who never missed a Sunday at church. She volunteered at the church. She baked food to help raise money for the church. She even wrote “get well soon” cards when people didn’t show up every week. She assumed they were sick. Why else would they miss church service?
I love my mom. Always did, always will. But you see, the thing with my mom is, she’s nuts. Really. She’s a religious nut. A religious zealot, you might even say. Her entire world was wrapped around her church and religious community. And when it came to conservative beliefs and attitudes, she was the epitome of it.
For example, I wasn’t allowed to watch MTV—ever. But the list of banned television didn’t stop there. You know that show “Mad About You” with Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser? Couldn’t watch that. They talked about sex too much. And “Friends”? Forget it.
Or take “The Simpsons” for example. My mom didn’t like how Bart talked back to his parents, and was afraid he’d be a bad influence on me. So that was banned.
As was “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Why? It was too “occultic” as my mom would say. It worshiped and glorified the devil, she claimed.
This, of course, also eliminated shows like “The X-Files” and “Beavis and Butthead” (although I don’t think I missed much with the latter).
Pretty much the only thing I could watch were shows like “Family Matters” and “Full House” and (naturally) “Touched By An Angel.”
Pretty sad, huh?
It gets worse.
Certain music was banned from the house, too. Well, pretty much all music, unless it was religious.
You get the picture. Life sucked growing up. I never fit in. I could never keep up with popular culture. My classmates made fun of me. I was always one step behind everybody else. I couldn’t keep up. I hated it.
To make matters worse, my parents were both cheapskates too. (I know, this is getting hard to believe. But, sadly, this is all true.) So my clothes were always out of fashion, and usually bought from Target or Wal-Mart. Not that those aren’t cool stores. But once in a while I’d like to “fit in” and wear the brand name clothes everybody else was wearing.
As you might’ve guessed, my family was pretty controlling. Usually religion was used as the source of power. For instance, if I didn’t do what they said, then I was disrespecting their God-given place of authority over me. Which meant, of course, I was disrespecting God. Which meant, of course, I might go to Hell.
Growing up, you never question your parents’ beliefs. You just sort of accept them as absolute truth. But somewhere in your teen years, you start to think for yourself. At least, that’s what happened to me…
I started asking a lot of questions. Questions like, “why do we believe what we believe?” and “how do we know it’s true?”
These were not questions my mom wanted to hear.
To my first question, she answered, “Because it’s true.” To my second question, she said, “Because my experience proves it.”
Ah yes, I said. But that’s what every other person in every other religion says and believes. What made our religion so special?
She couldn’t answer it. She instead got angry with me. Accused me of having a demon of “anti-church.” This was not a fun time in my life.
And this was the same time in my life when she discovered my secret digital porn stash.
I may have been greatly sheltered, but once I had a computer in my room, suddenly a whole new world of opportunity opened for me. Finally, at last, I could see what else was out there besides “holy, reverend” music. Finally I could see the actual naked female body in all its beauty—and save it for later viewing whenever I wanted.
There’s a problem with repression. It only makes things worse. Some people will EXPLODE if they’ve been repressed for too long. Considering the circumstances, I think I did pretty well for only downloading a few pirated songs and saving a couple megabytes of naked pictures.
My mom didn’t see it that way. She thought I had been seduced by the devil and that my immortal soul had been eternally corrupted. Immediately she took me to our church’s priest and forced me to tell him the “horrible sin” I had committed. I was to beg for forgiveness, hoping God would wipe my soul clean.
Admittedly, the priest guy was actually pretty cool. He said that pornography and lust was a sin, but just about everybody did it now and then. He said it was normal for a boy my age to be interested in sex and the female body. He said it was normal for me to be masturbating too (another sin my mom somehow found out about and forced me to reveal). He told me not to be too hard on myself. Know that God still loves me. And that if I’m sorry for my sins, God will indeed forgive me and “wipe my soul clean.”
My mom picked me up from church a while later. She asked how it went and if God was going to forgive me.
Had I been smart, I would have said something like, “I pleaded for forgiveness, begging God to cleanse my soul. I promised to never, ever do it again, and the priest said that if I did, God might forgive me.” That would’ve been what she wanted to hear. That I was truly sorry (more like, feeling guilty) and would never do it again.
Instead I told her the truth. What the priest told me. That it was normal and okay, as long as I didn’t become obsessive about it.
Well, that didn’t go over too well with her. She lectured me the whole car ride back. I thought it would never end.
We always ate dinner as a family, although my dad never said much. That night was especially quiet at dinner.
Less than a week later, my mom came bursting into my room without knocking. I was on the computer, but fortunately I was actually doing homework at the moment.
Then she told me that she had done a lot of praying about it, and she heard God tell her what to do about the situation.
What situation? I had already forgotten about the whole thing by then.
She felt that God told her to send me to a special religious boarding school. I had heard of this school before. They were ultra-conservative and ultra-strict in adhering to their religious doctrines. Mom had donated money to them in the past.
She had already called the school and arranged for me to enter in the next term. I was to finish up school here. Starting next semester, I’d be shipped 1200 miles away and spend the rest of my high school career at this religious institution.
It was already March at the time. That meant I only had a couple months left of “the real world,” attending a public school where free speech and independent thinking were at least tolerated.
Sadder still, I almost got a girlfriend at the end of that school year. She was very pretty as I recall. Cute smile and all. But I’d be moving later that summer…so nothing ever happened between the two of us.
