A problem statement and then a question:

By Joe B

My exit from xianity did not remove me from space or time. Consequently, I remain in contact with some, if not many, of the people with whom I formerly associated. Among these are young people, mostly my children and their friends.

I am divorced, but visit with my children regularly and spend time with them and their friends. As I do so, I am continually moved by the stories of abuse that they discuss. I won't rehash all the forms of abuse. Testimonies and comments on this site frequently provide similar accounts of mental and emotional abuse.

In broad terms all these kids have been fed the notion that god is watching their thoughts; that they are evil and disobedient and deserve terrible suffering and punishment, and unless they toe the line with god, they are going to get what they deserve. They don't question that notion. Those that go along are comforted by their acceptance into the cult and belief that their parents are god's agents in helping them escape damnation.

The ones that rebel are the sad stories. Some percentage see the hypocrisies. They are unconvinced of the "truths" presented to them and say, "If this is my choice, I'll take hell." The cruel effect of this false dilemma is that they walk away with the notion that they have indeed accepted some sort of doom. That they have chosen and will have a bad life, without the blessings of god. They will accept that the abusive relationships they move on to are just what you'd expect. They are precisely what their parents told them would happen to bad little boys and girls. Amoral and violent gangs, drugs, hurtful sexual relationships and the other teenage woes are just the sort of hell on earth that they are conditioned to expect.

I observe that their good xian upbringings generally leave them without the philosophical and intellectual training to easily understand the true nature of the system and teachings that have so skewed their perceptions of who they are and what their lives could become apart from the god of their parents.

I had an opportunity this weekend to talk with a young man (18) who is severely depressed over his circumstances. After the abuses of his youth (endless punishments for disrespect and disobedience), he has struggled through the world of drugs and suburban gangs. Presently he is facing a probable prison term for car theft. He took a car belonging to his church's youth pastor without permission, while the latter was providing the young man with refuge after his parents threw him out, and was charged with a couple of related felonies.

I am thankful for the opportunity I had this weekend to introduce him to the idea that, while he may deserve to be punished for his violation of the law, he does not deserve hell on earth or after. I did what I could to shed light on how the myth of hell and the idea human wickedness have affected how he sees his potential and worth.

I can't imagine how many millions of dollars move from the tithe into producing the materials and programs that build up pernicious ideas in the minds of kids in church. Youth ministries make their stock and trade in "putting the hay down where the goats can get it." Meanwhile the counter-arguments are kept from these kids by their misguided and deluded parents. Many of the liberating arguments are also, unfortunately, locked up in language and concepts that are difficult for the average young American to access intellectually due to their youth and lack of training in logic and philosophy.

So, finally, getting to my question: aside from random bits of material that appear on YouTube and some , what are the best resources out there for helping teens navigate the wreckage of the church's heaven or hell messages? Searching the web for sites that offer help to teens who doubt xianity, there are hundreds of xian apologetic sites, and centers for "troubled youth." Where are resources that offer a rational view of themselves and the world in terms that they can understand? My recent encounter has motivated me to wade the internet in search of those resources, but I'd appreciate any recommendations this group can offer.

Xian nitwits are invited to sit this one out. You've done enough harm already.

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