September 27, 2016

A Beyond Survivor Shares Her Story

I'd like to to introduce you today to Cindy, who became a Beyond Survivor in 2016. She shares with you a bit about her journey and what she gained from our time working together.







"I thought [the abuse] was so serious that I was just broken and couldn't be fixed ... I would say if you are struggling or doubting, just do it, give Rachel's program a chance. You deserve better ... "


You can learn more about my Beyond Surviving program here, but more importantly, leave a comment for Cindy letting her know what you got from her story.

September 20, 2016

The Intellectual Consequences of Growing Up an Abused…and Thinking …Catholic

This week, we conclude our series with Charles Sutherland, who takes a bold look at how religion became a space of confusion and inconsistencies when set against his experiences of abuse. 

One note here for believers in a higher spiritual power, I want to welcome you to read Charles's reflections here as a perspective on how faith and religion can become distorted when used by abusers as a way to manipulate rather than an indictment of religion on the whole.

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As soon as the next academic year arrived, I left our household (which I never called ‘home’) to go far away, to a Jesuit college in Denver to where I received a small scholarship.  My father did not give me any financial assistance, and I dropped out after the first year to earn money. 

A year later, because it was less expensive, I went to Europe, to the University of Vienna in Austria for two years.  Subsequently, I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and Philosophy in the U.S., and then pursued graduate studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and studied some French at the Institute de Francais in Villefranche-sur-Mer in France.  Since then I have been to 67 countries, for one reason or another, have been an international businessman, a newspaper executive, and a writer.

The traditional ‘growth pattern’ of an abused child is often a life of criminality.  Unlike many abused children, I was fortunate to have strong Scotch-Irish DNA, and a stubborn and tenacious disposition. I also ‘escaped’ into the excitement of reading, and thinking about new ideas. 

To summarize the mental development in growing up as a physically and mentally abused boy, I will quote below from my book Reflections of a Boy… Growing Up in Nebraska in the 1950s with an Irish Catholic Father.

“Today such physical and psychological abuse inflicted upon a child by a father would be criminal.  In those days it was regarded as ‘strict’ religious discipline, which was generally accepted, or even approved and applauded.  The constant quote, falsely attributed to the Bible, was, ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child.’  Actually the Biblical quote of Proverbs 13:24 is worse: ‘Whoever spares the rod hates their children…’

In our current era, religious intolerance and fanaticism are rising again in one of history’s cycles.  Having religion physically forced upon me from an early age compelled me to dwell upon it.  Doing so provided insights and empathy into religious persecution throughout history, of which I have written elsewhere.  If someone can beat their own child for asking questions about religious doctrines, it is easy to see how believers of all faiths can promote Crusades, Inquisitions, Biblical ‘cleansing’ of other ethnic groups, wars,  and Jihads against other people, whether family, neighbors, or strangers, who do not share their religious beliefs… or illusions.  Since by their nature all religions regard themselves as ‘exclusive’ in some manner or another, to subscribe to any religion inexorably leads to being intolerant on some level.

I was instructed to seek refuge from my painful life in God and religion.  Yet, my constant questioning revealed that any refuge I sought was just a mirage, like the mirages we saw on the long Nebraska highways on hot summer days.  When we came closer to the image, it evaporated into a mist.  I was punished for asking simple and basic questions, the kind which should be easily answered – but which went unanswered or were avoided, because like other ‘believers’ my father was afraid to even think about them.  We were taught in school not to think or ask questions, with the Christian admonition, ‘The idle mind is the devil’s workshop.’

Growing up in the farm lands of Nebraska created common sense.  When crops were dry, we didn’t pray for rain.  We irrigated them.  If someone needed help, we didn’t pray for them.  We helped them.  When action was required, we acted.  According to my emerging perspective, prayer was for the lazy, the ignorant, or the delusional.  Religious ‘mysteries’ were neurotic non-sense, meant to deceive and control the uneducated.  

