Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of manipulation through persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying in an attempt to destabilize and delegitimize a target. Its intent is to sow seeds of doubt in the targets, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity.
I remember as a child going to church when people would be so "filled with Christ" they’d shout with glee. They told me they spoke to Jesus and took guidance from him. They said he was real and they had a personal relationship with him.
Try as I might, I could not figure out what they were talking about. I'd close my eyes and say the prayers. I'd read the stories and listen to the sermons. And I heard, felt, saw nothing. No voice of Jesus. No existential feeling of being filled. There, inside my head, was just one person. Me.
I came to the conclusion that either the adults who "talked to Jesus" were lying to me, or consumed by delusions, or possessed some sense I lack. They were either cruel or crazy, or I'm the blind man wondering what is all this fuss about rainbows?
But the coercion as a child to say you hear or feel this thing you do not is immense. On more than one occasion I lied about it and aped whatever Jesusy things the other kids were saying. I found it ironic that this building I was taken to every Sunday to instill in me morality was instead teaching me my first lessons in deception.
Later in adolescence, I really dove into the Christian religion from a “how deep is the rabbit hole” perspective. There, I had to confront the fact that there are seemingly rational, functional adults who swallow hook, line, and sinker the idea that the universe was created 6,000 years ago by a violent sociopath who hates foreskins, gay people, and shellfish, and we must telepathically pledge fealty to its form as its own son, a flying zombie alchemist born of a virgin, which it sacrificed to itself because a rib woman was coerced by a talking snake into knowing right from wrong by eating a forbidden fruit, then the entire earth had to be flooded, including the numerous civilizations existing at the time that have uninterrupted historical records before and after such flood, killing every living human and animal, except, presumably, other people who had boats and fish, or else the sociopath who created us will ensure we all suffer for eternity, but it loves us.
But for me, all of Christianity, any respect or worship of its god, is completely undone by one set of Biblical passages ― no, not the God Hates Gays ones, though those could qualify.
2 Kings 2:23-25: And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them. And he went from thence to mount Carmel, and from thence he returned to Samaria.
God's prophet, Elisha, curses 42 little kids calling him a "bald head", so God sends two bears to massacre the little kids. Then Elisha goes on his merry way. No wonder the godly folks like Trump; he's got a lot of their deity's traits!
What a terrible gas-lighting I and other children have suffered at the hands of organized religion! Surrounded by adults telling you unreal things are real and if you don't sense them, it's your fault for not "letting Him into your heart". Deceiving yourself and others until you reach the age where you can rationalize, “Well, it’s not so much of a voice as it is a feeling...”
It’s terrible enough for the child, but it’s demonstrably destabilizing for our society. The source of adults who dismiss science, hate gays, and base Middle East foreign policy around ancient prophecies of the zombie god’s return is the Sunday Schools of American Christian churches.
Now, just like not all bicyclists become Hell’s Angels and not all pot smokers move on to heroin, not all Sunday School graduates go on to be retrograde Christian conservatives in power. Some of them go on to become agnostics and some go on to exemplify the best of Christianity, like President Jimmy Carter. But if you can find me an atheist in power who denies climate change, oppresses LGBT people’s rights, and bases foreign policy on an inevitable end-of-the-world scenario, I’ll permanently reject the Holy Ghost and suffer an irredeemable fate in Hell.
(It’s a sucker’s bet. Atheists don’t get to be in power in the United States because not publicly practicing a modern mythology automatically costs them 40 percent of the vote.)