"I was raised in The Message cult. Our prophet was a self-proclaimed prophet named William Branham. William spoke in many of his sermons about beating his wife with a barrel slat because she laid out to get a suntan. He also talked about beating his daughters until they had blisters so painful that they could not put their clothes on or sleep. I was 4 when my mom married a man who took us to the Word of Life Tabernacle. I grew up in the church until I was 15. My stepfather was a violent man. I still have flashbacks of the sound his belt made being yanked out of the loops of his pants, and he would say, 'A man who spareth the rod, hateth his son.' And then he would take out his day on me as a small child. He would hit me for so long that I thought it would never end and my screams would just become gasps.
There was also a lot of assault. The women had no form of self-expression because it was seen as sinful. We wore dresses to our ankles and loose fitting shirts. We were not allowed to paint our nails, cut our hair, or wear makeup or lip gloss. If women dressed any other way, they were 'asking' to be violated.
I left when I was 15. I was able to move in with my Nan. Any time I attended the church after that, the preacher would direct his sermon at me, and the sin I was living in. Now I'm 22, I'm in a long-term relationship, I have a beautiful home and I've been through therapy. Cheers!"
"I grew up in a Christian Reformed community and, let me tell you, there is a special kind of crazy for these people. CRC is a branch of Protestantism that follows the teachings of John Calvin and founds their religious practices based on the Cannons of Dordt. Abraham Kuyper is the go-to philosopher for our little sect- which is predominately Dutch-American.
For starters, we were not allowed to attend public school as secular education would brainwash us and turn us into communists and atheists. The public schools in my county still had prayer in schools (student led, not staff) and it was very common for prayer to be held before sporting events for all schools regardless of religious affiliation. The only thing public schools were lacking compared to private schools were actual bible studies classes.
In grade school, we were not allowed to wear black, girls could not wear light colored shirts that could be deemed 'see-through,' no piercings (including ear piercings) were allowed and coloring your hair was pretty much forbidden. Anything that could be considered saying 'oh my god' earned you a suspension. So saying oh my gosh, oh my goodness, golly gee etc. were all off limits.
We had our hands physically pierced with a rusty nail during Easter after we hit 5th grade because we were old enough to understand Jesus's suffering and should also experience pain to understand what our sin did to him.
We had 'vocational' bible school rather than a 'vacation' bible school to help us find our duties to Christ in the world.
We weren't allowed to watch most secular TV shows- The Simpsons, Friends, Spongebob, or That's So Raven. All of these exhibited sinful acts or witchcraft. Also applied to Harry Potter (but not the Chronicles of Narnia)
In high school, we were not allowed to have a theater department because acting was a form of lying and therefore a sin. We had one play a year that we had to put on ourselves with no school funding, and it had to be approved by a pastor. We also weren't allowed to watch movies for this same reason, and when a new (non-CRC) teacher tried to have us watch 'The Passion of the Christ,' the pastors in the community petitioned to get him fired.
If you smoked, had tattoos, or got pregnant, they would hold a council meeting with pastors in the area and the school board to vote on expulsion.
I attended our denominational college for my BA but attended a state school for my MS and my father still berates me for turning into a communist and being brainwashed.
Two days ago, one of my friends from high school shared a blog post about how women need to remain tattoo free, debt free, and virgins to be good wives. We (women) should not go to college because it ruins our 'meek and shy' demeanor and we must be re-trained to be proper wives. On top of the debt, college also makes women believe they can think for themselves and they then believe they can interpret the Bible on their own and are no longer submissive to their husbands."
"My dad is a paranoid schizophrenic and everyone he knew, his family and friends, all worshiped him like a God. I don't mean that in an exaggerated way. They all believed that he could see the future and they believed that he could make anything happen. They would ask him for things or to see things about the future. He would make a big show about going into a dark room and sleeping for two to three days straight. When he came out he would be quiet and miserable for a while but would recover. Everyone swore what he said would come true and that he could make what they needed happen in just the way the needed it.