Through observation, I learned to disregard apologies, which I came to see as insincere acts of self-indulgence.  I saw my father and others apologize to God
and receive ‘forgiveness’ in their weekly visits to Confession, with no improvement in their conduct.  Accordingly, I also learned to have no patience for those who practice ‘forgiveness,’ whether religious people or lenient judges.  I also routinely watched self-righteous ‘believers’ enjoy the self-gratifying religious feeling of dispensing ‘forgiveness,’ rather than having the courage to hold people responsible for their actions.  Forgiveness exonerates bad behavior, inevitably leading to worse offenses in the future.  When people are not held accountable for their conduct, anarchy ultimately prevails. 

Finally, on the crucible of painful childhood curiosity, I developed a complete and visceral intolerance for dishonesty of any kind, no matter what the personal pain or consequence.  Regardless of how intelligent, stupid, rich, or poor someone may be, they can at least be honest.  Personal relationships are built on the foundation of truth, and a stable society requires honesty to prevent the fabric of civilization from tearing apart.  Honesty is a natural impulse in a child, until a religious education suppresses and distorts it.  The religious fables, to which I was continuously subjected and compelled to recite, inhibited my ability to think honestly at an early age.  These false fables of fantasy and fear are society’s most ubiquitous and pernicious disquisitions of deceit, inflicted daily upon the ignorant and vulnerable, particularly upon children.  Given the difficulties we encounter in our everyday human lives, it is morally reprehensible for self-righteous people to add imaginary fears and woes to real ones, through a litany of useful lies.

Finally, the psychology that there are divine friends in the sky who may grant us our wishes through prayer teaches children not to be self-reliable.  It delays the reality of life, that the cosmos is indifferent to our desires.  Often we don’t even achieve our objectives by working for them, let alone by praying for them.

The ancient wisdom says, ‘It’s better to light a little candle, than to curse the darkness.’  Hopefully, these honest and candid memories, many amusing, others painful, provide some flicker of light to whoever might read them – of whatever religion.  Every religious faith flounders on its own historic falsehoods, and then, in a final act of despair, the creeds’ followers eventually seek the light of reason, however dim or bright.  The sooner, the better, for all of us…

In any event, my dear maternal Aunt Marie always told me, ‘Hang in there, sweetheart.  Always remember, the first one hundred years are the hardest’.”



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Charles Sutherland was educated at schools and universities in the United States and Europe, including the University of Vienna and the London School of Economics and Political Science. As a student and international businessman for over 40 years, he has lived, studied, worked in, or traveled to over 60 countries. He has sat on numerous Boards of Directors and has launched a wide variety of business ventures and philanthropic organizations in the United States, Latin America, Europe (including the former Soviet Union), Asia, and the Middle East. He has also been Director of Development of The Washington Times, and author of numerous articles and several books, including Disciples of Destruction: The Religious Origins of War and Terrorism; Character for Champions; Red Tape: Adventure Capitalism in the New Russia (co-author); Clash of the Gods (co-author); The Poison Planters, and GMO Food Poison Handbook. He has two sons and lives in the Washington, DC area.

September 13, 2016

Learning How to Think: A Gateway to Freedom

This week, we continue our series with Charles Sutherland. In this post, he shares about his high school years and how learning to question everything became a gateway to freedom.

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As the time approached to go to high school, my mother and her sisters wanted me to attend Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, which was a strong academic Catholic school run by the Jesuit priests.  My father and our parish priest were against it, saying that once the Jesuits taught me how to think I would “lose my faith.”  They wanted me to go to a regular Catholic school across town run by Catholic nuns. My father also said that the tuition at the Jesuit school was nearly five times as the other school, and he would not pay it.  

However, when I tested, I received a small scholarship.  In addition, one of my aunts, on my mother’s side, was the Mother Superior of a large group of Catholic nuns in the Mid-West, and she wanted me to go to the Jesuit school.  With her Catholic connections, she even arranged to get me free books for my entire set of courses!  

Since my father and the parish priest knew I was ‘already thinking too much’, they gave up, and resigned themselves to the fact that I might “lose my faith” and go to hell.  So they relented, but my father refused to provide me any financial support or pay any of the tuition, or even the bus fare to get to school.  So, I got a job, and then another job, and another job, all the way through high school.

