I don’t know about you, but religious extremism has always really scared me.
I support people having their beliefs and worshipping whatever way they want to, but when those beliefs become extreme and it starts to affect the folks around you, that’s when there’s a problem.
And it seems like more people than you probably think actually grew up this way.
Let’s take a look at some interesting stories from folks on AskReddit.
“I lack sentiment in any form and I’m almost entirely incapable of love. If somebody hurts me, I automatically sever our relationship in my head and it’s like I never knew them.
I grew up incredibly vulnerable to conspiracy theories because facts didn’t matter. I grew up with no sense of empathy because the church told me what and how to feel about all things. I grew up with no self-confidence because I was expected to be perfect and could not be.
I grew up with extreme self loathing because if I wasn’t happy it’s because I wasn’t close enough to god. Depression was my own fault because I wasn’t close enough to god. Illness was my own fault, because I wasn’t close enough to god. If I have financial pain it’s because I’m not close enough to god.
Now that I’m almost 30 I’ve left that cesspool of lies and am learning how to be a human who feels empathy, sees facts, and is capable of love. It’s hard.”
2. Men are in charge.
“We grew up in a church that 100% believed men were #1, and they were the reason that the church was successful. Dress codes for women and they were treated as equals until it mattered.
I remember not being able to read harry potter, s*x wasn’t ever talk about in a good sense, that type of stuff.
The worst it ever got was when my buddy in high school hacked my Facebook and posted that I was gay. I’ve never seen my dad so mad. As a very athletic person, I was terrified of him. Screaming, saying that the “gays are going to try and persecute us (christians).”
Years later, my parents changed a lot, for the better. They don’t believe in gay marriage or a**rtion, but they don’t force it down people’s throat. They even went to a gay wedding to support a family friend, which is a massive step in the right direction.
They also don’t go to that church anymore, my mom was like “f*ck them.””
“Had an exorcism in the living room once.
Also, didn’t get all my vaccines and now I don’t know what I’m at risk for because those tests to see what vaccines you’ve had are so expensive.”
Making friends was awkward in grade school because I couldn’t watch the shows/listen to the music they did.”
4. Demons everywhere.
“Wasn’t allowed to watch Star Wars or ET, because demons were going to manifest during Armageddon and will look like the characters from films and children wouldn’t be scared of them.
I grew up believing Jesus was going to come back any moment and take the church and we had to be ‘right with God’ or we wouldn’t be taken.
I spent a lot of my childhood muttering apologies to Jesus for my thoughts and actions just in case.”
5. A big no-no.
“Well, I was never allowed inside the house of my childhood best friend because he had two moms and my parents didn’t want that “normalized”.”
6. Sounds awful.
“I couldn’t go to dances or any sort of “secular” party.
Went to church three times a week. I could only have friends that were in our Church, and then half of them weren’t even approved of.
I couldn’t date until I was 16 and then only girls in the Church, 1/2 of which weren’t approved of. I couldn’t listen to rock music, which in adulthood made me an expert on rock music.”
“For me, it was only my mom who was religious (JW). She converted a few years after my parents had me, so my dad had no idea how bad it was going to be.
No holidays or friends for me growing up. I remember freshman year of high school, I wanted to hang out with some kids after school. My mom was not having it and drove around town to find me.
It was humiliating and she openly disapproved them because of how they dressed. She didn’t want me hanging out with “the wrong crowd” because it would stray me further from god. After that, I just stopped bothering trying to make friends last outside of school.
My childhood memories were mainly hearing my parents arguing/threatening divorce because my dad was unhappy and hated that our family couldn’t do most things. Like birthdays, Christmas, Halloween etc. I’m pretty sure their s*x life was depressing too because s*x was only to procreate and it had to be missionary.
She openly hates homos*xuals and is very judgmental. She has exploded on me and given me silent treatments due to my choice of hair color and fashion.
My dad also lost a lot of his friends just like me. I’m 26 now and they’re still together. But I know they’re still struggling like they did when I was 5.”
8. A little bit different.
“I had the rare combo of religious extremist academics.
