On Becoming A Woman Chapter 19

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Chapter 19

What Of Religion

Every person has a philosophy of his own. Even those who claim they are not religious have their ideas of the relation of the human race to the universe.

I don’t actually think much about my “relation to the rest of the universe.” I guess if I did think about it I’d think that we were just tiny specks on a planet the size of a period at the end of a sentence.

Atheists, who claim there is no God, make a sort of religion of their atheism and build their personal philosophies around their atheistic theories.

My atheistic what?

Notice how the author doesn’t say “Atheists don’t believe in God.” He says “atheists claim there is no God.” It may sound nitpicky at first, but words mean things. “Atheists don’t believe in God” and “Atheists claim there isn’t a God” are two different sentences. The latter kind of implies that the speaker doesn’t think atheists actually believe there is no God. They just refuse to acknowledge his obvious existence.

This chapter is very long. I think it may even be the longest chapter in the book. I’ll try to keep this post fairly short and summarize, but it’s a bit difficult.

When a person enters their teens, they start noticing the religion of others. They notice that people who believe differently than they do believe with the same sincerity that Christians believe in their God. The teenager looks around, scratches his head, and thinks, “huh. What am I going to believe?”

When we are children, our parents are responsible for our physical, emotional, and spiritual welfare. When we grow up, however, we become responsible for our own well being.

When he reaches 21 years of age he has to make a decision on how he will vote.

Interesting. I thought the voting age got lowered in the early to mid 60s. A quick google search tells me it was actually 1971.

I learn something new every day.

His parents might have been Democrats or Republicans, but once he enters the polling booth and the curtain closes behind him, it is he alone who decides how to vote. He may have been influenced by his parents, but they do not go with him at the time he marks the ballot.

No, but if you brainwashed your child properly, he’ll vote correctly. Note the pronoun “he.” I wonder if this chapter is another that was copied exactly over from OBAM. Usually this book uses feminine pronouns. We’ll get to it when we do the rest of OBAM, which we will get to, I promise. Some day. Eventually.

Anyway, just like voting, when he reaches adulthood, a person must make his own decision about his relationship with “his creator.”

Note that the author here is assuming that a teen even believes he has a creator. He doesn’t say that the teen must decide which God to follow (or not follow), just that he must make a decision about his relationship to the god that Shryock believes in.

This choice of a religious philosophy is the most important decision that the individual will ever make. It determines, in large measure, the degree of happiness he will enjoy in the present life. And, inasmuch as it pertains to eternal values, it also determines his welfare for the life to come.

But hey, no pressure or anything.

I will say that I am a lot happier now that I’m an atheist than I was when I was a Christian. However, it was nowhere near the most important decision I ever made. The person who reads and believes these words is going to get a very skewed perspective on life.

In the case of a young person who has been reared in a home where Christian ideals have been consistently taught and followed, the problem is not difficult.


Yes, it is very difficult. In fact, I would venture to say that choosing a religion is more difficult in a home where Christianity, especially Adventism, is the dominant way of thinking.

Reared in such a home, a young person has already had the opportunity to judge the effects of his parents’ religion.

Yes, but that doesn’t mean he is able to think critically about them. Adventism isn’t really known for producing critical thinkers.

I want to be careful here to note that I am not saying that people who have thought critically about Adventism wouldn’t be Adventists. That’s not the case with a lot of people I know. A lot of people have thought very long and hard about religion and still wound up Adventist. But the thing is, a lot of people don’t. A lot of people think they do but really don’t. It’s complicated. Just because someone was raised in a Christian home doesn’t mean it’s simple. And just because Christianity has produced loving parents (it often doesn’t, but set that aside) that doesn’t mean that Christianity is the truth.

If the effects of this religion have been to promote kindly understanding among the members of the family, to provide a spirit of forgiveness for mistakes, to emphasize the finer things of life, to develop a faith in the Lord’s kindly dealings with his human children, to point out the obligation of each human being to live in harmony with the divine commandments, and to inspire faith in the Biblical promises of an ideal hereafter for those who accept the provisions for victorious living–then surely he can find nothing better for his personal philosophy.

