The Shock Collar of Christianity, by Joe

David, here are my thoughts as someone only 3 years removed from ministry and deconversion. I will use a metaphor. One day as I was on my job, a man was noticing the work I was doing on his neighbor's property. He wanted me to come over and talk to him which I did. In the course of our conversation I noticed he had this beautiful black lab named, "Bogey." I tried to get Bogey to come to me but he wouldn't. His tongue and tail were wagging furiously. He wanted to come to me, but he couldn't. His owner predictably said, "I have an electric fence," but followed with this zinger, "But his shock collar is NOT on."

This was a moment of enlightenment for me. Bogey could have come to me without being physically shocked. But all the time spent with the shock collar on had done its work. His mind didn't know the difference. The fear, threat, and pain conditioning effectively kept Bogey within the boundaries someone else had set for him. What began as a literal, physical boundary transformed into an imaginary one that was just as confining.

Bogey illustrates myself and many Christians. From the moment of our births, the tight shock collar of Christianity was placed upon us. Tight boundaries were placed all around us with 1000 threats warning us what would happen if we crossed the line. Threats such as be shunned, separated from, disowned, divine chastening in countless forms, being forever labeled an apostate, and of course the omnipresent threat of being "justly" barbecued for 100 trillion years cycle after 100 trillion year cycle in a lake of fire with no food, water, love, or hope. How nice.

The voltage of this collar system was increased every week of our lives through Sunday School, Awana, Youth Group, Revival services, and Sunday morning and evening worship. Many of us went on to attend Christian Bible College where we went to chapel 2-4 times a week and heard devotionals at every event imaginable. All of these sermons contained "applications" which were nothing more than new legislation laced with more threats for disobedience. Over the course of a lifetime, the Christian "conscience" is saddled with hundreds and hundreds (perhaps thousands) of rules and sub-rules all carrying threats of punishment for falling short of perfect obedience. Needless to say, it doesn't take long for the Christian shock collar to become completely central and all-controlling in the minds of those living in its yard.

My point is basic: most Christians are defending their faith due to this conditioning process and more out of the threat of emotional pain than intellectual persuasion. Most Christians have never known life without the shock collar and actually find tremendous comfort in the "Christian Yard" someone else has set up for them. Like most humans, they are happy with their level of slavery. If you stay in the yard and keep the rules, there is community within the yard. There is joy. There is structure. There is love - as long as you do what they say. After being born and raised in this yard, you don't want to hear that your loving Dad and Mom and Pastors are wrong. You don't want to hear that the entire idea of your Christian yard is wrong. Everybody in all the other yards are wrong. Not our yard.

Right or wrong, I'm just making a case to have mercy on Christians. Ingersoll said it best when he stated, "I most cheerfully admit that most Christians are honest, and most ministers sincere. We do not attack them; we attack their creed." The vast majority of Christians are not bad people, they are just enslaved a fashion similar to a black lab I met a year ago. It is has only been three years for me and I am enjoying vastly greater levels of personal freedom. But make no mistake, even though I am free of the shock collar of Christianity, my mind doesn't always know it. Its still waiting to get shocked. Slowly and surely, I have wandered beyond the Christian yard that was designed for me and I am finding that life is pretty exciting outside its invisible fence!