Thoughts on Taylor Swift and My Experience Leaving Toxic Religion
In escaping high-control religion I found all of the love and support that my faith had promised me.
1989 was a wonderful year for humanity. Taylor Swift was born, and so was I. When she released 1989 I instantly felt connected to the music and to her, it was like she had released the album just for us. At the time I was working at a very small religious school, which I have since realized was a bit cult-y, and my students and I bonded over our shared obsession with the album.
The song “Wonderland” perfectly encapsulates my life when 1989 dropped. It discusses the allure of a toxic relationship, and how you can’t see it fully while you are in it. That is how I view my time practicing a restrictive religion. At the time, it was my entire life and I was quite literally in love with it. It’s where I found love, purpose, emotional regulation, stability, and community. But everything wasn’t as it seemed. I was so blinded by the seemingly positive message that told me that I was loved unconditionally despite all my flaws. What I was ignoring was the constant barrage of microaggressions telling me that everything bad in my life was my fault and worse yet, I deserved it. But wasn’t I so lucky to undeservingly be spared from the hateful demonic life that I should be left to?
In “Wonderland” Taylor Swift says “Haven’t you heard what becomes of curious minds?” and I believe that it was my curiosity that saved me. I reached a point where I could no longer align myself with the homophobic and misogynistic messaging that I was conditioned to believe was “loving”. But, like Alice, my curiosity got the better of me and I eventually followed the white rabbit down the rabbit hole and, also like Alice, discovered a whole new world that forever and irrevocably changed me.
Once I was able to distance myself from my religious programming, I discovered that all the things I had been searching for in religion had been available to me in a non-religious Wonderland. I found a nonjudgmental community of friends who helped me process my grief and trauma and never ever made me feel like I was deserving of a terrible life. Through their love and support, I began asking all of the questions that I’d never been allowed to ask before. Again, my world became curiouser and curiouser and I learned that I felt way more at home in the LGBTQIA community than I ever had in the church.
Religion had always been there to “calm my fears with a Cheshire cat smile” and “It’s all fun and games til someone loses their mind”. But luckily I was able to gain clarity and make decisions that have allowed me to explore and discover my authentic self. It hasn’t been an easy journey, but I’m grateful that Taylor Swift has provided me with a soundtrack for my break up with religion.