People Are Sharing What Made Them Stop Being Religious, And Some Of These Are Horrifying

·14 min read

Religion can be helpful and healing, and provide community to those in need of one. But in the wrong hands, it can also be exploitative, controlling, and dangerous. So when u/ItchyPage asked, "What ruined religion for you?" the Reddit thread was full of heartbreaking stories. Here are some of them:

(Content warning: This post contains mentions of child abuse and sexual assault.)

1."Going to a megachurch. They received over 1 mil in donations every weekend and spent it on elaborate props and videos rather than helping the community in any meaningful way."

—u/LiterallyCasey

"There’s a megachurch outside of Tampa that has a fucking Starbucks in it."

—u/hooboyilltellya

2."A friend of mine got me to tag along to mass one day in college. I was raised with the somber death march that is Roman Catholicism. My friend walked me into what looked like a reclaimed and refurbished warehouse, huge and full of people. Two bands, a stage, not an altar. They had a commercial break for Expo erasable markers in the middle of it. I couldn't understand how everyone just rolled with it."

—u/schlongjohnson69

A mega-church in Houston, Texas.

Panorama view of mega-church near Houston, Texas

Julian J Rossig / Getty Images/iStockphoto

3."When I was 6 years old, the pastor gave a letter to my aunt to give to my mom saying that we were not donating enough money to the church. So we stopped going, and I have never been to church since."

—u/nicklee803

"Something like this happened to my friend's grandma. The church wrote her a letter basically saying they knew how much money she was making and that she should be giving more to the church. Her was response was, screw you guys, I'm moving to Mexico."

—u/aninamouse

4."Being kicked out of Christian school prior to the third grade because my mom bought the wrong edition of the Bible."

—u/__groundhogday__

(Editor's note: Cambridge.org lists 11 different versions of the Bible, while the United Church of God lists more than 60 English-language versions.)

5."When the pastor started ranting about the evils of women, saying that Satan walks among us in the body of every female, and men must take measures against them. It was later enforced in my mind when I met his very timid granddaughter in high school. She fully believed she was cursed from birth and showed serious signs of abuse. It didn't make me think all Christians are evil, but it showed me how easily a religion led by humans can be warped. That theme has been shown to me too many times now to get behind the idea of any formal religion."

—u/allthemigraines

6."Being told that being sexually abused as a child was a good thing as God needed to teach me a lesson on hubris and ego. I should accept it as a lesson and be better so I wouldn't fall into the clutches of the devil. I was 7. Apparently, I was asking for it."

—u/meaton124

7."There is this really popular Christian radio station my parents listened to when I was younger, and when the hosts were talking about some Christian gathering, they referred to non-believers as 'icky people.' I was so annoyed. At the time, I was still religious and kept thinking, what if someone who didn't believe was checking this out for the first time? I am very much not religious now, but back then, it really opened my eyes to how shitty people were."

—u/ainsanityy

8."The non-answers to all my questions as a kid. 'You just have to have faith' is a dumb way to respond to an inquisitive mind."

—u/my_dickhurts

"When I was a kid, I asked my grandmother where God came from, and she smacked me across the face and said, 'We don't ask questions like that.' I was just being honestly curious because I wanted to understand, and her reaction shocked me. That's where it all started for me."

—u/jaymae21

9."My mother. She instilled some serious shame into me under the guise of God. Some things she said:

"—Not allowed to believe in Santa because that takes credit away from God. Santa was actually a hand of Satan trying to corrupt me.—Not allowed to believe in the Easter Bunny because it was also a hand of Satan trying to corrupt me away from Jesus.—I wasn't allowed to feel pride in my accomplishments because it's a sin.—I was a dickhead because my dad got me fully vaccinated as a child and that is against God's plan.—Hollywood is operated by Satan, so I wasn't allowed to watch movies or shows (especially Disney).—Harry Potter was an absolute no because witchcraft is an affront to God.—Scientists should not be trusted under any circumstances.—My rare genetic condition was part of God's plan and I'd understand some day.—Not allowed to say 'damn' because it's an affront to God.That combined with her regular, not-religious abuse has left me struggling a lot with my religiosity."

—u/dayna29

Two pairs of hands praying together over a Bible.
Bohdan Bevz / Getty Images/iStockphoto

10."I was 15. My father had been diagnosed with ALS. I had gone to a youth group thing with a Christian friend of mine, and they had a circle of teenagers going around talking about things going on in their lives and relating it to God. When it was my turn, I shared that my father was dying, and I didn't understand why him. I was angry, and I said something along the lines of I doubted there was a God if this was happening. Basically a normal thing to say when you're young and you have a sick relative. I got chewed out for even questioning God, and the rest of the kids refused to talk to me the rest of the night, including my friend. You would think I had killed someone; it was THAT strong of a reaction."

