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People Whose Parents Were Religious Extremists Share What Growing up Was Like

Did you grow up in a religious household?

If so, then it was most likely a run-of-the-mill kind of situation where you went to a church, a temple, or a mosque to worship, and then you went about your everyday life.

But not everyone has that kind of upbringing. Some people were raised by parents whose religious beliefs were totally extreme…

Here’s what AskReddit users had to say about this.

1. 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.””

2. Shame.

“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.”

3. Being watched.

“I was always under my parents watch. They were helicopter parents so that I couldnt do anything against our religion.

I was always the weird kid because my clothing had to be appropriate and anyone that wasnt 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 somedayand 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.”

4. Damaged.

“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.”

5. 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 abortion, 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.””

6. Extreme.

“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.”

7. 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.”

8. 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”.”

9. Sounds awful.

“I couldn’t go to dances or any sort of “secular” party.

Went to church three times a week, and any time the doors were open. I could only have friends that were in our Church, and then half of them weren’t 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.”

10. Controlling.

“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.”

11. 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.”

12. 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.”

13. Rebelling.

“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 die. 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.”

Did you grow up in a household with religious extremists?

If so, tell us your stories in the comments.

Please and thank you!