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15 people raised in a cult or intense religion share what shocked them when they left.

15 people raised in a cult or intense religion share what shocked them when they left.

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When you've been indoctrinated in a cult or intensely insular religious doctrine, it can be shocking to step out into the secular world and reevaluate the values you once held dear.

Deconstructing culty beliefs doesn't happen in a day, it's a process that requires patience, reflection, grace for yourself, and in many cases therapy.

In a popular Ask Reddit thread, people who were raised in a cult or insular religion shared what shocked them most about 'the real world' when they left.

1. From aphroditespearl:

That it’s actually healthy to have boundaries.

2. From FairUnion275:

Where is all the sex and drugs?! I was promised wanton lascivious f**king in the streets.

3. From Bojikthe8th;

The greatest thing to me is what it felt like to be authentic. When you grow up in a fundamentalist cult, your life is not your own. Everything is planned out for you, every worldview is shaped by your religion.

Leaving that all behind and being my own, genuine person was the best and least expected blessings of leaving the Mormon cult. Yes, sex and drugs (esp psychedelics) were amazing too, but I love being my own person so much.

4. From Q_Fandango:

How normal people aren’t thinking about you/judging you all the time, and even if they are- you can’t do anything about it anyway, some will judge no matter what you do.

We (women, anyway) were raised to obsess over what we are wearing, how modest it is, and will it make men stumble? My breasts are too small for one man but too large for all men, despite being what God gave me.

My body is both too thin to bear children but somehow also too fat, and proof that I am a glutton.

We were taught how to modulate our voices into a soft pleasant pitch, how to serve God with every breath, and how we’re living literally every single moment on a precarious cliff of falling into sin.

The moment I realized that my hair colour, my clothes, my makeup was more an expression of myself than a reflection of other’s desires was the moment I finally let go. I don’t dress for men, I don’t dress for women- I dress for myself.

5. From Dorkknight112183:

Nothing as major as here but my wife’s family is extremely religious, her grandfather was even a cult leader a few books written about him.

Can’t get into details for sake of privacy, but it stands out to me and it blows my mind how ignorant her whole family is.

I don’t mean to sound like a jerk, but they're ignorant of basic social cues and interactions and even words in conversation. I’ll be talking to her aunts and uncles in their sixties and they’ll have so many things they’ve never heard of it blows my mind.

She has two aunts who actually took classes to learn how to have normal conversations because they were so odd. It’s weird. Even my wife is still learning and growing vocabulary and she’s 39.

6. From free-the-krug:

I didn't realize that Christianity wasn't the 'default' for adults. I didn't realize it's not normal to treat your family like garbage while being a super nice charismatic human to everyone else.

That's more of a narcissistic thing but since I was so sheltered and they were so strict and obsessed with being in control, I had no idea. I didn't know that not everyone has an ulterior motive when speaking to you.

I was raised with the girls inside doing 'women chores' and the boys outside helping with man chores. Grew up and realized some men actually cook and clean as well...what a shocker.

7. From TheRedMaiden:

I was raised by an incredibly sheltering parent: Turns out I *won't* be raped, mugged, and murdered for simply existing in a city setting without a male escort.

8. From celaeya:

How people can just...make decisions. You don't need to jump through hoops, meditate all night, read the bible, and pray, just because you want to buy a certain dress. You can just...buy it. You can make that decision. I can make that decision.

Freedom was extremely surreal at first. It still sort of is.

9. From Nuck_7:

That I’m not gonna go to hell for jerking it and it’s completely normal to feel the urge to self-pleasure and release on your own terms.

10. From Fearless-Complaint16:

For me, it was a complete culture shock. People could do anything. Women could treat men as equals, not always defer to them. People treat other people with more respect-- adults are treated like adults.

People could talk about sex and bodily functions like periods without being ashamed. People weren't afraid of living their lives in a way that made them happy.

In the first few months of being out of my parents' home, I learned so many new words and things I didn't know existed 😂 I watched a lot of movies that would have been considered wickedly sinful in my former home.

I had to relearn how to talk and act with people. Outside of the church, people do everything different, and the people you can and can't trust are different. I felt like I had the IQ of a normal 8 year old in the real world.

11. From rotissrev:

“End is nigh!” Oh I’m waiting! “Christo Viene” I wish he would. “You’ve been left behind”…yep. To suffer like the rest of us.

Grew up in a rapture-centric evangelical household. Parts of it were loads of fun, some just straight-up trauma porn. Y2K was a hoot in my house, we definitely believed it could all end, given all of the televangelists hopping on the doom train.

The part that shocked me the most, or affected me the most is that you don’t realize until you are older that you really did believe the world would end, well, soon-ish.

The idea of getting old, worrying about retirement, whether my aspirations would materialize, most of those things seemed more far-fetched than the apocalypse did.

12. From lighthousek:

The complete and total lack of privacy in the church vs actually having privacy. Besides being roomed with all my siblings and cousin. Daily body inspections, spankings, potty time. Also being treated like a toddler pretty much 24/7.

God forbid we did something without permission. We didn’t address adults as sir or ma’am, calling our parents Mommy and Daddy into our teenage years, having a bedtime, knowing how to do chores but not really knowing why.

Getting to the real world. I knew how to wash clothes. I didn’t know why I was washing clothes. I knew how to wash dishes, I didn’t know why I was. If I wasn’t told to do something I would just stand there hopeless.

13. From web_head91:

That most of the world has never even heard of and doesn't give two sh*ts about mormonism. Growing up, I thought it was Mormons vs Anti Mormons with very few people in between.

Realizing that the mormon cult is like, 0.1% of the population, and that people generally don't care to learn about it, was crazy.

And also, just realizing that most people who do know about the church are just really lukewarm about it and not at all fazed or interested.

14. From Its_jes2:

Being able to openly like the art, music, movies etc that I liked. I know it seems like a minor thing, but I couldn’t listen to rock music or watch horror movies because it was seen as the “devil’s influence.”

Once I left and met people of the world, it was nice to share music and movies with others and not be shamed for it.

15. From Rockette25:

Turns out marriage isn’t actually a necessary requirement to having fulfilling sex with a partner.

After the free love movement of the 60s, it got harder to convince people to save sex for marriage because it was pretty well known to young folks that sex could be fun.

By the 90s the strategy turned to the message “Sex IS great! That’s why you should wait to have it with your spouse on your wedding night- it will be even better!”

It’s easier for purity advocates to make the argument that sleeping with a ton of people will leave you depressed because they’re taking advantage of you and “actually your brain will become desensitized to bonding chemicals if you trigger them over and over with different people making it harder to commit to one person,” blah blah. Fake stuff.

I never heard a good argument for why sex is bad with one person who you’ve developed a strong relationship over time. “You never know if you might break up and you really shouldn’t have sex with more than one person ever!”

Okay, what if we have sex while we know we’re eventually going to get married? “No! Wedding night only!” It eventually comes down to “Sex is for married people because God said so.” Ok.

The funny thing is, if she found out I had sex with my husband before we got married I’m sure my mom would mostly wag a finger and say “Well at least you got married!” as if that cancels out the sin part.

Footnote: if triggering bonding chemicals in your brain over and over makes you desensitized to them, then Michelle Duggar loves her youngest kids way less than her oldest ones. 🤷‍♀️

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