Maranatha is a young woman who, in this book, challenges aspects of religion (Christianity) that enshrine domination and control over others. Many of these aspects of religious culture cause adherents to be disabled on a deeply emotional level. She says that none of it is necessary. Instead, she holds up the idea of having a relationship with God (the source of insight, channel to the universe, connection with a higher power or intelligence—whatever you want to call it) that is one to one, not through religious authorities.
Religion has been used by psychopaths to control people for millennia. In Maranatha’s story, the toxic aspects of domination and control are stripped away, leaving a loving relationship with God. Below is an excerpt of the book that contains an entire talk she gives to the Occutopians.
Excerpt: Maranatha’s talk, Recovering Christians, how our culture has poisoned us and what we can do about it.
After the Occutopia 2.0 meeting, the activities at Occutopia began to follow a pattern. A daily G.A. meeting was held from 9AM to 11AM. This was followed by cleanup work, soil remediation, water collection, and other work until about 3PM. After that, people attended discussion groups or pursued other activities. The schedule of meetings was already filling up. All the activities were announced on social media and on the radio.
One of the events on the schedule was a talk to be given one afternoon entitled, Recovering Christians, how our culture has poisoned us and what we can do about it. The message under the title said, If you grew up in a Christian family, this applies to you.
This attracted a large crowd. The meeting was in the gym. Volunteers brought every available chair, and when they were filled, people stood. A woman of Indian descent with long, black hair stepped onto the platform and sat on a stool. The volunteers set up a portable karaoke machine and gave her the mic.
‘Testing, testing,’ she said. The volunteers adjusted the system.
‘Hello, everyone. My name is Maranatha. I want to talk to you about something that’s very important for each of us personally, and for Occutopia.
‘Our beliefs, attitudes, and culture are part of the reason things are going wrong in the U.S. and the world. Our beliefs and attitudes are instrumental in shaping our behavior, especially the way we treat each other and the natural world. Let’s look at the fact that we have wars, pollution, climate change, and riots in the streets, and admit that we have a problem with our beliefs and attitudes. Let me see a show of hands of those of you who think that our beliefs and attitudes have something to do with our problems.’
The entire audience raised their hands.
‘Anyone disagree?’ she inquired. All the hands went down.
‘We have to take a hard look at these beliefs and attitudes. There are many aspects to this issue, but I’m going to address one in particular. Some of you may be angry with me after this talk because it’s difficult to let go of cultural norms. There are blockages that prevent us from doing so.
‘In our culture, the American culture, we have a poison within us that causes us to be disabled mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and even physically. I want to give you the antidote to this poison, so that you personally, and all of us can begin to heal and function at a much higher level.
‘As you can see, I am of Indian descent. I was born in India and orphaned before the age of one. As you may know, a lot of bad things happen to orphans in India, but I was fortunate to be adopted by Christian missionaries. They brought me to Florida and raised me there, in their faith.
‘I was nonetheless miserable. When I was a teenager, I ran away from home and went to live in a commune. There, I was introduced to the wisdom of eastern religions. I was able to see the great differences between western and eastern religions. And this was extremely instructive.
‘For many of us, the concepts of sin, redemption, Christ’s crucifixion, heaven, and hell—these are all familiar. We have the notion in this country that Christianity is good, that it presents the moral basis for living, such as thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not kill, and so on. And we think that without these precepts, we would not have an orderly society.
‘What I’m going to tell you isn’t going to be easy for some of you to accept. There are many beautiful things about Christianity that help us realize and embrace God’s love, that help strengthen our relationship with God. But there are other parts of the belief system have been added sometime in Christianity’s past, to confuse and control us. I believe these parts are not necessary to Christianity.’
The audience murmured.
‘Okay, let me explain. First of all, most people in America were exposed to these concepts and beliefs as young children. It is necessary to introduce the enculturation at an early age, before a person becomes more analytical, more critical. This familiarity from early childhood serves as the foundation upon which to build. It’s easier to accept these beliefs if you were raised in the culture.