My dad believed that he was a Jinn - a sort of spiritual being that can manipulate their surroundings - but he made it into a religious thing. He thought they were a sort of different species, greater than humans. He said there were only 1,000 left on Earth and that he (and I) was one of them. He had a seraph that spoke to him named Sam (Samhain, yeah) that would tell him how to do things and would guide him. He also had other 'seraphim' but they didn't often get talked about.
Every single person I interacted with as a child believed this. They fed into it and everyone did exactly as my dad said. They were all terrified of him and wanted things from him. He was incredibly violent and controlling and if things didn't go exactly as he wanted, he would hurt you and he would threaten in the most unimaginable ways to kill you. And he had a way of making you believe it. Even now, I'm still afraid he may one day come after me. But everyone accepted this and worked around him. Just doing whatever he wanted.
He was pretty odd with me as a kid. I couldn't cut my hair, walk down the stairs by myself, cut up my own food, or do anything that was active (couldn't climb on a playground or join any kind of active club).
He brought me up to be his right hand, of sorts. He taught me how to do the whole 'sit in a room for days and make things happen.' It involved intense meditation, reaching a 'void' and placing thoughts and emotions into it to make what you wanted to happen happen. He believed I could make things happen without reaching the void and often told me silly things that no one controlled was my own doing.
Also for all his fear of me doing active stuff, if it fed into his ideas of things it was fine. Like, he taught me a lot of survival skills and how to do a lot of nasty stuff to dead bodies and such (I don't think he's actually ever killed anyone, all this stuff was theoretical and not taught on actual humans or anything). Another part of his beliefs was that the world would end in our lifetime and we would have to usher forth a new world with the remaining 1/3rd of the population. He also taught me a lot about controlling and manipulating people, all straight from that 'How To Win Friends And Influence People' and 'The Prince' sort of stuff.
So yeah just a lot of controlling and bucket and buckets of fear and manipulation since birth really."
"I spent four years in a Baptist private school. In retrospect, they were borderline fundamentalist. Uniforms, mandatory chapel, normal stuff on the surface. But it got weird fast. No jewelry, girls couldn't wear nail polish. Corporal punishment. We had to do the pledge to the flag every morning...including the Christian flag. Discipline meant walking laps in the soccer field until they got tired of watching you walk. Can't say 'oh my god,' big into predetermination stuff and all that. It was kind of excessive.
The academics were seriously behind grade level. I started the school doing long division in 1st grade. I left the school, still doing long division, in 5th. 'Science' books were written by the church, they literally said that evolution was a myth. It intended to test our faith and that revoking strict creationism made you wrong/a heathen (and other, similar things). We had an incredibly small class and most of the people that graduated from there went on to a private Christian college (or just got married) because you had 'duties,' either to God or to your future husband AND God. I left shortly after my mother died because I was reprimanded for being upset and 'questioning God's plan.'
Overall, they weren't terrible people but it was incredibly isolated and out of touch with the real world. There was no opportunity. You went there, your parents went there, you basically didn't associate with anyone that wasn't a part of that community. It just kind of existed in its own little bubble for decades. Like some kind of creepy, fundamentalist time capsule."
"I grew up extremely conservative Christian but didn't belong to an actual group, mostly because my parents never found one they totally agreed with. That was worse because at least a group offers friendship. The closest thing I could describe it as would be Calvinist Mennonite. I had to wear long dresses and head coverings. I wasn't allowed to listen to most music, even Christian rock. I was homeschooled and even home-churched at one point. Most people haven't heard of home-churching but basically, it's like reading the Bible and singing hymns with your family. This was because we went through a period of visiting so many churches but they were all evil.
It was really difficult. I've tried dealing with all of this in therapy but it's tough. The rules were ridiculous. I wasn't allowed to wear sandals. I wasn't allowed to shake hands with unmarried men because if we 'courted,' we were supposed to get married without ever having touched. My whole life was to be in service for men. It's tough to describe more of it because honestly, I've blocked a lot of it out. I'll get reminded of something randomly and it'll be something I'd completely forgotten because of the trauma.
Obviously, it's messed me up a bit and I still struggle with relationships, I think due to this. I'm a lesbian and I didn't realize this until about 27 because basically any feelings like that were considered evil so I never even considered it as a possibility. I went through a period of being extremely anti-religion but I'm coming around a little because I realize I grew up in an extreme environment."