1.) Being told to read the Bible and then write an essay on the passage I just read.
2.) Church every Sunday morning and Wednesday nights.
3.) Constant chores
4.) Older siblings that bullied the hell out of me because I’m smaller and weaker and the Bible teaches a lot of violence.
5.) Getting your mouth washed out with soap if you try to retaliate against you siblings.
6.) Being repeatedly belted for things you didn’t do, because your siblings thought it was funny to tell on you so that you’d be belted.
7.) Not allowed to watch cartoons or the Disney Channel because they’re “demonic”
8.) Watching science documentaries instead, realizing everything I was taught is bullsh*t and becoming an atheist.
(now entering the years of 14+)
9.) NEVER COMPLAIN. If you complain about anything, then it’s your fault.
10.) NEVER GET CAUGHT. Strict parents don’t create good kids, they create kids that don’t tell them things and know how to sneak.
11.) Don’t invite your friends over, because your parents will spend an hour preaching to them.
12.) Not having a close relationship with your parents because you don’t feel comfortable talking to them.
13.) Having undiagnosed Adhd until half way through college because your parents thought it didn’t exist. “He’s a boy, they aren’t made to just sit and learn.” Worst part about this, my mom has a PhD specialized in child counseling. With me being the way I am, she should’ve never gotten her license.
There’s more, I just feel like I’ve written enough. Basically, it’s f*cking terrible, and I’m jealous of anyone that actually gets along well with their parents.”
9. The persecution.
“Some of my earliest memories are driving with my whole family in the car and my dad telling us all that the great Christian persecution was going to begin soon.
And that we needed to be prepared for them to take us away from him and my mom and how terrible it would be.
He got very into Y2K prepping as well and I remember calling my “friends” and telling them to believe in Jesus because the world was going to end and we needed to all be ready.
I also remember being confused as to why I didn’t have any good friends…middle school was pretty rough for me.”
“It was a bit tough, obviously. However, there are many layers to the difficulty beyond the basic and obvious aspects.
For a start, everything I’ve done, “wild” or mundanely tame since I walked away from it has been ascribed to some form of “rebellion” in one form or another. Me attempting to have <gasp> s*x out of wedlock, that’s just me “rebelling against the way I was raised”.
Me exploring and experimenting with alcohol, “rebelling”. Tobacco, “rebelling”. Profanity, “rebelling”. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been told I’ll “realize the error of my ways and come back” I’d be typing this sitting in my own mega-yacht moored off the coast of a Caribbean island I own.
But, that’s not what the question asked, so I’ll digress and get back on topic.
Never watched even The Simpsons. Matter of fact, there’s a huge list of media outlets that were simply not an option in any form that I still haven’t felt comfortable digging into. I got a severe spanking for repeating a Beavis and Butthead laugh I learned because one of my church friends did it all the time. (That was the first time I ever got the buckle end of the belt, and the first spanking that drew blood.)
I was six months past my 18th birthday before I talked to a woman on the phone without a parental figure in the room with me “making sure I minded my manners”, which I’ve realized is just code for making sure the conversation didn’t tilt toward s*x or anything of that nature. (I was 18 before I got my first kiss. For much of my youth the thought of just holding a girl’s hand seemed downright scandalously naughty.)
It’s funny because I’ve been distancing myself away from the faith for coming up on 15 years, and “really rebelling” (my great aunt’s words) in the last 5, but earlier this year I finally started listening to heavy metal. It was just a few months ago that I discovered Iron Man by Black Sabbath, arguably one of the most iconic metal songs ever.
Prior to about ten years ago, it felt physically unsettling to listen to “devil music” and I find that the influences last far longer than the teaching. Even now, there are some songs that still feel “wrong” to me, unsettling, uncomfortable.
There are some TV shows I still can’t watch just because they elicit a visceral “this is wrong, you’ll be punished for this” reaction that makes me feel like a 14-year-old boy about to be spanked again. This is just one form of the baggage that’s lingering long. It’s like a low-key version of PTSD Lite.
