All Black Hats Aren't Equal

I live in Amish country. The other day, my husband and I were in our car directly behind not one but two Amish buggies. So, I took a photo, several actually, and sent them to my sister. I was pretty certain that the two old men sitting in the back of the buggy would trigger a response from her. Why? Because they looked a lot like our dad and the other men in the church where my sis and I grew up. 

Don’t ask me to tell you the name of our church, because we were one of a kind. Unlike the Amish, my father couldn't boast a chain of churches across the US. That's because it was his invention. For all intents and purposes, my brothers, sisters and I grew up in cult. We lived separate from the civilian world in a closed society for our protection. At least that’s what we were told, but I suspected early on it was because my parents didn’t want us to hear any opposing ideas. 

Control the propaganda, control the flock.

I was right, however. The picture did trigger a strong reaction from my sister. Her text response consisted of four words. “Ugh! Those black hats.” That’s all it takes sometimes to reignite old feelings of trauma caused by being raised in an extremist religion. Don’t get me wrong, all religions are into indoctrination, but some, like the Amish or my parent’s church, are heavy handed and far more abusive than others. And, they’re isolationists which is in and of itself is very detrimental to children. 

At any rate, I got to thinking about the two old men in the back of the buggy and my dad. 

They looked a lot alike, minus the beards. I’m sure all three were equally rigid and unrelenting in their belief systems. They were heavily into uniforms and demanded that their wives and children wear uniforms as well. I can be certain that they were patriarchal in their methods of running families and churches. There were so many values that they had in common, yet, it still would've been impossible to worship together. Both parties believing that they were destined for a heavenly reward at the exclusion of the other. 

I am forever perplexed by the sheer number of denominations and cults in my home town alone. 

All claiming to worship the one true god but unable to fellowship with one another. Recently, a new church was built down the street from where I live, a beautiful structure that no doubt cost a pretty penny. What a waste of hard earned money, I thought. But here’s the most ridiculous thing about this new church. It sits in front of another even bigger church and across the street from a absolutely massive church. Every Sunday, people arrive in their cars to enter the sanctuaries of these three churches but don’t recognize one another as worthy of god’s approval. They can’t go among those misinformed people. It would be absolutely impossible to share one of the three extravagant buildings with one another because religion does not guarantee any kind of unity among believers. 

In fact, it seems to have the opposite effect. 

The only time, I’ve ever seen believers from different churches come together to form a tight bond is when they find out that they’re in the presence of someone like myself, an atheist. Suddenly, they’re on the same team as they rush to defend god, as though an almighty being would need their protection from slander by a mere mortal like myself. Once I step out of the picture, the camaraderie they shared for a few moments vanishes and suddenly they’re skeptical of one another again. 

The arguments over the details of religious service, what a god requires from us and what he doesn’t, are endless. 

Hats alone can cause an enormous amount of disagreements. I don’t know whether you’ve noticed it or not, but gods seem to have hat fetishes. Some of the strangest damn hats have been invented by religions. I don’t have a favorite bizarre hat, but just like my sister, when I spot a plain black hat, it still has an effect on me. 

As far as I’m concerned, religion does not make getting along with people easier. 

It comes with almost no room for compromise as well as an innate self-righteousness that is inordinately closeminded. Religion and peace seem to be at a total variance with one another. Historically, this has been glaringly apparent by the number of highly charged religious wars. 

I don’t miss the good old days when I sat for hours in a silent meeting, head bowed, waiting for god to instruct someone in the congregation to speak. 

Often, the spokesperson was a man, who stood with his hat in his hands and shared what I was told was a direct message from god. No, I don’t miss my childhood or teenage years at all. I’m glad they’re over and done with. When I drive by the three churches down the street from me on a Sunday morn and see people entering or exiting, I thank my lucky stars that I was able to disentangle myself from the web of religious indoctrination that I’d been infected with as a child. 

I look at all black hats as equally ridiculous ideas concocted by a human to mark their followers. 

By doing so, they have formed a club without an open membership. Not only do the hats let the rest of the world know the score, but it is a constant reminder to each member of the congregation that their life is not their own. 

That so many people willingly don a black hat never ceases to amaze me. 

But there you have it. The human brain is at once our biggest asset and our worst enemy. There’s no accounting for what our brains allow to enter our heads, becoming a dominant belief. Once that happens it's darn near impossible to ever change our minds, thus limiting us for a lifetime. Even worse, when someone forces those beliefs into our brains as mere children, permanent damage is done before we even know that we have any choices. If our brains were a car, they most definitely would've required a massive recall by now. 

I'm a myth buster. My recent published book - Have We Been Screwed? Trading Freedom for Fairy Tales - can be purchased on Amazon.