‘So if I were to say to someone from India, you are a sinner and you’re going to hell, it wouldn’t make the slightest amount of sense to them. In India, the predominant religion is Hinduism. Hindus believe that people reincarnate. That means their soul is born in a body, they live and die, they’re born into another body, they live and die, and the cycle keeps repeating. It repeats until the person attains perfect wisdom, and then they return to God. That’s an oversimplified explanation, but the point is that in Hinduism we come from God and eventually, we return to God. No matter how many incarnations it takes, you’re gonna make it.’
The audience laughed softly.
‘So you can see that Hinduism is much different from Christianity. In Christianity, you have no prior existence when you are born into this world. By default, you are destined to go to hell, which is a place of eternal punishment. This is because you’re born a sinner—meaning, it’s in your nature to commit sins, which are crimes against God’s laws. You’re born a criminal. That’s pretty awful, but here’s the deal. Christ died on the cross to compensate for your sins so you can avoid hell and instead, go to be with God. So—and here’s the point—because Christ sacrificed himself for you, you are in debt. You owe something.
‘So the message goes like this: you didn’t know that you have a problem? Well you do. You are in debt, and it’s a debt that is so enormous that you can never pay it off. But, don’t worry, we’ll help you. We’ll tell you what to do. That’s the underlying message when evangelicals and fundamentalists tell you that Christ died for your sins. Good news, they say. Your debt is paid. But, they say, you have to trust the Lord. You have to repent. And they begin to talk in gibberish to tell you what you’re going to have to do. But you will learn it.’
The audience laughed.
‘Okay, so let’s take a closer look at how it works. First of all, you’re told you’re a sinner. What does that mean? It means that you are born with an evil nature and you commit crimes against God’s laws. At some time or another, you have lied, cheated, or stolen—and this includes thinking bad thoughts. You know, like thoughts about having sex with someone outside of marriage, or getting even with someone. Those are sins, too.
‘Okay, so you’re in trouble. You find out that you are basically evil. Because of that, you’re going to hell. And what is hell? Hell is a place where sinners go after death. Hell is a place of intense torture and agony. There’s no escape from it—forever. So the concept of hell is a very powerful form of coercion.
‘So let’s talk about what you have to do to avoid hell. For one thing, you are naturally lazy, and must be forced to work. You have to work constantly to avoid committing more sins. It is natural for you to commit more sins because, as I said earlier, you are evil. And so you work. Do you see how this is a perfect religion for the elite to force people into labor?’
Suddenly, a man stood up and exclaimed, ‘Nobody forces you to accept the Lord. You have free will!’
Maranatha responded, ‘Free will. According to fundamental Christianity, you have the free will to choose to go to hell. I haven’t been able to figure out what is so great about that. It seems like some kind of cruel joke to me.
‘Back to enslavement—you are told that you’re evil and you have to strive to prove yourself. And so, you can never relax, because the moment you slip up, you’re in danger of going to hell. You’re under constant pressure to be good according to what the church authorities have told you. And it’s pretty tough, because when you have a problem, there’s a spiritual cause. If you’re sick, poor, or in trouble, God is punishing you and you have to try harder to please him.
‘The more insidious forms of Christianity tell you that you have to expiate your sins. You must suffer to atone for your sins. This means you have to perform rituals of self-punishment and seek forgiveness from the church authorities. When you slip up, they stand in judgment over you and decide if you’re back on track, or you need more punishment. Life is a harrowing experience, they say. But if you survive all the difficulties and suffering, you will be rewarded in the afterlife. Stick to your duties and you might make it. You have to make the maximum effort. Does this sound like enslavement? Sure it does.
‘So not surprisingly, people become fatigued. They grow tired of trying, they get tired of the constant pressure, and they take a break. The church calls that falling into sin or backsliding. Eventually, most people return to the church because of guilt and anxiety. They may vacillate between being a good Christian and being a sinner.
