Dear Ask A Punk -
I live in the bible belt. I grew up with church stuff three nights a week and all day on Sunday. I came to the conclusion that it was all hypocrisy and bullshit by the time I was 12. I started arguing with my family about it by the time I was 14 and now that I'm almost 20 I ignore the whole thing completely so of course my family thinks I'm going to hell and tells me so every day and they blame punk rock and my friends for turning me into a tool for satan. The thing is I'm not a bad person at all. I work and I'm nice to people and strangers and I put on punk rock shows and benefits for food banks. I think we're supposed to help each other, but not because f-ing "God" tells us to and not because we'll burn if we don't. I know for a fact that I lead a more moral and good life than half the liars I would see at church praying and praising jesus every weekend and then spending all week lying and cheating to make money and fucking their secretaries and stuff. I moved out of the house last year finally, but my family tells everyone else that they threw me out, see? more lies to create the imagine that they're saintly and stuff when the truth is that they're liars as bad as the rest of them. I'm pretty sure I could be happy living the rest of my life without ever talking to either of my parents or aunts and uncles again. I do miss a couple of my brothers and cousins though, but they're not "allowed" to be in contact with me, so that sucks sometimes. I'm not going back to any of it, but I don't know how to go forward and really get away from it either. = Punk Heathen
Congratulations on making a tough call that I'm sure wasn't easy, but be careful about seizing the moral high ground too self-righteously, otherwise you'll be no better than them. As good and noble as we all try to be, and as clear-cut as such things seem at 19, life is a struggle for everyone, all the time. You're absolutely right that most people fall way short of the morality they claim to have and try to thrust onto others, and that most organized religions have an agenda that really has little to do with the alleged basic tenets of their faith.
As humans, we're actually hard-wired with a need to believe in something. Throughout human history, in nearly every society, this simple fact has been exploited by a small percentage of people to control and manipulate a large percentage of the rest. They feed on that human need to "belong" and to be part of a group... a need so powerful that humans have been willing to surrender their free will, common sense and even their lives... for reasons that might not even be clear to them.
The truly sick part of it is that every major religion (and most of the minor ones) have the same basic "rules for living" here in the present that boil down to a few standard themes:
> Be nice to other people.
> Help those less fortunate.
> Don't kill each other.
It is really that simple. These things make perfect sense, and if every religion stuck to that philosophy of how to act in the here and now, we wouldn't have most of the troubles we do.
The problems start when religions try to then explain the "truth" about the past and the future. Especially the future. Think about it: Most organized religions exploit one question about our most basic and universal fear: What happens to us after we die? ...It is the one thing that is really unknowable until it actually happens to you, and yet every faith with tell you it knows what will happen... and that it'll be very very bad "unless you do as we say." Once they convince people of that (false) truth, they can manipulate the masses to do anything they want, all in the name of God and/or their fear of a bad "afterlife." Nearly every human atrocity in our history has come down to a clash between groups who disagreed on something none of them can actually prove and millions/billions of otherwise innocent souls have been sucked into the maelstrom. It is our biggest human failing, well, that and disco.
Jesus was a great guy. He had a simple idea: Love everyone. I've got 30 bibles in an app on my phone and I can't find a single quote where he says "Love everyone, except _______ " Don't let the real message get lost in the additional layers of human-created self-interest, manipulation and pure-ass bullshit that masquerades as "righteousness" here in the world.
I am finally getting around to actually answering your question. Thanks for your patience.
The best thing you can do is to continue to live the way you're living. It is possible for humans to live a "moral" and helpful life without the threat of hellfire if they don't. You also have to forgive your family. Yes you do. Always remember that capital "F" Faith is not a rational thing. It does not respond to facts or logic or the example you're leading. There is a reason religious (or even political) training starts so young - that is when the brain is really wiring itself together and if the powers-that-be can inject their brand of truth/faith into your deepest source code at that early stage, then some version of it will live in there forever. Not many people have the self-awareness to call bullshit on something they've been programmed to believe since before they could walk. What I'm saying is you're not going to change them, you can only be a living example of the life you think is possible.
Also keep this in mind: Time is a factor. As your cousins and siblings get older, the people not "allowing" them to contact you will start losing their power. Keep the lines of communication as open as you can - even if it all one-way for a long time. Sooner or later things will change, and that goes for your parents and all the other "hypocrites" in your life. Yes, I'm aware of the irony here: I'm telling you to turn the other cheek, even if they've lost track of the true meaning of their own beliefs.
Forgive them. They know not what they do.