That was one helluva run-on sentence.

It’s also kind of a stupid argument for Christianity. Consider Muslim families. (You’d have to replace the word “Bible” with Koran (Qur’an?), but work with me.) I’d be willing to be good money that there are a lot of Muslim families out there who fit exactly this description. And yet the author would have an adult sized cow if such a teenager used that argument to become a Muslim. Replace the word “Muslim” with “Jew” and “Bible” with “Torah,” and you’d have the same thing.

I truly cannot believe anyone finds this argument convincing.

It gets better.

Practically the only danger confronting the young person who has grown up in such a home is that he may become carefree and allow himself to drift away from the religion he has learned.

Actually, I have a lot of sympathy for those who merely “drift away” from religion. It is usually the case, then, that those people still believe that Adventism has it right, and that they should be living up to SDA standards, but for whatever reason, they don’t. These people do not make up the majority of ex SDAs, but they do exist, and they are some of the saddest people I know. It is far better to make a conscious choice either to leave or to stay than to just let yourself drift. Ask me how I know.

The author knows people like this too. He’s going to tell us all about….I’m going to change his name to Harley, because I suspect the author is using real names here. Harley’s home was “almost perfect.”

He found himself attracted to interests outside the home. The glamour of worldly pleasures temporarily overshadowed the peace and security provided by the religion his parents had taught him. He did not lose faith in religion, but he allowed other interests to consume his time and energies….he participated in card playing, dancing, and using tobacco.

For a long time, I was like this too. I haven’t believed in Adventist ideals since I was 16, but I still believed that God was real and that the Bible was true. However, I swung wildly back and forth over whether or not I was going to follow Jesus and be a Christian. Knowing I should be, but not wanting to be. Not wanting to give up earrings for Jesus, but Still believing I should give up earrings for Jesus. And so these people have my utmost sympathy. Losing my faith was hard. Keeping it was even harder.

Harley, despite getting “the talk” from his parents and the pastor, knew he was going down the wrong path, but figured he’d come back to religion eventually.

Anyway, Harley met this non religious girl and they married.

Then came the 2nd world war, and Harley became a pilot in the air corps. He completed many dangerous missions and eventually received an honorable discharge. During the course of his service in the Air Corps his conscience had begun to trouble him and he longed for the peace of mind he had enjoyed when his religious experience had been active.

Well, of course. I mean, he never fully lost his faith in the first place, and then he went off to war. War does things to people, and I’d bet that there are a lot of soldiers out there who either do believe in a God or wish they could believe. War is terrible, and I can’t blame someone for wanting a higher power to turn to while he was on dangerous missions trying to stop the Nazis from committing mass genocide. In times of distress, I too wish there was a higher power I could cry out to.

After the war, however, Harley went right back to his old way of life without religion. He didn’t have the strength to follow his conscience.

Another example we will turn to is someone with a first and a last name. I’m deciding to call her “Natalie.” Natalie grew up in a Christian home, and had never really thought about her religion much, until she went to Academy. This story is familiar to me, Academy was when I started thinking about things, too. Anyway, Natalie was 16 and went off to Academy where she met a friend.

This other girl planted certain doubts in Natalie’s mind and kept telling her that religion was old fashioned and that “smart people” didn’t go in for church activities.

I think by “planting doubts” the author actually means “ridiculing.” They are two totally different things. Was Natalie’s friend merely telling her church was for stupid people, or was she informing her why the world couldn’t possibly be 6,000 years old by showing her books written by real scientists?

In any case, Natalie’s friend influenced her away from religion. Natalie’s conscience bothered her a bit, but she liked being a non Christian too much.

She became very much interested in current styles of clothing and modern interpretations of etiquette, popular music, and in other things that indicated she was “up to date” as measured by worldly standards.

