My priorities have changed drastically since I stopped believing in god. My entire life changed and so did my life goals. The most disturbing of life goals from my teenage years was that I admired martyrs and prayed that I would be brave enough to be a martyr one day. I hoped that I would have the faith to stand up for god and to die for what I believed. I hoped that I could be one of those people I was reading about in the pages of the books given to me by people I admired and looked up to.
The books that I read in my teens putting martyrs on pedestals, praising them for their faith and encouraging young readers to aspire to this end, were not rare to find, they were abundant and insidious. I have disturbingly content memories of reading these books, they were inspiring, they made me feel content, they made me feel like it was possible for a young nobody to be somebody, to go down in history for their wondrous faith, to have a purpose and to be a true christian. They tapped in to my teenage need to have purpose and to feel special, I could be special, if I died for god. The books also tapped into my need to feel like no matter who I am and what I do in life, I can still achieve something special, even if it is the last thing I do.
She said yes, with the sub title “The unlikely martyrdom of Cassie Bernall”, was the first book about someone who became a martyr for Jesus that I read and I was in awe. I remember initially feeling very inferior and terrible about myself, “I could never do that”, and then “how could she do that!”, and then I felt more hopeful “if she can do it then I can!” I wanted to be like her. Perhaps I just wanted to feel important to some extent but also prove to myself that my faith was strong enough. Whatever I was thinking, it was messed up and horrifying now, I should never have even remotely inspired or motivated by this book.
It was not just this book that I read about martyrdom, that spurred me to consider it and aspire to it, Rachel’s Tears was another one. Both books were similarly mind warping, inspiring teens to get shot for Jesus.
But these two books were nothing compared to Jesus Freaks, a beautiful looking book, that I treasured, not just because it was so attractive with an intricate cover, but because I thought so highly of DC Talk the band and author of this book, but also because it was full of compelling tales of those who showed their faith in the ultimate way possible. The stories went back to the beginning of christianity up until the early 2000s. The murders in this book were more varied, allowing young minds to imagine even more horrible ways to die for Jesus. Did you know that you can die on an upside down cross? I see these books as another way to manipulate young people, it taps into their need to have a purpose and meaning, it corrupts the minds of young christians and puts them on a path of wanting to do horrific things to themselves in the name of Jesus.
Now, I find it deeply disturbing that publishers allowed the books to glorify dying in this way and am relieved that I gave the book away.
I gave the book away, and moved away from religion. I developed new, healthy and constructive life goals when I left religion behind. I started to plan for a future that I would now have, because I would not die prematurely facing a gun.