‘Let’s go back to the notion that you are evil. If you are evil, you can’t trust yourself. You are your own worst enemy. If you hate yourself, you can’t possibly be attuned to your own feelings and intuitions, which are there to guide you away from danger. You believe that your thoughts and feelings are sinful. You hate yourself and you betray yourself in order to comply with the church authorities and their demands. You can’t trust yourself; you can only trust them. And so you fall into the trap and you become dependent on them.
‘This alienation from yourself—I call it dis-integration. If you are an integrated person, your thoughts, feelings, and intuitions are your compass for navigating your way through life. To be integrated, you must love yourself unconditionally—all the aspects of yourself, no matter how you may have been trained by your culture to hate yourself.
‘If you’re going to find your way out, you have to take time to look at those parts of yourself that you have rejected, that have disturbed you, and that are painful. In American culture, we’re given hundreds of reasons to hate ourselves. Love yourself. Do you think that if you love yourself you’re going to become a selfish, horrible, evil person? That’s exactly what I’m talking about—that’s how you’ve been turned against yourself.
‘Make peace with yourself and integrate yourself. Only when you are integrated can you stand on your own two feet and be sovereign within yourself. And only then can you see matters clearly. If you are dis-integrated, alienated from yourself, and crippled with self-distrust, you are vulnerable to brainwashing. That self trust that you should have is transferred to someone or something outside of yourself.
‘So if you have accepted the notion that you are a sinner, you are alienated from yourself. You have been persuaded to shut down your internal guidance system. You are at war with yourself. And here’s one of the things that happens when you are at war with yourself. If I say to you, don’t think of an elephant, immediately you think of an elephant. This phenomenon works against you in a powerful way in Christian culture. If you are told not to think about lying, cheating, stealing, having sex outside of marriage, going on a drinking binge, or whatever is deemed as a sin, you’re going to think about it.
‘You may succeed in your self-discipline for a while, but in time, the pressure will build up to the breaking point and you’ll find yourself doing the things you tried so hard to avoid. I call that a breakout. You have a breakout and afterward, you doubt yourself and hate yourself even more. You’re alienated from yourself even more. And so you suppress your thoughts, feelings, and intuitions, you suffer breakouts, and you are overwhelmed with guilt and anxiety. You are disabled on a very deep level.
‘Another aspect of this war within is noise in the mind. There’s a sort of cultural belief in some of the fundamentalist churches that you have to keep your mind busy. If you allow your mind to be silent, evil forces will creep in. In fact, evil springs up from within you. And that is why you must recite Bible verses and sing hymns to yourself all the time. How many of you know what I’m talking about?’
The audience murmured.
‘Okay. So your ability to be autonomous within your own mind is in doubt—you have to be vigilant so that evil forces don’t take over your mind. To keep them out, you have to keep your mind busy all the time. Not busy in deep, reflective thought—just busy, like having the radio on all the time.
‘Let me digress for a moment. We have within ourselves a source of insight, a channel to the universe, a connection with a higher power or intelligence—whatever you want to call it. That higher intelligence is what I mean by the word, God. Are you with me?
‘So let’s go back to the radio analogy. The noise in your mind actually cuts off your communication with God. This communication is direct, and it can only happen in your own mind. If you believe that evil springs up from within you, you shut down your communication with God. If you want to develop your relationship with God, you need to quiet your mind. You need to cultivate awareness and receptivity. You need to listen. Be still, and know that I am God—do you know that verse? If your mind is busy-busy-busy, you shut down your communication with God.
‘When your mind is busy and noisy, it’s difficult to sort things out. So for example, they tell you God loves you unconditionally, but that there are conditions that you have to meet to be saved. Every church has a different interpretation of what those conditions are. But the effect is this: unconsciously, your mind is trying to work out how your relationship with God can be both unconditional and conditional. And it’s impossible—but your mind keeps trying, and it becomes short-circuited.