I learned at a young age that everything I was to base my life around was purified fear. The stories always promised love, but the end means were pure fear and that carried over into discipline. “Heaven” was downplayed a bit while the threat of “Hell” took the foreground, and the discipline I got was similar; praise was in short supply, pain readily available.
I knew that for anything I did, the primary repercussion would be some form of physical discipline. I was what you might call a difficult kid and between the age of 4 and 14 I figure I averaged two or three light spankings and one bad one per week. A light spanking would be a few swats with a leather belt, not hard enough to leave a mark, but enough to sting.
A bad one would raise red welts that’d make sitting uncomfortable for a day. Over the course of more than a decade? I have to think after all that repetitive motion my mother would have been able to throw one hell of a sidearm fastball/slider if she’d wanted to play baseball. 1500+ spankings delivered over the course of a decade, that’s muscle memory for somethin’.
Contact with girls was simple; never alone, never a “worldly girl” that didn’t attend our church, and never any physical contact. Money was simple; I was allowed to suggest potential purchases and if mom said no, then the answer was no. Down to the penny had to be accounted for, and any sort of discrepancy likely ended with at least a lecture.
If I wasn’t forthcoming with an explanation, that meant the belt for me. As puberty hit I got curious and bought a 25-cent condom out of a gas station bathroom vending machine, and then forgot and left it in my pants pocket…that was the second time I got the buckle end of the belt. The lecture on that was massive, and I ended up with assigned reading on top of normal assignment. What was normal assignment?
I was expected to read the bible (KJV, none of those “heathen” translations!) 2 hours every evening. Church attendance with note-taking during the sermon was non-negotiable. All told I’ve gone through the KJV version 7 times cover to cover, verse by verse, and if I still had my notebooks it’d have to be 35 or 40 pounds (16-18kg) of handwritten notes.
It sucked. A lot. It’s also given me mental baggage I’ll probably have until I d**. It’s a very pervasive sort of programming and it does have lingering effects even though I am totally distanced from it now. (I have thought about trying to write a full-length book on the topic at some point, but I figure that’ll be a waste of time; my story isn’t that much different from a LOT of people who came up basically the same way I did.)
It’s given me some pretty objectionable opinions about the subject, and made me personally ashamed of things I know aren’t things I, a 34 year old man, should be ashamed of.”
11. Needed to get away.
“I moved a 1,000 km to get away from them. It was terrible.
I remember getting into an argument when I was 15 with my parents about how sh*tty my life was. I had no time for friends because I’d wake up, go to school, come home, do dishes, then homework, then chop wood for two hours, clean the floors, maintain the fire in the wood stove, etc…
It was like -30C and I’d have to basically take care of my parents. Make them coffees and teas, make them food, keep the fire warm for them (It was the only means of heating that we had). Neither one worked. They just sat for 16 hours a day on their computers, smoking five packs a day between them, staining the entire inside of the house yellowish brown.
I used to get bullied in school for smelling like smoke. Anyways, they were bragging about their “conservative parenting skills” being superior, etc… I just said something to my dad along the lines of, “Get off your high horse.” …One of the few times I ever talked back.
He just shoved me as hard as he could and stormed out yelling and swearing. (Used to get beat and yelled at all the time, so that was nothing, tbh…)
It was awful. I burnt my hands and arms occasionally in the wood stove, stoking the fire, and my mum used to say things like, “If you think that’s painful, just imagine the torture that’s ahead of you if you don’t respect your parents.”
She literally said this to me, too. “God will make it so that I’ll forget that you ever existed when you go to hell and I go to heaven, because god takes care of mothers.””
“I’d hear my mom constantly complaining that how I am not religious and a shame to the family. Occasionally there is even a comment about how me not being religious is the reason to my parents health being bad.
When I was young my mom was cautious with who I was friends with. People practicing other religions were a strict no no. I have a friend since college and my mom constantly worries that I am going to convert.”
13. Being watched.
“I was always under my parents watch. They were helicopter parents so that I couldn’t do anything against our religion.
