Today’s contribution comes from Scotlyn via email
…I enjoy a private life.
I was prompted to reflect on the singular importance of this when an evangelical relative posted the following:
“No single piece of our mental world is to be sealed off from the rest and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’ ” – Kuyper
(PS – I don’t know who Kuyper is, this is the only attribution that was given in the post).
I can’t tell you how much that quote, and the concepts embodied within it, fills me with utter revulsion. How can anyone live authentically, truly, bravely, when their very thoughts are not, cannot be, their own?
I grew up as the daughter of evangelical missionaries, and going to college was a catalyst, for me, to assess my faith, and find it wanting. This process was lengthy, taking place over a number of years, but I remember with extreme clarity a moment when I realised how lacking my childhood had been in mental privacy. I was on a visit home (age approx 25) and met a family acquaintance who was unfamiliar with the then painful process of my communicating my doubts and workings and my eventual departure from their faith with my family.
This person casually enquired, “so how is your walk with Jesus.” And several realisations hit me with sudden force:
- I didn’t feel this person I barely knew was entitled to such personal information and I was not inclined to provide it
- that the sense of entitlement (to other people’s private thoughts and emotions) this person displayed was shared by every evangelical person I had every known. (Strangely, I had NEVER noticed this before!).
- that there is something a bit perverse about such entitlement, as if Christians (who emphasised modesty in dress), were happy to insist on their fellow brethren walking around spiritually and mentally naked in front of one another, with no area of personal life considered too private to share with fellow Christians “as with Christ”.
I realised how essential this groupthink and mutual thought supervision/censorship process could be for keeping people trapped within their communities of faith, for keeping them always just that bit off balance, and unsure when they might be caught out or in the wrong (greatly reinforcing the belief in the fallenness and sinfulness of humanity).
I also realised that my simple refusal to play along amounted to a discovery that my own mind is my very own. (A discovery withheld from me until age 25 – imagine!)
That I owe nothing and no one access to any of my own mind other than at a time of my choosing was an exhilarating thought. Strangely, at that point I had not yet arrived completely at atheism, nevertheless, I realised that the power of the IDEA of God inhabiting your heart and mind and watching everything you think and feel was mainly derived from the reinforcing ACTIONS of fellow Christians, and that my small act of resistance set me permanently free from its power.
This process certainly contributed, among other things, to a greater relaxation and openness to experimentation and to the pure enjoyment of my life, my sexuality, my friendships, my reading, and my thinking, having pretty much demolished all the “forbidden” signposts within my own mind. I probably acknowledged my atheism within a year of that moment.
So, I now enjoy, cherish, and appreciate the privacy of my own mind, because I’m an Atheist.
As a Christian I never could do so. And that is a help in understanding how little respect Christians have for the privacy of others. How could they, when they have no idea how to value their own privacy, having no corner of their mind forbidden either to the putative inquisitiveness of their god, or to the real inquisitiveness of their fellows in faith? Having no corner of their mind to call their own?
Consider submitting your own statement, by e-mail or as a comment!
Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!