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"The worst part for me was being so suppressed growing up. Public school was usually frowned upon. I grew up in church schools and homeschooling which ended up hurting my education in the long run. I was held back when I finally entered a public school at 14.
Not only that but I was the weird girl. I had no friends. No social skills whatsoever. I had only ever socialized with other church people and their kids. Everyone I grew up with. I didn't know how to make friends because I never had to. I am 27 and finally feel like my social skills are developing but I still struggle so much. It's also hard that I still believe the same beliefs I just don't want to live that way anymore."
"So, I grew up in the Apostolic Pentecostal Church. It's a small denomination of Christianity who's biggest doctrinal difference is the belief that the Godhead is not a trinity, but a single entity manifesting itself in different ways. The lifestyle of an Apostolic Pentecostal, though, while varying from organization to organization, is what really makes it stand out. The particular churches I grew up didn't allow the following things from members (Anyone who broke these rules was welcome but still labeled 'backslidden' or 'worldly') For the record, I'm a guy.
Women were not allowed to cut their hair. Women were not allowed to wear makeup, earrings, tattoos, hair dye, painted fingernails/toenails or pants. They were expected to dress modestly, not showing cleavage or knees. Long skirts or dresses were appropriate. Girls were not allowed to swim in the same pool with the boys during trips. Men were not allowed to have long hair. We were forbidden beards and were expected to be clean-shaven at all times. In public, you were expected to wear jeans or pants (shorts were a sin) and oftentimes long sleeve shirts, even in the blistering southeast US summers. Men could also not wear tattoos, piercings, hair dye, etc. Au natural.
Specific things that most kids enjoyed growing up were dubbed 'worldly' by the church and were therefore forbidden places. These usually included movie theatres (televisions in homes were a huge no-no), dances, sports games, skating rinks, concerts (including Christian ones), and anything else that involved other people from 'the world' interacting with us, the church.
Neither gender was allowed to play in organized sports. No school football, cheerleading, etc. None. Kids weren't allowed to hang out regularly with other kids who weren't in the church. You hung out with church people which in our churches cases included about 10 kids and 40 adults.
I still had a great childhood (I'm 23 now). My mom is a wonderful woman who was simply led astray, but always had good intentions for us. About two years ago, I broke off from the church. I was the current Youth Leader, Sunday School Bus Driver, Part-Time Worship Leader, and a somewhat up-and-coming Minister in the organization. I myself simply decided I could no-longer live pretending to believe something I knew in my heart was a farce. All of my close friends were in the church. My mom and sister still are and the 'in-or-out' mentality of the church kind of strains the relationship between us. I don't talk to my old friends from there that I had so many splendid memories with anymore. When you're out, the church just isn't allowed to let you remain a true friend. You're in the world now, so its a no-go. This is the second hardest part of leaving. Yes, the church was oppressive in a sense, but in reality, it was a collection of exceptionally kind people who were deluded but otherwise had good intentions. I had the time of my life with them, and we loved each other. We were under strict rule, but we were under it together. The sense of tribalism that we all so innately desire was satisfied because of this.
The most difficult part for me is that I'm pretty sure my departure has robbed me of someone who seemed to have been my soul-mate. The Pastor's daughter and I were very close and talked for long hours all the time. We had countless great experiences together. She is extremely devout and has an intense ambition for the faith. We fell in love over the years basically, we seemed to be perfect for each other. But I knew we had, and still have, very different paths. It was hard at first and still is, the saddest part being that she still lives close to me, and every other piece fits. It's a shame that true love, something so rare and cherished in this life, can be cut off over something as smokey and intangible as a belief. Alas, this is the human condition. But time truly does heal all wounds, or at least mend them."
I was raised in a religious Christian church and household growing up. I was unable to do any extra-curricular activities outside of the church. I was not allowed to have girlfriends. They had a messed up way of developing relationships in the church called 'Friendship, Engagement, and Marriage.' It's exactly what it sounds like.