I was always the weird kid because my clothing had to be appropriate and anyone that wasn’t our religion I had to try to convince them to come to our church or what was the point of being friends with them. Women weren’t equal and we were told that everything we were doing was practicing to be a good wife and mother someday and that it was our true calling and nothing else mattered.
If we planned to go to college that was great because it could help us teach our children. Sunday’s were for church only or church related activities. No tv, no playing outside, etc.
We were just normal enough that we thought we were normal until we grew up and realized that we didn’t have any self esteem or value in ourselves without the church giving us our worth and value.
I’m still trying to detox and to find ways to raise my kids because I know I dont want to raise them like I was but I also dont know the right way to raise them any other way and I fall into the pattern of being like my parents.”
14. Out the door.
“Let the beatings commence.
Spanked, paddled, whipped, and beaten for minor offenses.
That’s why I joined the military to get away from that nonsense.”
15. In retrospect…
“Terrifying in retrospect, but I didn’t realize it at the time.
You just start to think that all the bullsh*t that’s going on around you is normal, and then when you start meeting people in the real world outside of the religious bubble you slowly start realizing how f*cked up everything was.”
“Grew up in a non-denominational Christian Church. The resemblance it had to a cult didn’t really dawn on me til I was older, probably 14-16.
My parents were the stereotypical helicopter parents- watched our every move, put screen mirroring apps on the very first cell phone we were ever given at age 16, shaming the hell out of us for what they would find on our phones talking to our secret girlfriends, etc.
Our church was full of families with 7+ children, the largest family having 12 kids and single mom (the dad was in jail for molesting some of the eldest girls). Out of a population of about 5-600, me and my sister were the only kids enrolled in public school, because mom was a school teacher. As a teenager, life was absolutely miserable.
Around the age of 14 I decided I hated Christianity and the absolute perversion and abuse of power this church was capable of inflicting upon me. One suicide attempt and psych ward trip later, around the age of 16, I decided I was done with the church punishing me, I decided if I couldn’t escape my parents house physically, then I would escape it mentally.
This led me to start using drugs of any sort. I started drinking cough medicine and smoking weed. Fast forward a few months, I started chemistry and synthesized multiple plant-derived psychedelics in my room. This led me to overdose and panic and have a second psych ward trip. After the church hears of this, they expelled me from the congregation. (They also expelled multiple people for being gay and all sorts of other lovely things)
Long term, I’m now almost 21 and I’m not gonna lie I have a substance problem. I think there’s some very deep emotional scarring I’ll never be able to completely deal with. I’m trying to stop my substance abuse issue and turn my life around for the better, but after being so bright in high school I feel like a retard now from all of the oxys.
My goal now is to go to trade school and get certified in welding, hopefully make a pretty ok life for myself. I wanted to go to college, but I have a few drug charges on my record, so I’ve pretty much abandoned hope of an easy future. I know I’ve f*cked up my life a lot, I’ll be honest it’s hard.
I think about suicide often, but I want to give life one last clean try for I abandon all hope. If it doesn’t work out and I wind up homeless, I do plan to k**l myself. I’d rather be d**d than homeless.”
17. Growing up Mormon.
“Grew up hardcore Mormon. I’d like to stress that my childhood isn’t as common for other Mormon kids.
Most of the time Mormons are fairly understanding and loving to their kids. BUT, the mormon culture does promote the mentality my parents had.
When I was growing up I wasn’t punished like some others here. I was spanked, and experienced the belt but that isn’t why I have some psychological problems now. The real punishment was shame. From the earliest age I can remember (around six) I was told that I was lazy and I was pissing my life away (This was the strongest language my father would use).
When I first heard the word s*x, around eleven, I looked it up on the family computer. I was a pervert from then on, and had to talk to the bishop every month for a checkup. Hell, in every school I went to my parents told school counselors that I wasn’t allowed on computers because I might look up pictures of naked women. (I never did this)
This is just the sparknotes version but I internalized the shame. Being so young I just accepted that I was what my father called me and hated myself for it. I was a lazy failure at six, I was a pervert at eleven. It didn’t stop me from doing any of the things I was doing before, I just learned to fear my fathers footsteps as if it was the devil himself walking down the hallway.