On my first day of high school, the Jesuit principal assembled all of the freshmen and told us, “With your cooperation as students wanting to learn, we intend to help you become thinking men – but not just to think, and do nothing.  We intend to make you ‘Contemplatives in Action’ so that you use your mind for something, and are always acting… and thinking.”  Then he said, “Look around at those sitting next to you. Before this is over, one out of the three of you won’t make it here.”  Everyone got nervous.

When he concluded, he said, “One thing you will need to survive around here is a good sense of humor.  Humor is one of the earmarks of intelligence. And, of course, without humor life is boring.  It also enables us to observe stupidity without anger.  The older you get, the more stupidity you will encounter.  So make sure you have fun while learning.”  Then he added, “Even God has a sense of humor.  If you don’t think so, just look around again at your fellow students.”  Everyone laughed.

With that, at the age of 13, we embarked upon four years of classical studies, Latin and Greek, history and literature.  Then, because the Soviets put a satellite in orbit, study intensified.  The Americans wanted to get ahead of the Soviets, the Catholics wanted to have better schools than the public schools, and the Jesuits wanted to have the best academics of all.  So we were the academic ‘victims’ – now with extended school hours, learning advanced mathematics and calculus.  That was in addition to our extra-curricular activities, clubs, and sports.

The principal focus was on thinking, and challenging every thought, idea, and even every religious belief we were supposed to have.  It was clear that the Jesuit priests did not believe everything the Church was teaching. One religion teacher said, “God is truth. Just pursue the truth, and let the Vatican have its own approach to things.”



There was also strong discipline, and no tolerance for bad behavior. All students had to carry ‘Demerit Cards’ with them, and would receive a demerit for doing anything wrong.  Once five demerits were obtained, the student would have to stay after school and do an assignment in literature or math, which sometimes took several hours.  The priests would simply call the parents and tell them the student would not be ready to leave school until 6 or 7 o’clock.  Parents knew that if they ever objected to the discipline, the student was expelled from the school.  And, in those days, parents knew that teachers imposed morality, not permissiveness.

Throughout my high school days my father would not allow me to date girls, or even use his car.  His physical discipline declined as I grew larger and more willing to confront him.  Then he stopped when my cousin, a boxer in the Air Force, was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha … and intervened. My father did not want to get into a fight with my older cousin.  My cousin also allowed me the use of his car, and became my friend and role model.

Because we were Catholics at an all boys prep school, and regarded as the ‘brainy boys’ in Nebraska, other schools wanted to beat us in debate tournaments and in sports.  However, our academic training enabled us to win many State contests in debate and public speaking, and our sports teams regularly won the State Championships.  We even played against Gale Sayers, who later became a football Hall of Fame legend (That famous high school game with Gale Sayers brought nearly 15,000 people to the stands, and was a tie.) Sayers also became famous for the wonderful movie Brian’s Song.  Many of our students later became important figures in America.

With the Jesuits there was no question ‘off limit’ on any subject, as long as we asked the question politely, and engaged in follow-up analysis to make sure we were actually interested in learning and not ‘just being cute or confrontational.’  As a consequence, we developed a pattern of questioning everything, and analyzing whatever was told to us… by anyone… and being polite in arguments.  Ultimately, as my father and the parish priest predicted, that caused me to abandon many of my religious beliefs – many of which I had already abandoned anyway.

The entire atmosphere was intellectual honesty. The excitement of learning and thinking made me ignore the pain of personal abuse in our household. Jesuit priests became our friends, to whom we could confide anything and discuss anything. The entire experience was a feeling of intellectual and emotional liberation.  And, many of us maintained those friendships for decades, until our former Jesuit mentors and friends passed away.

During the philosophical discussions we learned to challenge our most cherished beliefs, and to discard many of them.  An intellectual pattern was set, to experience the joy of learning something new, rather than fearing the loss of traditional religious beliefs. We regarded ourselves as part of ‘American Exceptionalism’ and we enjoyed knowing that there were many renowned Jesuit-trained people throughout history, some applauded and others despised. Our class cartoon was a montage of Voltaire in Paris writing anti-clerical diatribes, a priest in Central America with a Latin textbook in one hand and a rifle in another, and Fidel Castro in the Escambray Mountains of Cuba. The caption on the cartoon was, “Jesuit educated men are active everywhere!”

