Opinion: My Narcissistic Father Used His Religious Beliefs to Control Me

Walter Rhein

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Choosing a religion is one of the most personal choices an individual can make. Unfortunately, American society seems to be evolving into a place where more and more people impose their religious beliefs on others.

I grew up with a narcissistic father who had very strong opinions on almost everything. If I disagreed with him, there was not any room for debate. My only choice was to adopt his beliefs or receive punishment.

My narcissistic father claimed he was strict to instill good values. In reality, he was arrogant and incapable of recognizing when he made a mistake.

When I reached the age of eighteen, it became my legal right to make personal choices. My narcissistic father does not respect the fact that I have chosen to live a different life than he does.

If I chose not to bow my head in prayer, that’s my choice. He has to respect that.

If I chose not to participate in the religious ceremonies he believes are important, that’s my choice. He has to respect that.

If I chose to believe his religion is ridiculous and harmful to others, that’s my choice. He has to respect that.

When a person fails to treat you with respect, it doesn’t matter if they are a parent. They have no right to make certain demands on you. If they lack the maturity to understand that, you’re better off without them.

Growing up, I always found it offensive when I visited friends and their parents made me participate in their religious ceremonies. I do not mind respectfully observing a religious practice, but I don’t feel any child should be made to participate.

People often make the false claim that our schools ban prayer. This is a complete lie. There is no ban on quietly bowing your head in prayer. The only thing that’s forbidden is forcing children to participate in the prayers of religions they don’t belong to.

Anyone claims our schools ban prayer is committing a sin with that statement.

It should be basic manners in the United States to allow people to make their own decisions about religion. Unfortunately, many people feel they have a right or an obligation to impose their religion on others.

Children should be able to choose a religion or a lack of a religion. Many parents prohibit their children from knowing that other cultures and other religions view the world differently than they do.

American society has a problem with adolescent depression. Perhaps one of the problems is that our children have their religious and moral ideologies too strictly controlled.

Children become depressed because they don’t fit into American society. Few of them are ever told that if their current life isn’t working, they have permission to try something different.

For my narcissistic father, religion was about acting like he was better than everyone else. He was often critical of the behavior of others. Sometimes, he was even hateful.

He claimed religion was important but his actions said otherwise. He didn’t spend his time helping others. Instead, he spent his time criticizing others.

Both as an adult and as a child, I don’t feel as if I should ever have to hear about a person’s religion. I believe religion is a private matter. People shouldn’t talk about it.

If people want to be ambassadors for their religion, they should lead by example. They should provide assistance to people in need.

My narcissistic father only used his religion to criticize others. His religion felt more like a hate group than a charitable organization. Children shouldn’t have to endure religious based criticism from people who don’t live by their own principles.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI
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