0-16 in Religion
I was raised from the womb until the age of 16 as a Jehovah's Witness, I was never really a part of it. I never got baptized, by the end I hated everything about it. The worst part was not being able to voice any opinions I had on the religion, not unless I wanted them to fall on deaf ears and be considered immoral. I learnt from a very early age that to survive you just had to shut your gob and fake it.
As a young child it was the fear of death that haunted me, pictures of people dying if they didn't serve God (sorry, if they didn't get baptized in the one true religion). I hate them for that. Also for ruining my childhood with their boring, tedious meetings (church services), no privacy (even my mail was getting opened). I won't lie, we had food and shelter, but feeling like an outcast from society, and also the JWs deep inside, I was a very quiet isolated child not really belonging anywhere.
In the last few years of being there I'd made 'worldy' friends in school who I'd meet up with out of school, and I was influenced greatly by them and how they acted. If they smoked, so what? They were still decent human beings. By the end I was forbidden to see them, but I'd pretend to go to somewhere else and still meet them. I had to throw away a CD (The Holy Bible by Manic Street Preachers if anyone's interested!) but I fished it out of the bin the next morning and hid it. Defiant acts like that became the turning point, I was under so much stress after having to live a lie for so long that I was breaking down, and where before there was guilt and fear if I rebelled, by then I really didn't care. There was too much pain inside.
I became very self aware and questioned what I was being taught, and I didn't agree with so much of it. Their attitudes to women and gays, knowing there was hypocrisy, fake smiles, and thinking 'Oh isn't it such a coincidence that I happen to be born into the one true religion, aren't I lucky' when I knew that if I'd been born into another I'd be being told the same thing.
I stopped answering at meetings, something we were made to do and I hated also because I was so quiet. I'd get a disapproving look from dad, I knew he'd be having a talk later with me about it, I knew he was more interested with how it made him look as a parent than my spiritual wellbeing. There was a time I was forbidden from going out if I didn't answer at least once, but it didn't work. I still refused to answer, to hell with the consequences, I was sticking to my guns.
We started reading the bible as a family on a non-meeting night and I'd had enough. It was already too much going to the meetings and preaching, this was crossing the line and damaging me emotionally. It got to the point where it all built up in me, I threw the bible on the floor and left the room. My step mother came to talk with me and encourage me to come back and sit with them, but after realizing I wouldn't her tune changed and she got angry, with words of how bad and worldy my attitude was.
Salvation came not long after when I was told that if I didn't change my ways, I'd have to go and live with my mother. I wasn't a fan of change, making new friends, I was also in the middle of my final exams, but I didn't care. I just wanted to escape. I called their bluff and said I wanted to move. One day after my last exam I was living in a better place.
The pressure washed away, I was finally able to be with non-believers (my mother, an exjw, and my stepdad). I kept the religious books I had for a few months before getting the courage to throw them away. There's alot of guilt and fear when leaving it, even though I hated it, because I was told from an early age about armageddon, that's not something you can dispose of lightly in your mind. I took comfort knowing that it could all be wrong, but that even if it wasn't, I would rather be killed than spend eternity living with JWs. And if God wasn't going to let me live because I didn't agree with his sexist homophobic views, I was going to die with a higher sense of morality than him and his followers.
In time, the fear of death wore off, as did my insistence on trying to please everyone I knew.
All things considered, now I am well adjusted and able to think for myself. I've had no contact with my dad since 1998, and quite honestly I don't want it, the reminders of the religion and his smug superior attitude judging me for leaving what his life revolved around.
Now I find it very enjoyable, pretty much a hobby, to debate religion. It's probably very theraputic if nothing else. While I hold alot of anger in from the way I was raised, I'm in the perfect position now to tell them how sh*t it all is. I know THEIR arguments, because I was on that side.