When my high school days were over, I knew I had been trained and educated better than most students ever could be.  It was then that I became the first in my family to ever go to college.  Of course, my father did not approve, and wanted me to go to work for the Union Pacific Railroad where he worked and was a major labor leader.  The Union Pacific was an important company in Omaha, the town of its headquarters.  However, I knew this was just a way for him to try to control me again … and another frustrating attempt to keep me Catholic.  

So, I left town for college, with a small scholarship to a Jesuit college in Denver, and not enough money to even complete the first year.  But, I knew I had the education, and the stubborn Scotch-Irish determination to succeed at whatever I tried.  Like my desire to go to a Jesuit high school, it was the beginning of another adventure against the odds.

An analysis of what this all meant, and the result of this intellectual fermentation, will be in the next post!


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Charles Sutherland was educated at schools and universities in the United States and Europe, including the University of Vienna and the London School of Economics and Political Science. As a student and international businessman for over 40 years, he has lived, studied, worked in, or traveled to over 60 countries. He has sat on numerous Boards of Directors and has launched a wide variety of business ventures and philanthropic organizations in the United States, Latin America, Europe (including the former Soviet Union), Asia, and the Middle East. He has also been Director of Development of The Washington Times, and author of numerous articles and several books, including Disciples of Destruction: The Religious Origins of War and Terrorism; Character for Champions; Red Tape: Adventure Capitalism in the New Russia (co-author); Clash of the Gods (co-author); The Poison Planters, and GMO Food Poison Handbook. He has two sons and lives in the Washington, DC area.

September 6, 2016

Memories of an Abusive Catholic Childhood


This week, I am very pleased to introduce you to Charles Sutherland. Charles and I connected on Facebook and I knew I wanted to share his story with you. An author, a businessman, and a survivor of abuse. I hope you will learn much from his series this month!

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This is a narrative of a physically and mentally abused child, and is drawn from my recent book. Abuse is an occurrence which still happens regularly on our planet. Hopefully, this will provide some insights to people today.

In my case, my very first childhood memory is when I was three or four years old. I was sitting on the floor of our kitchen in Omaha, Nebraska, and my father was shouting at my mother.

When I asked him why he was shouting at her, and I said, “That’s not nice,” he grabbed me, starting shouting at me, and then spanked me hard on the butt.  Then he shoved me into the little room in the back of the house.

When he grabbed me, I was afraid and I knew it was going to hurt.  So he must have spanked me hard before.  I just don’t remember.  (I should mention that since I was very young, I never called him ‘dad.’ Later I referred to him as my male parent.)

One of my next memories is when I tried to burn the house down, by taking my father’s cigarette matches and setting the curtain on fire.

My grandmother, my mother’s mother, was taking care of us because my mother was in a sanitarium for what in those days they called ‘a nervous breakdown.’  She was there because my father always hurt her and she became sick.

As the curtain was burning, my grandmother came into the room, pulled down the curtains, and threw them outside.  Then she got a pan of water and put out the fire.  When she came back into the house, she took the matches away from me.  

My grandmother asked me why I had set the fire, and I told her it was the only way I knew how to kill myself so that I would not be beaten again.  With my mother gone, there was no one there at night to tell him to stop hitting me.

She told me I had done a very bad thing, and she would have to call my father and tell him because he would see the burned curtains anyway when he got home.  So she called him where he worked. He told her he would come right away.  So, I was scared again.

When he came home, the first thing he did was slap me.  Then he took off his belt, pulled down my pants, and began hitting me on the butt.  I cried, without making any noise, because I couldn’t help it; but I didn’t want him to see me cry.  So, as soon as he stopped, I wiped my eyes and went outside.

He hit me for years, throughout my childhood.  When he hit me, he would often say he is doing it because I was a “bad boy” and that if I stayed that way I would go to hell forever.  I didn’t think I was bad, and I didn’t even know what hell was, but it could not be worse than home.

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I began school when I was only four years old.  That’s because my sister, Charline, was a year older and began first grade.  So my mother asked the priest if I could start at the same time.  That way she would not have to take care of me.  The priest asked me some questions to see if I was smart, and then he agreed.