If I wanted to play in the worship band, I had to meet specific requirements in character and behavior. If you make one mistake, you're 'sat down' for a period of time. You grow up having sympathy for everyone else that isn't Christian because they don't know the 'truth' and are 'lost.'
I've had to speak to a therapist about this and work on my outlook in life to adjust to life as a normal human without the religious indoctrination.
"Back in my varsity days, I got pulled into a cult. I suppose I was a bit naive about life in general, and being a bit of a loner, I was seeking to belong somewhere. Needless to say, this group of Christians were very friendly and inviting.
The initiation process entailed intense Bible studies as well as studying their specific doctrine. At the end of this (usually lasted a month or two), the new member would be baptized (full water immersion) after confessing every single sin they had ever committed.
Once you were a member, you were required to attend all the services (mid-week prayers, Friday evening service, and Sunday service). You were also required to study your Bible for at least an hour every day, as well as pray in the morning and evening (they checked up on that). Furthermore, you had to go out (with a more senior member who was assigned as your mentor) to convert people (a process known as making disciples).
Friendships with non-church members were discouraged, and romantic relations were forbidden. We could only date church members, and only in groups. (One of the main reasons I left was because they interfered in my new romance with my very first girlfriend, which caused us to eventually break up).
Everything we did had to be accounted for. They even required us to draw up detailed daily schedules broken down into hourly periods showing what we did each hour of the day, and proving that we were praying and converting new people.
Given all that, they were really a very friendly bunch. The majority of the members were young (late teens, 20's) and their approach to religion appealed to younger people. They used to have fun outings and meetings at members' houses. There was always a bunch of guys around, and I felt accepted.
Eventually, my studies (electronic engineering + computer science) began to take a heavy dip. The courses required in the region of 50 hours per week additional study outside of lectures, but with my church activities, I simply did not have the time. I ended up failing my second year miserably.
After their interference in my relationship and the increasing frustration at my poor academic results, I cut ties. They tried for a day or two to get me back. I ultimately had to tell them in very harsh terms to just leave me alone.
20 odd years later, I am working as an accountant, I have a wife and child, and I have developed a very strong anti-religious sentiment and tend to be very skeptical about people's intentions. I do not have friends (aside from one guy who I have kept in contact with now and then since school), and I am still bitter about all the lost opportunities.
Any young folks out there, avoid these religious places like the plague. Do not cage your mind at such a young age. Go out and explore the world, take chances, do different things. Bad choices and time wasted in your 20's tends to be amplified when you get older."
"I grew up as a third generation Jehovah's Witness. At the time, there were three 'meetings' a week: two at the church, which they call 'Kingdom Halls,' and one on Sundays, all of which lasted about two hours each. I'd have to sit through these meetings and be forced to evangelize every Saturday morning as a child, and even more as I got older. I always remember how sad 10-year-old me was to miss Saturday morning cartoons because I had to go knocking on people's doors. My parents were extremely deep into the religion. They were your 'spare the rod, spoil the child' types. I wasn't allowed to have friends from school, I couldn't date as a teenager, my phone was constantly monitored, I wasn't allowed to watch Harry Potter, I can go on forever. Your behavior as a child was seen as a reflection of the 'spirituality' of your house as a whole. If you weren't baptized by a certain age (usually 12 or earlier), you were seen as 'bad association' in the congregation. As a child growing up amongst other JW kids, the fear of being labeled and cast aside was real, and thus, I was baptized at 12.
As a woman, I felt very repressed by the church. Women weren't allowed to be teachers, and couldn't even pray in the presence of a man without a head covering. There are a group of men gathered at the JW Headquarters in NY who govern what men and women are to wear, how they interact with each other, and what you do in your free time. They publish literature called the Watchtower and Awake that are riddled with misquotes from scientific scholars and misinterpretations of the bible.
I could go on and on about Jehovah's Witnesses and their teachings. I was disfellowshipped (or excommunicated), once when I was 17, came back, and ended up leaving for good about a year and a half ago. I started questioning their 'facts,' along with feelings of disagreement with their shunning policy. I'm currently being shunned by my entire family and live far away from them."