I lived my life in the brief intervals between punishments. I am still not beyond this at 24 years old.”
18. A bad situation.
“Oh, where to start?
Spankings that were borderline beatings for every offense. I wasn’t allowed to “talk back” at all. Asking “why?” Was talking back. I spent my entire childhood believing that all my problems were because I didn’t love god enough.
When I was 9, I was convinced that if I didn’t shape up, God was going to k**l me. So I spent six months being a perfect angel but also living in constant terror. Just completely convinced that if I did one thing wrong, lightning would blow me off the planet.
Last thing I’ll mention is how my parents wouldn’t feed me as a child if I talked back. Many many nights I was sent home with no food for the most minor of infractions. (Finishing a chore a minute or two late)
They have largely turned things around. And even apologized for some of these actions. But I still have no interest in talking to them.”
“Very religious parents, we have to abstain from eating onions, meat and garlic for nine days twice a year.
My parents always think that their religion is the best they sometimes criticize other religions.
The think homos*xuality is a sin.
My mother wants me to stop eating non-vegetarian food after I get married
I’m only allowed to eat Non- veg on Sunday, Friday and Saturday
My mother frowns when I tell her that I dont believe in god.
Yes, I’m Hindu.”
20. Still working on it.
“Was forced to attend a Christian cult for years. I told my parents every single time that I’m an atheist. Didn’t matter, had to go.
Couldn’t sleep, couldn’t study, they burned my books, couldn’t go out, so I was literally confined in my room with absolutely nothing. I had a bed and a wardrobe and clothes. No music, no drawing, no reading, no PC because only my little brother could use the computer.
I was studying programming in high school ffs. Had to hand-in my homework written on a paper instead of programmed in various languages.
Shamed me for being a woman. Shamed my body. Made me think I’m stupid. The “Pastor” kept saying how he sees god’s light on my face and how I’m clearly a devout Christian. I was thinking how to…uhm… evil stuff evil stuff… anyway not so nice thoughts about him during these conversations so yeah I don’t think he saw what was really in my mind.
Almost snapped. That would have ended in a sad, messy way. Thankfully I was banned, most likely because in the end I let my true thoughts show on my face. Claimed it was because they saw me walking with a boy or some other bullsh*t. I think they realised I’m not a sheep like the rest but a bloody angry wolf. Don’t try to indoctrinate the psychopath.
I left my family, moved a few thousand kilometers away, I have a great job, a great husband (he knows all my past), travelling constantly with my BOOKS. Yeah I love my books. Noone will ever take them again. I’m planning on building my own tiny library with a mahogany desk and heavy drapery on the windows.
Also I learnt I’m not stupid (quite the opposite) and I’m not that ashamed if my body anymore. My brain still have some trauma to work through. But I might even be a completely normal human in time!”
“I wasn’t in a true cult but I was homeschooled for religious reasons.
Mom replaced the word “millions” with “thousands” in our history/science books. Words like “liberal” and “democrat” and “secular” and “muslim” were insults, deserving mockery and shame. Went to church 3-4 times a week, mission trips every year.
Didn’t do Halloween (but always had “fall festivals”) or Easter Bunny or Santa. We weren’t allowed to say “holy cow” or “holy smokes” because only God is holy. Couldn’t watch Disney movies because of the “follow your heart” messaging, since the human heart is evil, it’s God’s heart we should follow (and also cuz Eisner supported equal rights).
No Pokemon because of “evolution” and a Satanic Panic fear that they were based on Japanese demons.
I’m 30 now and ashamed of the person I was, but I try not to be too hard on myself… It wasn’t all my fault. I was a Bible thumping Republican until late in college, and even though I’m an entirely different person, I still encounter chunks of bullsh*t in my psyche that I try to pluck out.
Therapy and reading and introspection and travel and empathy will do a lot! But we’re all on a journey…”
“All non-Christian gospel music was considered demonic. All fantasy was demonic.
