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Adult Fear / Religion and Mythology

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  • The Bible:
    • In New Testament, Herod ordering the murder of all the newborn boy babies.
    • The resurrection/healing of the little girl in Mark 5. Obviously her resurrection is heartwarming: "Little girl, I say to you, get up!" — but a poor little girl is dead. Also, in the same story, there is a woman who has been suffering from a bleeding disorder (endometriosis? obstetric fistula?) as long as the little girl has been alive (implying that she may be the girl's mother), and because bleeding made her ritually impure, she has been forced to live alone on the fringes of society, suffering from her affliction.
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    • Abraham's horrible trial when he was asked to prove his faith by sacrificing his only son Isaac.
    • Joseph's Secret Test of Character for his brothers which involves the youngest of all of them, Benjamin: he says he'll hold one of them hostage until they bring Benjamin to Egypt and when they do, he then demands they leave Benjamin behind.
    • Jewish male babies being abandoned or killed via Pharaoh orders.
    • Imagine what it must have been like for Mary, seeing her firstborn Son being beaten, humiliated, murdered in the most torturous and degrading way the Romans could devise - and this is after being told by an angel that God had a special plan for Him. Even if she knew about him rising again in three days, it's hard to keep something like that in focus when your own flesh-and-blood child is crucified and dying in front of you.
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    • On that note, we're told how difficult it was for his disciples to deal with the inevitability of His sacrifice - Peter even pulls out a sword and starts hacking at people in Jesus' defense. Remember, Jesus was more to them than their God or teacher - he was also their friend, with whom they had traveled and did life for the past three years. Imagine if your best friend one day tells you "okay, now it's time for me to go die - don't try to stop it."
    • The Deuteronomy passage about what will happen to the Israelites if they don't follow the laws outlined in the book. This includes being invaded by rival nations, disease, poverty, hunger, enslavement, rape, being killed, and being driven to cannibalism.
    • King David's family drama. First his eldest son with Bathsheba died in infancy, as God's punishment for him killing Bathsheba's first husband. Then his son Amnon raped his daughter Tamar, so his other son Absalom murdered Amnon as revenge and had to go into exile. Then Absalom rebels against him, only to be killed by one of David's generals. The whole thing left David depressed and devastated.
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    • Invoked by King Solomon. Two women came to him, each claiming they were the mother of a young baby and the other was trying to steal him. Solomon said he would have the child cut in half, knowing whichever woman was more horrified had to be the real mother.
    • Dinah goes out to visit her friends. On the way, she is raped by a Canaanite prince, who then decides he wants to marry her. Her brothers then invoke this trope on the people of that prince: they tell them that they will allow the marriage on the condition that all the men are circumcised, and while they're recovering, the brothers slaughtered every adult male in the village and took women and children as plunder. Their father is upset, too, because he's concerned that the other peoples in the area will start a Cycle of Revenge and wipe out their burgeoning tribe. (Also, he seemed more upset that his sons sacked a town than that his daughter was raped.)
    • The life of the unnamed Samaritan woman that Jesus talked with at the well. She had been married five times. (It is unknown whether she was widowed several times or divorced several times. Keep in mind that in that time and place, a man could divorce his wife for any reason whatsoever, whether it was a good reason or a crummy one...and always blamed his ex-wife for the divorce. But no matter the cause, the divorce was declared publicly. Meaning that, assuming she was divorced several times, up to five men had publicly shamed and humiliated this woman. It's more likely, however, that at least some of these marriages ended in the husband's death.) She had a boyfriend she was living with, who is generally interpreted to already have a wife, making her The Mistress. Because of the social stigma she could have endured on a daily basis, she went to the well by herself at high noon, instead of at dawn or at dusk like most women of her village would.
    • Joseph finding out that his fiancee Mary was pregnant, and not by him. The law said he had the right to drag her before the leaders of their community and have her stoned to death by the men of her town and left on her father's doorstep after the fact. He didn't want to do that to her, but neither did he want the stares and whispers that would come from their community if he were to marry her anyway. He decided he was going to divorce her quietly, but an angel appeared to him to tell him what was going on, and encourage him to go through with the marriage as originally planned.
    • Mary had to watch her Son die a horrible, slow, painful death, and couldn't do a damned thing about it. She knew she would have to; she had been told as such by a prophetess named Anna, but (just as Anna had told her) that didn't make it any easier.
    • A very zealous man named Jepthah made a vow before God that if he won the battle he was fighting, he'd sacrifice the first living thing he saw come out his front door. Well, he won the battle alright, but then out steps his own daughter. Since he can't go back on his word, he has to sacrifice her. She understands, though she does make a final request to go up into the hills with her friends for 2 months to mourn, which he grants her.
