I've been incredibly stressed this week as I've exchanged emails with my father. Given how fruitless it has been in the past, why did I bother? Why did I feel compelled to respond? I've been asking this question a lot.
Part of me wants to believe that it is because I wanted to make a stand for religious tolerance and reason. But on further reflection, I don't think that was really it. If the email had come from anyone else, then I would have just said, "What a moron," and deleted it.
I'm something of a know-it-all and have a bad habit of correcting people. I think part of it is because I was raised in a know-it-all religion that believes that it is right and everyone else is wrong and that anyone who disagrees is wicked and under the influence of Satan. Over the last 42 years I've slowly realized that this tends to piss people off and cause them avoid me so I've tried to learn to just bite my tongue. But for some reason I feel compelled to respond to my father's stupidities.
With my father I think that several things are going on. The first is that his beliefs dramatically influenced me and I think our beliefs were pretty well aligned into my early adulthood. As I've realized the errors in my beliefs and corrected them, I think it has naturally led me to want to correct the source of those errors too. He is in some ways a part of me and now it's a part of me I don't like and don't respect and want to change.
I think another thing is that I blame him for using flawed thinking to teach me incorrect things. When he tries to do the same thing now I feel a strong need to fight back. Maybe it's not so much a desire to correct him, but to assert my new found beliefs and reject the flawed thinking that my father uses to reach incorrect beliefs. I think that I feel violated by the strong influence he had as an involved parent and that he misused and abused that influence to teach me flawed beliefs based on extremely flawed evidence and reasoning. As an adult, I think I feel a need to fight back against what I willingly accepted as a child.
Perhaps part of it is a desire for payback and a need for revenge. I resent the fallacies I was taught and perhaps I feel a need to show up and embarrass the source of many of those fallacies.
And lastly, perhaps I'd like for him to admit, for once, that he was wrong in what he taught me and continues to try to force on my and the rest of the world around him. It took him years to tentatively and weakly admit to some members of my family, but not me, that he was physically and emotionally abusive throughout our childhood. But, I think I'm feeling that I was also abused when I realize the very thorough and extensive brainwashing that I suffered growing up in my household. In much the same way that he couldn't admit to himself or my family the severe physical and emotional abuse he inflicted, I don't think he can admit that he also was guilty of filling our heads with false teaching based on just about every logical fallacy known to man. So, for me, the last remaining type of abuse I experienced growing up continues into adulthood and I feel a need to fight back in much the same way that if he took a swing at me today I would fight back. In much the same way he justified or failed to recognize the physical and emotional abuse, he continues to resist the notion he might have been guilty of spiritual and intellectual abuse.
It's a difficult dynamic and it leaves me feeling a need to cut off contact from him in the same way I would cut off any other abusive relationship. In the most recent exchanges he has failed to respond directly to the points I raised, side tracked the dialogue to my issues with the church, and dismissed my points as being "lame". He further accuses me of not listening to anything he says, of failing to engage, to refusing to consider the evidence, and to never, not even once, directly responding to a direct question from him. All the while the attached email chain shows exactly the opposite: him refusing to answer direct questions, him attacking me, and him failing to respond to the questions I originally sent to him in response to his anti-Muslim email. In the end, he reposed his question, I answered it with the exact same answer I gave in my original response, and resposed the original two questions I asked and the reason those questions were relevant and important. I also forwarded an email I sent him from a couple of years ago that showed me directly answering questions he asked me. Just, you know, as evidence that he's full of shit and a liar and wrong about me.
Why bother? Right now, I don't care if I ever talk to or see my father again and I'm reliving the memories of the hatred I had for him as a teenager.