I have no idea what the author means when he says “modern interpretations of etiquette.”

Adventists nowadays are a little more relaxed on this, but it used to be that Adventists would frown on wearing modern styles of clothing and listening to secular music. So to his audience, this paragraph is shocking, whereas someone more normal would be thinking, “ok? And?”

Natalie obtained a certain thrill from shocking people and from reciting her “modern” views,

Yeah, I’ll bet she did. Seriously, have you ever gone up to an Adventist wearing earrings, drinking coffee, and talked about how the bible doesn’t actually ban homosexuality? It’s kind of fun to watch the look on their faces as they can’t take their eyes off your coffee cup, and you can tell they’re just trying not to look at your face because then they’d have to see your piercings.

I have zero idea why the word modern is in scare quotes.

But this thrill was superficial and offered a poor substitute for the peace of mind that she had formerly enjoyed.

Adventism did not give me peace of mind. Believe me, I tried. Really tried, not fake tried, as so many have accused me of doing. In the end, I only found that Adventism gave me more things to worry about, and that being away from it helped me find peace of mind.

But then I read on and discover why Natalie truly didn’t have peace of mind.

She did not entirely forsake the high principles which she had learned at home…

If Natalie still believes it’s wrong to drink coffee, allowing herself to drink coffee is not going to give her peace of mind. Natalie must either stop drinking coffee, or discover for herself that it’s ok to drink it.

When one leaves Adventism, there can be no indifference. Therein lies madness.

And although she continued to be indifferent, she still chose most of her friends from among those of the same religion as her parents

That’s probably because Natalie doesn’t know how to make non SDA friends. For years after I’d mentally left Adventism, I continued to make SDA friends, because I needed friends, and I simply did not know how to interact with someone outside the cult.

Still haven’t completely figured it out, actually….

Anyway, Natalie got married and then there’s a few paragraphs about how her husband was more religious than she was. And this is why I still believe that when you marry, your spouse should be the same religion (or lack thereof) as you are, because otherwise you’re setting yourselves up for fights and conflicts.

Then tragedy came. Their little child became seriously ill and passed away.

Having a child die is no small thing. I don’t think the effect of having a child pass away can be underestimated. In cases like this I could see why a parent would turn to religion. Adventists may not believe that their dead child is in heaven, but they do believe they will see that dead child again, and I could absolutely see someone desperately clinging to that hope.

What I can’t understand is this:

Finally Natalie said, “Harry, I am convinced that the Lord permitted this tragedy to come to us for our own good. We have been coasting along without really recognizing His claim upon us. I now realize that it is all my fault. It goes back to the time when I was 16. I made a mistake in choosing my chum at boarding school, and in allowing her to lead me into attitudes that were contrary to what I knew to be right. What I have needed all this time is an active religious experience of my own.”

“The Lord allowed our child to die because I made a mistake when I was 16.” I have a very hard time understanding why your next words would be, “so let’s go back to church and start worshiping him.” I mean, that sounds like a really shitty god you’d want to stay away from.

I am truly sorry that their child passed away. But religion may not have made a difference. They could have been the most staunch Christians ever and their child still might have died. Religion doesn’t prevent you from getting sick and it certainly does not prevent your children from getting deathly ill.

Shryock describes Natalie’s and Harley’s homes as an ideal upbringing. Not all homes are like Harley’s and Natalie’s, however.

There are homes in which there is a profession of religion but in which the parents are inconsistent in living out the religion which they profess.

So, every single home, then. Because no place is perfect.

When his parents profess one kind of religion and practice another, it is quite natural for him to conclude that religion is a farce.

For a long time, this is what I thought was wrong with my parents. My dad believed in Adventism, yet he drank coffee, screamed and swore at me and called me worthless. I used to think his problem was that he wasn’t religious enough. Surely if he was more religious, he’d be a much kinder person.

The author gives us an example of Jerry, a boy who’s father was religious, yet in name only. Jerry decided that if all religion was like his father’s, he wasn’t having any of it.