I couldn’t watch how to train your dragon because it might as well be how to train your demon. Any time I acted up, it was because of the demons either influencing me or in me.
Church every day gets a little old after a while too.”
“My mom is a devout mormon. I was forced to pretend to believe in their church for 18 years.
I moved out a few months ago, she knows I don’t attend but she doesn’t know how far away I have distanced myself from that church.
She still calls me every week saying she’s trying to find out who my bishop is so they can send people to bring me to church with them. It’s like leading a double life but she’s micromanaging my religious beliefs from 4 hours away.
I love my mom but Jesus Christ does the Mormon lifestyle irritate me.”
24. Satanic Panic.
“It was Hell, and now I’m an atheist. We were raised in the Satanic Panic era in a Full Gospel Pentecostal church where people spoke in tongues, slithered on the floor like a snake, and fainted ( I guess thats what you call it).
We were only allowed stay overnight with friends whose family were from the same church. Only permitted to watch Rated G and PG movies. Not allowed to watch The Smurfs because they were satanic. We and other members of the church would stand on the side of the road in town and preach over a sound system to the teenagers cruising on Friday and Saturday nights.
We were forced to go to church every Wednesday night and morning and evening service on Sunday. Our stepdad was a deacon and later was “called to preach”. He beat the hell out of us on a regular basis and molested my sister. Beatings were so bad we were told no to dress out at PE in school because he didn’t want anyone to see the bruises.
We were basically his slaves. We were forced to work our entire childhood. If we were caught with Rock and Roll music, it was burned. He later left my mom for another deacon’s wife which is why im not in prison because I had future plans to k**l him once i got older.
There were four of us kids, one has since commited suicide, one is a crackhead, my sister and her husband are very wealthy and i am a police officer. Hitler is still alive but he is paying for all of the abuse he put us through.”
25. Looks good from the outside.
“Having religious extremist parents is having a family that looks good from the outside, but is completely broken on the inside.
Having religious extremist parents is having your mother “obey” your father because that’s the only advice their pastor gave for marriage counseling. Having religious extremist parents is being told from an early age that all you’re going to do as a woman is graduate high school, get married, have a bunch of children for god and obey your husband.
Having religious extremist parents is being pulled out of school so they can “instill the proper values and beliefs”. Having religious extremist parents is being gaslit CONSTANTLY. Brain washed CONSTANTLY. Not being allowed your own views.
Having religious extremist parents is being told to not be “vain” so you spend every minute telling yourself not to feel pretty, not to feel confident, not to feel proud of yourself for your accomplishments. Having religious parents is using the bible verse “obey your elders” against your younger sister to play what you wanted to play, and realizing how much you hurt her all those years because of some stupid bible verse taken out of context (just to clarify, our relationship is the strongest out of my family).
Having religious extremist parents is being lectured for hours that “you aren’t helping your mother out around the house enough” while neglecting our education.
Having religious extremist parents is spending hours in a church service where the preacher tells you how you can’t be like the rest of the world, that the rest of the world is wrong, that other theologies are wrong, and woe is the church for having so many young people leave christianity, and don’t ever be like them.
Having religious extremist parents is realizing years later that you gave money EVERY GODD*MN WEEK to some grown man that could’ve gotten a real job to pay his bills, because if you weren’t tithing, you weren’t “christian enough”.
Having religious extremist parents is having a father who thinks the world is awful, and a mother who is so disillusioned that she can only see the rosy world in her head.
Having religious extremist parents is watching your family fall apart when you grow up. Having religious extremist parents is watching the abuse between your parents, but knowing they’ll never divorce because “it’s not god’s will”, and “divorce is wrong”.
Having religious extremist parents is knowing that there are some things, some beliefs that they will never accept you for. Having religious extremist parents is finding yourself much later in life that you should’ve.
It’s growing up and realizing the isolation, the trauma, the depression, and the brokenness in your own family and wondering why you never realized it before.”
How about you?
Were you raised in an overly religious household? Maybe even bordering on extremism?
If so, please tell us about it in the comments.