Three hours in a dentist’s chair with a jaw full of pain killers and a mouthful of various drills, saws, probes, cotton balls, mirrors, and fingers gave me plenty of time to entertain a few thoughts. The primary one was how I might gracefully get out of there. I couldn't come up with an honorable way to flee, so I concentrated on contemplating how I got there.
I concluded that religion got me there.
So there is no misunderstanding, my mother was a wonderful woman I dearly loved. She served her family and community as conscientiously as anyone I've known. A big part of her service was some 20 years as First Reader for the Christian Science Society in my hometown (A First Reader, elected by the congregation, is a lay person considered by many to be the leader of the local church organization).
My mother never once directly hurt me. But I believe her faith caused me considerable pain over many years.
Like most mainstream Christian Scientists, Mom did not reject seeking “skilled hands” to help with physical problems. According to her philosophy, it was OK to get checkups by dentists and medical doctors and to use their services to deal with some problems. It was not all right, however, to accept treatments that injected “foreign substances” into ones body unless that was absolutely necessary.
Thus, for most of the first 16 years of my life in Tomahawk, Wisconsin, I visited Archie Houns, DDS, regularly for dental checkups and any necessary repairs. Mom instructed Dr. Houns never to use any pain-deadening chemicals, even when drilling deeply to remove decay. Dr. Houns was not gentle. I had quite a few cavities. I experienced a world of hurt.
During my earliest visits to Dr. Houns, Mom stayed by my side and held my hand to help me endure the waves of pain caused by his work. When motherly hand-holding became taboo as I developed into a macho male, I built up my forearm strength considerably by clutching the arms of the dentist’s chair in a stranglehold when probing or drilling struck a nerve, which was most of the time.
I developed a lifelong terror of visiting dentists. So after I left home and Mom’s complete control at age 17, I discontinued regular dental checkups and requested every pain killer in the arsenal when advanced tooth decay demanded I get extractions or fillings. Avoiding regular checkups resulted in a high number of serious dental problems. My finances suffered mightily also, as I doled out big bucks for root canals, crowns, and bridges.
Today, my tooth line features many empty spaces. Others areas are populated by artificial structures, with only a few often-filled natural teeth holding things more-or-less together. What once might have been routine visits to the dentist now can blossom into surgery, as my most recent experiences did.
Many people who use their faith to guide them to right living do a great deal of good in our world. However, many others seem dedicated to perverting the best religious values, and great evil can result.
Students of history have no problem describing instances when people killed, maimed, and tortured fellow humans in the name of religion. We need only tune into the daily news to learn of new atrocities committed by religious fanatics.
In comparison, the pain a religious belief brought to me directly and as collateral damage was minor. But it has been very real, and like other damage caused by adherence to questionable religious dogma there was no good reason for the suffering.