Unfortunately, Jerry assumed that it was because of his religion that his father was cross and overbearing. Actually the trouble was that Mr. D— had never known the transforming influence of a genuine Christian experience. But Jerry failed to realize that the trouble was not with the father’s religion but with the father’s refusal to allow his religion to permeate his life.

Is…. is Jerry me? This was me at age 16. I read books like this and thought immediately of my father.

But you know what? My father’s religion feeds his anger. My father’s religion feeds his hair-trigger temper. If you take religion away, my father probably wouldn’t be a kinder person. But he might be willing to consider that he has a problem he should seek professional help for. And he might be way more accepting of people with different sexual orientations and gender identities. He might love me.

In any case, Jerry went to the army and got captured and put into a prisoner of war camp. All of this gave Jerry time to think, and he decided to to go back to his parents’ religion.

This just shows how uncritically Jerry thought about religion. We are told that in the POW camp he had time to think, and yet, it seems here that Jerry returned to the religion of his parents because he was bouncing back to what he knew. He doesn’t seem to have compared and contrasted different religions and decided to try them all out. Nope, just “I’m going to be SDA again.”

Some young people come from homes in which there is no religious profession. They do not even know as much about the meaning of religion as Jerry knew.

In the United States of America in the 1960s? I doubt it. Even in atheist homes people would have known the basics of the Christian religion. Even in the 21st century children have very little choice about this. In the 1960s I imagine Christianity was much more pervasive in the culture.

Such a young person is entirely on his own when it comes to formulating an adequate philosophy of life, and has only his experience as a guide.

Seriously? Children of non religious parents get zero help from said parents on forming a philosophy on life? Does he think non religious parents are all assholes who don’t talk to their children?

Then the author goes on to talk about teenagers who converted to Adventism, as well as teenagers who converted their friends to Adventism. It’s a very long tangent. He gives examples.

I’m not going to get into all of them, and I’m absolutely not going to get into them in the depth that the author feels is necessary. It’s just showing examples, basically, of the various ways people come to Christ.

We have “Edward” who’s father was an alcoholic, so he went to live with his aunt and uncle, who put him in a church school. Edward grows up to be a minister, and the story ends with Edward’s brother being puzzled over Edward’s being happier than anyone else he knows.

Then we have the story of “Jamie,” who has a religious mother and a non religious father.  Jamie couldn’t make up her mind what she wanted to be, so she decided to postpone making a decision.

The decisions to postpone is equivalent to deciding against religion.

Adventists have this very black and white way of looking at things. If you don’t decide for them, that is an automatic decision against them.  There can be no “live and let live.” You either are an Adventist, or you are against Adventists.

Right after this sentence, we get this:

We are built in such a way that some decisions have to be made when they have to be made.

What do you guys think? Is the author wrong or is he right? Discuss.

Jamie’s story ends with the phrase,

Consequently, the time never came when she was willing to decide in favor of religion.

Ok, but did the time come when she made a decision against it? Did she just never decide? Hope you weren’t curious, because we don’t get to know.

Then we get to read about Robert. Robert came from a home similar to Jamie’s, but he had “the courage” to decide to be religious.

This chapter is long, and I’m not sure what the point is. I get that Shryock assumes his readers will be Adventists, but why does he assume they will be from Adventist families? By the time one hits one’s teens, lots of Adventists are converts. If this chapter was meant to help an Adventist teenager develop his religious philosophy, the chapter fails spectacularly.

If this chapter was meant to show how witnessing to your friends could work, it sorta kinda doesn’t fail.

I’m honestly not really sure why we just went on all those really long really unnecessary really boring tangents.

In the middle of these tangents, he says something potentially useful.

Sometimes a young person says, “I just don’t feel religious. I have no desire to be bad, but I am naturally not emotional.”

Actually, however, genuine religion is not based on emotions. It is based on convictions….