‘Those whose interest is in power and control want you to be a zombie who is out of touch with your own inner source of insight and wisdom. They don’t want you to have your own internal navigation. That is a threat to them and their domination. They want to tell you what to think and feel. They don’t want you to think for yourself. They want you to rely on their so-called authority.
‘And when they ask you to wear certain clothes, or practice certain rituals, those are obedience tests. God doesn’t need any of that. When you wear those clothes or practice those rituals, you are giving up your autonomy. You are subjecting yourself to someone else’s authority—someone who stands between you and God, someone who professes to speak for God. And you are being prepped psychologically to accept whatever they tell you and to do whatever they command.
‘Next, you may notice that church leaders bend the rules for themselves—for example, you may wonder if you dare, why they can have luxurious mansions and plenty of everything, while you struggle to pay your bills. They may even do things that they themselves have said are sinful. When their behavior comes to light, they offer justifications and you try to accept them. You struggle to accept things that seem wrong. What’s happening is that their real agenda is coming through. Their aim is to indulge themselves at the expense of everybody else and keep everybody in subjugation.’
Two women got up and walked out. Maranatha continued.
‘But meanwhile, you have your own problems. If you are at war with yourself, you become fatigued on a deep level, and you become depressed. You are dis-integrated and you are not able to control your own behavior despite your best efforts. This leads to more self-condemnation. You wonder, how can I be sinking into misery if I’m a Christian? What am I doing wrong? And you have to keep your misery secret—you can’t allow others to see that you’re struggling. So you put on a happy face.’
Maranatha took a drink of water.
‘Alright, now I want to talk about the big three kinds of emotional blackmail—fear, guilt, and shame. First, let’s take fear. If you’ve had the experience of having an evangelical or fundamentalist Christian give you a kind of formulaic and unintelligible message that they call the Gospel, you quickly find out that you have to embrace their belief system or else you’ll go to hell, as we mentioned before. It should be clear that the intent is to coerce you by means of fear. What could be more frightening than spending an eternity in hell, where you are tortured without relief?
‘Or, another question may be, what is the most extreme thing that could scare people into relinquishing their independence? It would be hell. Why would you go to hell? Because you’re born a sinner, as I explained earlier. And because God, the great and powerful being who made the world, is angry with you. Very angry. And if you are persuaded to believe all this, you’ll give in to the conformity and compliance that the church authorities demand. If you compare this to sales, it is the mother of all hard sells. What if a cable TV rep were to tell you that you have to buy their service or you’ll go to hell?’
The audience laughed softly and shifted in their seats.
‘Of course, it’s no small thing to overcome fear. I experienced tremendous, crippling fear as I crawled out of evangelical Christianity. I can tell you that it is a psychological minefield that took me many years to traverse. But you must look fear squarely in the face and stick your tongue out at it. You must say, I will not be bullied. I am an independent human being and I have a direct link to God.
‘In our society, we are practically swimming in fear. If you watch the news, you’ll be afraid of a serial killer who’s on the loose. You’ll be afraid of terrorists who might blow up your airplane. Or, you’ll catch a terrible disease. And there are other, lesser fears like, fear of being rejected because your clothes are out of style.’
The audience laughed quietly.
‘We all need to stand up and say, back off. Don’t use fear to manipulate us. Don’t use fear to sell us stuff. And don’t use fear to force us to accept domination—of any kind.
‘Okay, now let’s take the second of the big three kinds of emotional blackmail—shame. Shame is used to force people to conform by threatening to ostracize them from the group. Shame is used to isolate individuals from the community by embarrassing them somehow. Church leaders tell their members that they should be ashamed of something. Something that is probably perfectly natural. But for the member who is being punished or ostracized, rejection by the community is a powerful kind of coercion. The erring member has to beg for forgiveness from the church and promise to conform. And as a result, everyone is more dependent on the church authorities than ever.