    • The start of the Book of Esther...hoo boy. First, the Persian king Ahasuerus/Xerxes throws a lavish celebration of his victory, which involves a lot of drinking...which leads him to attempt to drag his wife from her own banquet for the noblewomen to show her off wearing her crown, and only her crown. Understandably, she refuses, and he gets pissed. He consults with his advisors, and they suggest having her sent away (and decreeing that the man is the head of the household and that a wife's disobedience amounts to treason), fearing that other women will follow her example and their cushy patriarchal status quo will be upended. He divorces her, and it's not known what happened to her, though considering that refusing the king's orders was considered high treason (especially considering that she was his wife), she was probably executed. Days later, he starts to feel bad about what he'd done, but since a royal edict couldn't be revoked in Ancient Persia (and, you know, Vashti was probably killed as a traitor), he was stuck. His advisors came up with a "solution" to his problems: find a new abducting beautiful young virgin girls from all over the Persian Empire. They would be taken into the Royal Harem and treated with various essential oils used as beauty treatments, and whoever pleased the king the most in bed would be the new primary queen. Which sounds great, until you realize that none of these girls had any say in this, nor did their families, and that most of these these girls were probably (by modern standards) underage. And then Esther has to face her husband's treacherous advisor trying to destroy her people, and try to convince her husband not to listen to him...except she isn't allowed to see him unless he specifically calls for her by name, under penalty of execution.
    • Lot and his family. They are told to evacuate because God found their city to be totally beyond saving. Before that, they entertained two Angel Unawares, and the men of the town demanded that they be brought out for sex. Lot refused, because of Sacred Hospitality, and offered up his two daughters instead. That was the last straw, and God destroyed the town, and all who lived in it. Lot's wife looked back (even though she was specifically told not to), and turned into a "pillar of salt." (Whether this means that she was literally Taken for Granite, or it means that she became an Empty Shell or simply infertile, is unknown.) Meanwhile, his daughters' fiances were killed, because they just laughed off their soon-to-be-father-in-law's warnings about the destruction of their city, and the girls believed themselves and their father to be the only people left on Earth. They felt compelled to have children for future security, and they got their father drunk and raped him, because they knew he would never go for that sober.
    • Another story that deliberately mirrors the above-mentioned Lot story in the Book of Judges. An unnamed Levite man had a concubine, and she ran away from him. The narrative says that she cheated on him and ran home to her daddy, but it can be interpreted as saying that she was angry at the Levite husband and tried to escape Domestic Abuse. She had her daughter with her, and was likely seeking help from her father, whose hands were basically tied due to social customs. Her husband comes by to drag her home, and her father can only stall them by having them stay over one more night. Just then, the men of Gibeah come by with intention to rape the Levite man (because he is a foreigner), and he offers up his daughter, but they refuse. He then offers his concubine, and they accept the offer, and literally gang-rape her to death, leaving her on her father's doorstep. She doesn't even get a dignified burial: her husband hacks up her body and distributes the pieces to his buddies, calling them to war with Gibeah.
    • The entire Book of Job. Life takes an enormous crap on poor Job. He loses everything, and his so-called friends have No Sympathy.
  • Greek Mythology: Daedalus and Icarus. They were close to escaping their terrible situation, a father with his only child. Poor Daedalus has to helplessly watch him die due to something he specifically warned him against.
    • The myth of Demeter and Persephone from Demeter's perspective. Your child completely vanishes behind your back. You have no idea where she is or what happened to her and you desperately search for her to no avail. Whether or not Persephone went willingly with Hades, Demeter's fear and rage is real in either circumstance and can hit far too close to home for any parent in any time period.
      • From Persephone's perspective in certain myths: she is just minding her own business when Hades bursts out to take her to the Underworld and away from everything and everyone she's ever known, including her own mother. Minutes later she's informed that she is to wed her abductor.
    • King Midas of the famous Midas Touch. In exchange for taking in Dionysus' lost foster-father and sheltering him at the palace until Dionysus could come get him, he wishes for everything he touches to turn to gold. At first he has fun turning whatever he touches in the palace shiny, but then he realizes he can't eat anything because his FOOD turns to gold, too. He's already having second thoughts, but then his daughter comes along and he gives her a hug. She turns into a golden statue, and THIS is when he runs to Dionysus and begs him to get rid of his magic. Be Careful What You Wish For, indeed.
  • Celtic Mythology has a lot of this. "The Fate of the Children Of Lir" has four of Lir's five children die after their stepmother's curse on them is broken by a priest.