Oh, I should mention that the reason my sister Charline spells her name that way, and not ‘Charlene,’ is because my father’s nickname is ‘Charlie.’  After she was born he didn’t want any more children; so he named her after himself.  My parents later told me that I was an ‘accident’ because Jesus wanted them to have children.

At school one of the first things we learned is that Lucifer was always watching us, and if we were not good we could go to hell and burn there forever.  When I asked the “sisters” who were teaching us how they knew that, they said the Church says so.  When I asked them how the Church knows, they said that Jesus told the Church.  When I asked them when Jesus told the Church, they said he told them before he died for us.

Of course, I had to ask them why Jesus died for us, and they told me because two people called Adam and Eve sinned.  When I asked them when they lived, they did not know… but it was a long time ago.  When I asked how Adam and Eve sinned, they said a snake called ‘Lucifer’ tempted them by telling them that if they ate the apple from the tree of knowledge, they could be like God.  So they ate the apple.  I could not imagine why anyone would believe a snake in the first place, because we always see snakes and run away from them. Anyway, I didn’t even believe the story.  

When I asked if it was a green apple or a red apple, since we have both kinds in Nebraska, they didn’t know.  When I asked them why it was sinful to eat an apple to become smart instead of studying, they did not know how to answer.  So, I asked them if it was sinful to study, and to get knowledge.  They said I asked too many questions, but I would understand when I grew up.

Since I could go to hell forever because of two people, I thought they should at least know when Adam and Eve lived, what kind of apple it was, and why it was wrong to get knowledge.  Because they didn’t know, that was my first doubt about religion.  From then on, I questioned everything they told me.  By the time I was in eighth grade, I didn’t believe any of it.

My father beat me and told me I had to believe.  He also made the whole family kneel and say the rosary every day, and made us go to confession every week. Because I was a good boy I didn’t think I was sinful, so I made up sins to confess. I would add the sin of lying, since I had just done it!  That was just to be safe… in case.  My sister Charline always took confession seriously, but I thought it was nonsense. After high school she became a Catholic nun, although she eventually left the convent.  Because my father tried to beat goodness into me, I developed an animosity toward his Catholic religion.  But, I was never able to tell anyone that until I was in high school.       

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Today the abuse inflicted upon me would be criminal.  In those days it was regarded as ‘strict religious upbringing.’ The constant quote was, “Spare the rod, and spoil the child.”  Actually, Proverbs 13:24 is even worse.  It says, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children…”

Having religion forced upon me compelled me to think about these ideas, and ultimately to study philosophy and religion in college, both in the U.S. and Europe (before switching to Economics).  The study of philosophy, particularly logic and epistemology (the study of knowledge and sources of knowledge), sharpened my mind for all aspects of life.

This background also taught me the value of justice, as opposed to tyrannical authority.  It also taught me that asking for forgiveness was a self-indulgent exercise.  I had watched people ask God for forgiveness every Saturday night at Confession, in preparation for Sunday Mass.  But the next week, they committed the same sins— particularly my father.  So, to me, people should be held accountable for their behavior, not forgiven.

As I said, by the time I left Catholic grammar schools, I no longer believed any of these stories.  Then I went to a Jesuit Catholic high school.  It was a whole new awakening – but one you would not expect.  That comes next… 


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Charles Sutherland was educated at schools and universities in the United States and Europe, including the University of Vienna and the London School of Economics and Political Science. As a student and international businessman for over 40 years, he has lived, studied, worked in, or traveled to over 60 countries. He has sat on numerous Boards of Directors and has launched a wide variety of business ventures and philanthropic organizations in the United States, Latin America, Europe (including the former Soviet Union), Asia, and the Middle East. He has also been Director of Development of The Washington Times, and author of numerous articles and several books, including Disciples of Destruction: The Religious Origins of War and Terrorism; Character for Champions; Red Tape: Adventure Capitalism in the New Russia (co-author); Clash of the Gods (co-author); The Poison Planters, and GMO Food Poison Handbook. He has two sons and lives in the Washington, DC area.

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