‘Shame is all too common in everyday interactions. It may be used by managers to correct their employees. Parents shame their children. Shame is a form of bullying and it has to be avoided if we want to have positive relationships.
‘The third one of the big three kinds of emotional blackmail is guilt. No matter how good you are, you are guilty of breaking God’s laws. One little sin makes you a sinner. It doesn’t matter if the worst thing you ever did was to bring home a pen from work. No matter how trivial the sin, it proves you’re a sinner. No one can escape from this condemnation.
‘You don’t have to be raised in an evangelical or fundamentalist family to have these kinds of vulnerabilities. You have them because you’ve been exposed to the notions of evil, sin, guilt, shame, fear, and self-distrust in the American culture. You can be an atheist, but these notions are so ubiquitous that you can hardly avoid them. They are embedded in our sense of morality. I hope that eventually, people will see that these are the ways that the elites attempt to bully us.
‘For those of you who have read Kafka, you may recall his book, The Trial. In it, he describes how he is being prosecuted for a crime, but he doesn’t know what it is. This is an example of the lingering effects of Christianity in a post-Christian world. The guilt, fear, and shame are still within us, even after we reject the beliefs. Are you afraid that something bad is going to happen to you? That’s an example of what I’m talking about. Learn to recognize these emotions within yourself. That is the first step toward a healthy outlook on life. Here at Occutopia, we have opened the Counseling office and we have counselors and psychotherapists who are available to talk.
‘I hope that you can see how, at some point in history, Christianity has been commandeered by the elites to enslave us. They’ve used religion to force us to work for them in order to earn our salvation, to earn favor from God, and to expiate sins. They turned Christianity into a toxic, fear-based religion, rather than teaching us to have a loving relationship with God.
‘I want you to please get this message: there is nothing wrong with you. You have been subjected to brainwashing, whether it has been in church or in the general culture. You must reject any beliefs you have that you’re a sinner, that you’re evil, lazy, or anything negative. Don’t allow yourself to be bullied. You are innocent. You are good. You are beautiful. You are a unique human being and there will never be another quite like you. You are evolving and growing and learning. You are becoming wiser. Enjoy being yourself. Embrace your life story.
‘Gather all those pieces of yourself that you rejected and wanted to forget. Look at each one with empathy and re-integrate it. Don’t let the culture tell you that you don’t measure up. If you’ve done things you regret, accept the fact that you did the best you could considering the circumstances and your maturity at the time.
‘This is how you become integrated. And by being integrated and whole, you become resistant to con jobs, scams, and brainwashing.
‘And please, get this message: God’s love is unconditional. Totally. That means you don’t have to do anything to earn it. Nothing. Got that?’
The audience applauded.
‘Good. Join one of our support groups. Reach out to us in the Counseling office. Reach out to me. I’ll be there.’
Suddenly, a woman in the audience stood up and shouted, ‘This has been the worst blasphemy I’ve ever heard in my whole life. I won’t be surprised if God strikes you down! And I hope He does.’
Maranatha responded, ‘Thank you. This is a perfect example of what I’ve been talking about. This dear lady is hoping to instill fear in me and force me to comply with her beliefs. This is a message that’s the opposite from a message of love. As the Bible says, God is love, and we need to focus on loving each other. I’ll repeat it—we should not allow ourselves to be manipulated by fear, guilt, or shame. I’ll take it even further—a message that is bullying is not a message from God.
‘Okay, I’ve used my allotted time. If you would like to talk, please come and see me in the Counseling office. And by the way, the Counseling group is starting a number of discussion and support groups. Come to the Counseling office and check the schedule—you should be able to do that in about two weeks. Thank you all.’
The audience gave Maranatha a standing ovation and an eager crowd formed around her as soon as she stepped down from the platform.
–End of excerpt.