    • "The Fosterage Of The Two Pails" is even worse: Aengus' foster-daughter Enya becomes unable to eat after a Jerkass insults her (and somehow turns her Christian?), so Aengus has to search for the Dun Cow in India and bring it home. After a while of subsisting on nothing but milk, she suddenly gets teleported out of her home to a random spot in Ireland, and wanders around lost until she meets a priest. She gets baptized and starts eating again. Months later, Aengus finally finds her after searching for her since she disappeared, and asks her to come back home. But since Aengus is a pagan god and she's now Christian, she can't. So Aengus sings a lament for his lost daughter before he leaves, at which Enya dies of heartbreak.
    • For that matter, having your family shun you because of difference in religious belief.
    • Fridge Horror sets in when you realize that while the Celts strongly believe in reincarnation, Lir's children and Enya die permanently from their conversion to Christianity. Their families are immortal, but they can't see their children ever again. Considering many of the people who wrote the mythology down were Christianized monks themselves, the focus on both parties' anguish at being separated, and the distinct lack of triumphant conversion to Christianity, one wonders if this wasn't a cultural Take That! at being forced to give up their beliefs.
  • Folklore: Changelings. Faeries would take children from their home only to replace them with a fae child. The taken children would be put to work, raised as fae, or killed. The changeling child would be raised as human and when they reached maturity, was taken back to the faerie world. The parents would never be given the original child and would never see the fae child again, losing both of the children they cared about.
  • The idea of Fire and Brimstone Hell: Be good and/or follow the "right" religion, or else you'll be tortured for all eternity in the worst ways you can imagine and then some!
    • The newer idea of Hell as being, not a literal place of fire and torment, but "eternal separation from God" isn't much better.
  • The Rapture: If you're not "good enough," or just not a Christian, your loved ones leave, while you have to face all manner of Hell on Earth...and if you haven't converted, or you're still found wanting, it doesn't matter who you are or what good you may have done, you're going to actual Hell. (And if you were one of the ones "lucky" enough to be taken up to Heaven, you'll have to watch your loved ones being tormented down below, and possibly face eternity without them...and your new, glorified self might not care, or might stop caring after a while.)
  • Egyptian Mythology: When you die, Anubis takes your heart and weighs it against the Feather of Ma'at, the Goddess of Truth. Even in a Metaphysical Place where a mummified heart and a feather could weigh the same amount, the implication is obvious: it's a very high standard to live up to. If your heart is lighter than or weighs the same as her feather, you get to pass onto the afterlife. But if your heart is heavier, it gets tossed as a snack to a demoness by the name of Ammit, a Mix-and-Match Critter consisting of the most dangerous and deadly animals in all of Africa: a crocodile, a lion or leopard (depending on your translation) and a hippopotamus. On top of that, your soul ceases to exist; everything that's left of you is Eaten Alive by Ammit, and you don't get to see your family/friends/spouse again. It could also be simply tossed into a lake of fire, similar to the above-mentioned Fire and Brimstone Hell. Either way, you are Deader Than Dead. On the plus side, you can lie your way out of this with the proper spells... meaning that countless horrible people might have gotten away while ignorant good ones did not...
  • The "Purity Culture" of many religions (most notably, the more conservative sects of the Abrahamic religions) relies on this to keep young people from having sex outside of marriage. It doesn't distinguish between consensual premarital sex and rape, leading to people in these groups who are raped to believe that they are "damaged goods." Nor does it distinguish between sex with a long-term boyfriend or girlfriend, or even fiance(e), and a one-night stand with someone whose name you neither know nor care to learn. It threatens young people with being unfit for marriage and/or going to Hell if they have sex outside of marriage, or (in some cases) even kiss or confess their love for someone before their wedding. (Therefore, it posits that Sex Equals Love, and therefore sex outside of marriage is the same as cheating on your spouse, perhaps before you've even met them, and that your body doesn't belong to you, but to your spouse, before, during, and after marriage.) It threatens such people with unhappy marriages and divorce, as well as social shame and ostracism and possibly Dying Alone unless someone graciously decides to marry you even though they'll always resent you for being "impure." And it states that men can't control their lustful urges, so it's on women to dress and act modestly and demurely, so as not to "invite trouble" or to cause a man to stray from his wife (whether she exists here and now or sometime in the future). Women are divided along the lines of "good girl" and "whore." And in some circles who adhere to these ideologies more stringently, someone (especially a girl or woman) may be disowned, beaten, or killed if they wear the "wrong" kind of clothes or have sex or a relationship before marriage, or are even just rumored to have done so, in order to protect their family's reputation.
  • Buddhist deity Hariti used to be a terrifying Child Eater who was also a Mother of a Thousand Young. The mothers of her victims asked Buddha to help, and Buddha responded by stealing Hariti's youngest child. Hariti was so distraught that she asked Buddha to help her. Buddha responded by asking how she felt to lose just one child out of hundreds, when she had stolen the only children of other women. Hariti promptly underwent a Heel–Face Turn and vowed to only eat pomegranates.

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