Yeah, I would agree. There are lots of people of lots of different religions out there, and I’m sure that not all of them feel emotional about their religion. That doesn’t mean their religion is unimportant to them, mind you.

Often the Lord permits some shocking experience to come into a young person’s life simply to bring him to his senses, as it were, and to impress with him with his need of God. This was the case with Natalie, and it is also the case with Justin Smith.

Justin never really had time for religion, because he was interested in motorcycles and automobiles. God this book is dated. Who calls them “automobiles” anymore?

Anyway John let his friend borrow his motorcycle. This friend swerved to avoid a car, crashed the motorcycle and died. Naturally, this messed with John’s mind quite a bit. Only, not in the way that I expected.

This circumstance brought a total change in Justin Smith’s life. He seemed to recognize that in the experience the Lord had a personal message for him. He kept asking himself the question, “why is it that I have been spared and my friend has been permitted to die?” This question finally forced him to the conclusion that his friend was ready to die and that the Lord had spared his own life for a purpose.

Does this passage ever not scare the shit out of Christians? I feel like if I was a staunch Christian reading this, who loved the Lord, I’d be terrified the Lord was going to kill me just so he could make me an object lesson.

But set that aside. Justin Smith is torn up because his friend died. That is normal. It is perfectly normal for him to wonder if his friend died because he borrowed the motorcycle. It is perfectly normal for Justin to maybe feel a little guilty (even though it wasn’t his fault, it’s still a human reaction.) But I’m not really seeing the logic leap from “My friend would still be alive if I hadn’t loaned him my motorcycle” to “I would have died if I’d been driving that motorcycle.”

It’s not like it’s a 100% sure thing that Justin would have died if Justin was driving the motorcycle. Perhaps Justin wouldn’t have needed to swerve to avoid that car. Perhaps he would have missed meeting the car entirely because he drove a different route, or needed to stop off at a gas station, or maybe he drove a bit faster or slower and so avoided ever meeting that car.

I mean, there are eleventy bajillion different ways this all could have gone. So I’m not really sure where the logic leap is coming from.

In any case, all this lead to Justin surrendering his entire life to God. Instead of living for himself, he began to direct his energies into helping others.

And, as is always the case, John found greater satisfaction in spending his energies this way than he had by startling people with his daring exploits.

No, that is not always the case. When I was a Christian, I read things like this, and I did things for others and I did things for others and I did things for others…. and eventually I realized that I was miserable, because nothing I did was ever for me. I do believe in helping other people, but I also believe in helping yourself. Because sometimes there’s more satisfaction in that.

The author then goes on to talk about how lovely it is to serve others, especially since it could lead people to Christ. He gives examples. This one woman was impressed to try and witness to her uncle, who was a vulgar man who hated religion, drank, swore, and, bla bla bla. So the young woman invites him to church meetings, and he goes along to be polite. So this lady, who’s name isn’t mentioned, does this every single night of the meetings.

Potential converts out there, listen up: do not go to a meeting with an Adventist just to be polite. They will manage to rope you into going every night. Be rude if you have to, say no.

In any case, by the end of the meetings, Uncle was going of his own accord, and when there was an altar call he gave his life to God.

This experience wasn’t just good for Uncle, it was good for his niece. Bringing her uncle to Christ brought her a lot of joy, and she decided to dedicate her life to witnessing to others.

I’ve often wondered about this joy that comes from bringing someone to Christ. I have to admit, I’ve never experienced it. I’ve come close a few times, but I never did manage to convert anybody.

Good. Gives me less guilt to feel now.

In any case, another story illustrating the same thing is the story of Brock. Brock wanted to join the church choir, but there weren’t enough people to have a choir, so Brock invited some boys from school to join. The boys enjoyed the singing, and it took them a while, but eventually they grew to enjoy the preaching as well. One of these boys decided to join the church. All because Brock invited them to be part of the church choir.

Now that we are done with the tangents and case stories, we are getting to the meat of the matter, why the reader should choose Christianity.