* * *
Boarding school was worse than I imagined. Everything was regulated. If I thought I was controlled and sheltered at home, I had no idea how good I had it. At the school, I was told when to wake up, when to eat my meals, when to go to sleep. The dorm rooms were split across two buildings. Men in one, women in the other. No one of the opposite sex was allowed, at any time, to visit the other dorm unless supervised by one of the school’s staff.
Classes were a joke. They ignored all math and science that didn’t match up with their religious beliefs. They taught more superstition and religious “magick” than anything else.
And English classes were the worst! Guess what we had to read? Yup. Every religious book, every sacred scripture, every church doctrine—but only the ones accepted by this religion. As for fiction and other literary classics—they were considered too “worldly” and “profane” to be read by such upstanding religious students as ourselves.
Let’s not forget the uniforms either. Could they have designed them to be any uglier? Red and black plaid. Those were the school colors. Those were the uniforms. Every guy wore a red shirt, black slacks, plaid tie, brown or black shoes, and a belt. Every girl wore a red or white shirt with a plaid skirt, not to be more than two inches above the knee. It was like being in prison, only worse, because no one was having sex!
For the first semester I shared a room with one other guy. But he later attempted suicide and they relocated him under psychiatric care. For a couple weeks I had the room all to myself. I used this prized privacy time to jack off, sleep naked, and other things like that. And that was about it. Anyway, one day a new student was placed in my room. His name was Jason. He wasn’t like the others.
Most of the others either fell into one of two categories. Either they were just as religiously insane and hard-core as this school…or they were a little more level-headed, and just trying to get through and survive their last few years of high school.
But not Jason. I couldn’t place him in either category.
He certainly wasn’t a religious zealot. In fact, it took months before I had a clue as to if he believed in anything at all! But he wasn’t in “survivor mode” either. Somehow he didn’t let this place affect him. He got up, went to class, did his homework, and then forgot about it all. Nothing seemed to phase him.
So late one night, when we were supposed to be sleeping, I decided to ask him something.
“Hey Jason, you still up?”
“Yes,” he said quietly from his pillow.
“Can I ask you something?”
I guess he could tell by the tone of my voice it was something important to me. So he sighed, sat up, and rubbed his eyes. “Sure man, what is it?”
“Sorry,” I said, not wanting to disturb him.
“It’s okay. I’m up. So what’s on your mind?”
“I was wondering…how do you do it?”
“Do what?” he asked.
“Not let this place bother you? It’s like you don’t even care.”
“I care,” he replied. “Just not about the same things they do.”
“Right. You’re not cold or heartless or anything.” I certainly didn’t meant to imply that. “What I mean is, how do you put up with all this ultra-conservative, religious dogma-forcing teaching?”
He smiled and said nothing for a moment. I think he wanted to make sure I was paying attention. Really paying attention. “You know how I do it?” he asked me. “I just remind myself that there’s more out there than what they tell us. That a whole world exists outside this religion. It’s not the only set of beliefs you can have.”
“I know that.”
“Yes, but do you know that?” he asked me. “There’s a difference between knowing and knowing. One’s in your head. The other’s in your heart.”
“I see,” I muttered quietly.
“There’s a lot of religions out there. This isn’t the only choice. And despite what they may want you to believe, the majority of people on this planet believe in something else.”
“Yeah, but they’re all going to Hell…”
“Says who?” he quickly replied to me.
He laughed. “So only members make it into Heaven?”
“Well…yes, I guess.”
“Why?” he asked me.
Suddenly I realized the golden opportunity I had here. These were exactly the kinds of questions I wanted to—and needed to—ask. Except my parents wouldn’t tolerate such blasphemy. Now, for once in my life, I had a chance to rationally explore these thoughts and questions with someone else. Someone who wouldn’t immediately judge me and condemn me just for questioning…
“I don’t know,” I finally said. “How do we know Heaven even exists?”
A big grin came to his face. “Now you’re talking.”
He laughed lightly. “So what about you. Do you believe there’s a Heaven?”
The words he spoke to me were very wise. “It doesn’t matter what I believe, man. Never base your beliefs from what someone else said or believed.” He paused to make sure I got it. “So you tell me. What do you believe?”
“I—I don’t know,” I said. I had never had the real opportunity to honestly explore these possibilities. “Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t.”
“And what about Hell? Or reincarnation? Or the possibility of no afterlife at all?” he challenged me.
“Gosh, I don’t know.” I fell silent. How could I know? I only knew what others taught me to believe. How was I supposed to figure it out by myself? “What about you?” I asked him. “Can you answer those questions?”
“I have my own answers, yes.”
“How did you find them?” I was really anxious to know this.
“I started looking.”
Yeah, but… “How?”
He yawned. He was obviously getting tired. “How would you start looking, my friend?”
I had no response.
He helped me out a bit. “Some people read books, or talk to other people, or visit other churches and religions. Some people might read the sacred scriptures from every major religion. Some might go to college and get a degree in religious studies. Others look within themselves for the answer. And those aren’t the only possibilities.”
“I see.” I was speechless. What should I say, what should I do? I had a lot to think about. “Thank you,” I finally said to him.
He laid back down and turned over. “No problem. Anytime.”
I laid awake in my bed for most of the night, staring at the ceiling. I couldn’t sleep if I wanted to.
Download the PDF eBook directly to your computer now:
56 pages | Read Free Sample
Also Bundled In: