Anyone Else Raised in a Kooky Religion?

I was raised in a family of Christian Scientists. This meant that if I ever got sick, instead of going to the doctor, my parents had me call a “practitioner,” which was essentially a person who prayed with me until I got better.

The first time I took any sort of medication was when I took painkillers at the age of 15.

The first time I got a shot was at age 19, when I got my immunization shots (when I was young, we got a religious exemption form from the church so that I could enroll in public school without getting the shots).

And my dad healed himself of a heart attack when I was little.

Anyone else raised in a radical religion?


We went to a building every Sunday to watch a man turn bread and wine into human flesh and blood, and then he gave it to us to eat. I was told that the main deity of the religion was actually just one deity, but was also actually three deities. Then I was told that this deity loved me absolutely and unconditionally, and also that if I didn’t follow all these rules I would burn in fire forever. Several times a year, I was forbidden from eating meat on Friday.

One person’s kooky is another person’s normal. Can anyone name a non-kooky religion?

“Be excellent to each other”?

The Church of Bill and Ted, eh? :slight_smile:

I really can’t see this thread going anywhere besides devolving into insults or debates about the merits or drawbacks of organized religion.

If everyone can confine their remarks to fringe-religion practices, we can keep the thread open a while. But if mainstream religion practices continue to be ridiculed, I’ll close the thread.

Ellen Cherry
MPSIMS Moderator

Never mind.

Not me – but I was once talking about kooky religions, and got onto Blavatsky-ism – the weird beliefs of “Madame” Helena Blavatsky.
So, after talking for a while, one of the people I was speaking to volunteered that she had beem raised by parents who believed…

…well, what were the odds? How many Blavatskians have you ever run into?

I certainly haven’t run into any since. But I’ve learned discretion.

Well, you can’t beat Scientology. The only religion that we know of that was founded on a bet.


Wow, it was based on My daddy’s religion can beat up your Daddy’s religion? Do we have a cite for that? I know very little about Scientology, other than to back away slowly…

I’m going to take a different tack to this than the one Ellen Cherry did, with her permission.

I’m pretty sure that no one but Hal Briston keeps a full dossier on me, so y’all may not be aware that I have a PhD in the sociology of religion, expertise in American cults. As such, I spent a lot of years thinking very specifically about what makes some churches “cults” and some cults “churches.” Basically it’s a matter of the degree of acceptance by society at large, which sometimes, but not always, correlates with the number of adherents.

I’m thus really uncomfortable with divvying up religions into “kooky” (and thus up for mockery) and others as “real” or mainstream – that’s deciding theological issues by majority vote.

If anyone wants to share stories about growing up in a non-mainstream religion, this would be the place.

If anyone wants to take potshots at *any *religion on the basis of not sharing that religion’s beliefs, this would not be the place.

Let’s see how the thread goes with those guidelines. If it gets out of hand, we can always move it to GD or the Pit, depending on in what way it gets out of hand. (Pls. note that it is my devout [sic] hope that it not get out of hand.)


twickster, MPSIMS moderator

Well, with those guidelines, I’ll say that I was also raised in a Christian Science family, and have (in my pre-atheist days) explained and defended those beliefs on these very boards.

I no longer practice, nor do my siblings, but my mom and extended family are still active in the church.

I have tremendously mixed feelings about it. These are people who are REALLY SMART (Truly! Brilliant critical thinkers on so many topics, and they certainly regard themselves as critical thinkers about Christian Science as well. I don’t think it’s a religion for the intellectually weak, frankly.). So, they’re people that I love, respect, admire and cherish… but I think they’re adhering to something utterly wrongheaded. It’s acknowledged in the family that my siblings and I are no longer in the church, but we’ve never really discussed it because that’s just not how my family works. For good or ill, we focus on common ground and what we love about each other and ignore anything unpleasant – a mindset that is fundamental to practicing CS, now that I think of it.

My childhood was great. Like the OP, I was never vaccinated for anything, never saw a doctor about anything, got waivers for everything. Minor illnesses were prayed about with my parents; larger ones occasionally involved a practitioner. On the whole I was really healthy. One of the advantages of this upbringing to my mind is the utter lack of fear. I wasn’t afraid of injury, or sickness or death. My parents were really cool about letting me have adventures and learn from my own mistakes, and I was pretty confident about all sorts of things because I believed myself to be surrounded and protected by God at all times.

It started getting problematic for me around puberty, when pretty much everything gets problematic for a while. I started to resent having to go to church (Sunday School until you’re 20). My doubts were hard to articulate, and I felt everything so deeply that I couldn’t talk things through without crying, so I’d tend to just clam up rather then go into tears in front of my class. My Sunday School teachers were all very kind, well-intentioned adults who genuinely wanted to discuss hard topics, but I wasn’t prepared to defend or explore my ideas with them because I was so emotional about them. I also began to notice that people in the church who did seek medical help were quietly but thoroughly judged and it bothered me.

By the time I left for college I decided that maybe I believed in God, but not this way of understanding God and the world. By the time I’d had my heart broken a few times and watched my grandfather, grandmother, uncle die of cancer and father die of advanced Type 2 Diabetes and stroke, I had washed my hands of God. My grandfather, I think, never sought medical help. My grandmother, uncle and Dad all did, but faced a number of obstacles: they sought it too late, when the disease had taken hold; they couldn’t mentally or spiritually allow themselves to believe they’d made the right choice, and would abandon medical treatment; they felt inadequate and avoided church or, if they attended, felt judged and like hypocrites. Here are four people I loved deeply, and all of them felt that they’d gone astray. And for what? Something beyond their control. It breaks my heart.

When my Dad was really struggling, I remember telling him that if we accept that God is omniscient, and we accept that God is Love (two basic tenets of CS), then we need to accept that God understood WHY Dad was struggling, why he made the decisions he did, and that God must love him fiercely no matter what. If the church was really a healthy environment, Dad never would have felt like a hypocrite for deciding the pain was too much and seeking physical help. No one should choose between spiritual and physical health. No one should feel that to pursue one negates any effort toward the other.

Sorry: I was raised Southern Baptist, which is about as “mainstream” as they get. But I just wanted to say I love the posts so far. twickster, your area of expertise is something I am fascinated by, and have been studying on my own for many years. It’s cool learning how other people believe and what leads them to the point in life they are now. I really hope this thread can continue in the above spirit…

Thank you very much, Twicks.

I was a Pentecostal as a pre-teen/early teen… not raised that way, I just gravitated toward it myself. I don’t really know how other Pentecostal churches are, but this one was a lot of fun (people would bring in tambourines and trumpets to service) and also extremely terrifying. By the end of the night there would usually be laying on of hands, and I did speak in tongues many times. It got to be completely involuntary (from my perspective) where I’d just be hanging out at home by myself and suddenly start speaking in tongues for no rhyme or reason and without intention. I would also shake involuntarily for no apparent reason.

I had a friend who had severe psychiatric problems who attended that church, and they always attributed her issues to demons. When I was about twelve I was over at her house one evening and she had some kind of seizure/temper tantrum and her mother basically pushed me into the position of exorcist. Thus I exorcized a ‘‘demon’’ at 12 years old, everybody was totally buying into it and to be honest some stuff happened that night I have no explanation for. For one thing I started shaking so hard I hit my head on the table. Once she regained consciousness we ended up sleeping downstairs on the kitchen floor because we were too afraid to sleep in her bedroom.

Anyways, life was terrifying during my short time at that church, I just got the point where I was afraid to be home alone because I was afraid of the demons. Eventually my Mom pulled me out of it. I settled into a much more mainstream and significantly less terrifying Baptist church.

I am an atheist now and the damndest thing is that over a decade later whenever I see someone on TV speaking in tongues I start to feel like I am about to do it myself. I think people perceive speaking in tongues as ‘‘faking.’’ I know it’s not the Holy Spirit and it has been proven that the ‘‘tongues’’ are just a random reorganization of phonemes in the native language of the speaker, but I will definitely assert that it’s not fake, it’s some weird real psychological phenomenon that feels completely involuntary to the person it’s happening to.

I don’t even believe in God any more but my weird experiences, particularly the night I ‘‘exorcized a demon,’’ will always haunt and confuse me. It all felt so real and out of control.

Can I hijack this into a bit of an “Ask the…” thread? I’m a lowly Lutheran, which means I grew up in the most boringest religious sect in the world (with lots of food).

I was going to ask olives about how she perceived her own speaking in tongues, but she answered it.

But, I’d like to ask The wind of my soul how/why did you take painkillers at 15? Were they recreational drugs or did you get prescribed painkillers for some reason? If they were recreational, did you move on to more stuff after 15? If not, how did you get to have a doctor prescribe them, being you were a Christian Scientist minor?

olives, some of my family were Pentecostal as well. I went to the church one time when I was about 12, got scared out of my mind, and never went back. There was a lady who started jumping over the pews and running back and forth in front of the church while the preacher was preaching. Everybody acted like this was perfectly normal. I was extremely confused. Then the lady fell splat down on her back and did not move. I found out later the name for that - “slain in the spirit.” But at that point, I was so terrified that I ran out of the building and straight home. Being a Baptist is the most boring religion in the world, and this was just way too much for me to handle.

My cousin is Assemblies of God, and she had all her utilities cut off before January 1, 2000. She KNEW that Jesus was coming back that day, and she was ready. She spent the day in her basement, ready for the Second Coming. I can imagine the calls to the utilities when she realized it wasn’t the day. I only wonder if she’s going to do that again at the “end” of the Mayan calendar.

I got prescribed painkillers. I was going to a Christian Science boarding school at the time, and I developed a bump on the inside of my lip that wouldn’t go away. I wasn’t allowed to seek medical attention while I was at school, so when I got home for Christmas break, I asked my parents if I could get it removed. They wanted me to work it out through Christian Science, so we reached a compromise: if I worked with a pratitioner and the condition didn’t improve, I would be allowed to see an oral surgeon to get it removed.

I worked with a practitioner, the situation didn’t improve, I got the bump removed and I was subsequently prescribed painkillers.

Also, to address the mods: Twickster hit the nail on my head. I’m looking for interesting stories about growing up in non-mainstream religions. Essentially, I was a religious outcast growing up and I’d like to bond with others who shared the experience!

If a Christian Scientist breaks a leg or arm, do they get a cast? How about stitches for cuts? How about dentistry-- filling or root canals or extractions? Thanks.

Pack a lunch, you’ll be here a while.

No, I do not claim to be himself, but I was named after him.

Good friends of mine, a married couple: The husband was raised Jehovah’s Witness, and the wife Maoist (in NYC). They both consider themselves survivors of or children of cults.