The young person who chooses to build his personal philosophy around an active Christian experience has many advantages over one who remains indifferent.

Like constantly feeling like sky-daddy is watching you, being frustrated sexually, and feeling guilty all the time because almost everything you enjoy is somehow sinful?

According to Shryock, Here are the advantages of living a Christian life:

  1. Christianity provides a proper means for the forgiveness of a mistake. When a christian makes a mistake the Bible tells him how to correct this mistake and how to pray [for forgiveness].

Because non Christians have NO IDEA how to forgive someone. Non Christians have NO IDEA how to make things right when they make a mistake.

It’s no wonder I used to think of non Christians as not really people. They’re portrayed, at times, as rather stupid.

The Christian need not be haunted by his memory of previous shortcomings. He can make actual progress in his character development from day to day and from year to year.

The Christian need not be haunted by the memory of all those girls he raped. He can just ask for forgiveness. No, the author doesn’t bring up rape, but I do because too often this is how all this is used. For the rapist, mind you. Not the victim.

Contrast this with the experience of someone who is not religious. When he makes mistakes the memory of these mistakes continues to cause him chagrin and humiliation. He does not have faith in a Redeemer. Therefore he does not claim access to a higher power that will give him victory over all this human frailties. Such a person is in danger of discouragement simply because he is struggling alone in his attempt to get along in the world.

I’m kind of done dissecting this, I’m just going to let it stand on its own. Because fuckit.

2. Prayer

Because a Christian has the ability to pray, he can seek God’s guidance whenever he is confused.

By taking advantage of the privilege of prayer, he may ask for providential intervention in those problems that are too great for him to solve.

Got a problem that’s too hard? You don’t have to try and solve it on your own. Ask your sky-daddy! No need for character growth as you overcome challenges on your own. Your character growth comes from turning it over to Jeebus.

3. An active Christian experience enables you to look to the future with full faith and confidence.

Really? I was looking to the future with constant fear. I was always trying to figure out what the heck God wanted me to do, worrying I’d choose the wrong thing. Then I would experience the Lord’s displeasure.

The Christian’s future welfare does not depend upon a large bank account or upon title to real estate or even upon the favor of friends. The Christian’s faith permits him to look beyond present hardships and disappointments to the overwhelming rewards promised those who make Christ the center of their personal philosophies.

That’s it. That’s the end of the book. That’s the concluding paragraph, we’re done. Holy shit I was beginning to think this day would never come.

A few thoughts before we close.

  1. The author has a tendency to ramble. So do I, which is why I need an editor. Authors have editors. Where was this one?
  2. This book was not updated before being reformatted for the kindle. The original publication date is nowhere in the kindle edition. I had to look it up online. If a teen picked up this book and looked at the copyright date, he might conclude it had been published in 2013 originally.

    Most people don’t google original publication dates on the internet. Would a person reading this book, therefore, even know the science was out of date? Some poor teenager is actually going to think that the answer to her masturbation problems is a clitorectomy.

    I can’t believe the conference didn’t at least edit that part out, along with maybe updating the rest of the science.

  3. At first I was a little upset that this book won, but I’m glad I re read it. It gave me a chance to go back and look at some of the ideas I was raised with, and now I understand where some of my problems came from. Now I can move forward.


A few housekeeping things. There will be a brief interlude before I start the next book, in which I will be snarking on the material generously donated by the local church. I do eventually plan to finish OBAM, but probably not till Christmas vacation at the absolute earliest. It will get done, and it will be a while.

After we’re done snarking on the various magazines I was given from the Local Church, at which point I will start the next book.

And we are doing that book, despite some hangups. But we’re doing it with a twist, and I will absolutely not be as hard on it as usual. For obvious reasons. Which will be obvious when we get there.

I will be doing the next book and Adventist Girl at the same time, probably going back and forth between the two.

So, that’s what we have to look forward to these next few months. Until then, head on over to the Facebook group wherein I throw a virtual party over being DONE with this horrible book!



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