—u/UltraDucks895

11."The fact that if you're not in my religion, you're kinda fucked in the afterlife. I didn't choose my religion, so what makes me so special?"

—u/Final_Ad_6862

12."When I was in the third grade, my best friend was Indian and Hindu. My aunt said she would pray for him and his heathen family, and that was enough for me to turn away from religion early. It was only reinforced with time."

—u/ooglepoogle1

Symbols of multiple religions.
Hanan Isachar / Getty Images

13."Sermons alternated between asking for money, telling us LGBT people were bad, or telling us we were all worthless sinners without God. Left church every Sunday feeling like shit. One week, I just decided I'm not going back. I don't miss it."

—u/IngsocInnerParty

14."For me it was helplessly watching my infant child suffer in constant pain from a genetic disease called Epidermolysis Bullosa (look it up if you want to cry), and losing her after 9 months. No amount of prayer makes any difference. No one is listening. What was 'the plan' for her? And why would I live for a god that chose to allow my child to suffer and die? My faith died with her."

—u/mudfossil

15."The idea that you’re created by an omniscient God, and they give you free will, but [will] chastise you for using that exact free will is kinda bullshit."

—u/ProbertsCokeStash

"It's even worse because he created the universe knowing exactly how things would play out. He created you the way you are knowing you'd do things he doesn't like, and he'd get an excuse to punish you for them."

—u/Canuckleball

An older religious painting.
Feng Wei Photography / Getty Images

16."I wanted to be a pastor. I wanted to be just like my great grandfather. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that the 'best' I could do was be a pastor's wife. Simply because I don't have a penis. Yeah, I'm out. Fuck that."

—u/schroedingersnewcat

17."When I realized the Bible wasn't written by God/Jesus and it was written by man and was written like 200 years after Jesus's death. Like, I can't even 100% trust the word of a good friend who heard something from someone else in 2022, let alone some game [of] telephone from 2,000 years ago."

—u/Greenlawn11740

"Yes, similarly, the Gnostic Gospels were the final death knell for me. To learn that someone chose to marginalize women in the Bible that had a giant, detrimental effect on women was just so betraying. Fuck all that."

—u/Aloket

18."Seeing a whole congregation of people perform an 'exorcism' on a 5-year-old boy. I was a teen youth leader at a southern Baptist church I had been involved with for several years. During Sunday morning service one day, one of the deacons came from the children's church building next door and interrupted the preacher to whisper something in his ear. They both left immediately, and when they returned, were dragging a 4- or 5-year-old boy down the aisle who was screaming like a banshee. They ended up taking him in front of the church, holding him down, and reciting all sorts of bullshit about demonic possession, asking the churchgoers to come up to him and help banish the demon from the child. Kinda ruined God for me."

—u/Grim_Rebel

19."As a kid, someone explaining to me that my dog that just died wouldn't be in heaven. I'd never see him again. Because dogs can't accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior. So he was going to hell. Pretty much done with it after that."

—u/BoredBSEE

20."I went to a congregational church. This meant we had a pastor, but most of the sermons were delivered by preselected members of the congregation. One guy got up to deliver his sermon, and it quickly devolved into a snobbish political rant that barely even referenced the Bible. He was given applause and polite chuckles of agreement. This was a fairly common occurrence. I still have faith in the divine, but my faith in earthly institutions has been deeply shaken."

—u/MrLemonaide

21."I was like 15 and playing an instrument in the 'worship band' for the most popular 'youth group' in the area (which is a verrry Christian area). At one point, the pastor dude was praying, and the musicians were behind him waiting to play when he was done. The whole room (200-plus) had their heads bowed as dude was praying. Then his prayer went into the whole 'here’s what you pray if you want to become a Christian right now' yada yada yada... then, at the end he says, 'OK everyone keep your heads bowed, eyes closed. Now if you just prayed that prayer with me, I want you to look up — everyone else keep your heads bowed — but if you just now gave your life to Jesus, look up at me or raise your hand so I can see you.' I’m behind him, and facing the crowd who have their eyes closed, so I decide it’s safe to take a peek...

"I discreetly look up and notice that exactly ZERO people in the crowd are looking up at him. Every single person still has their head bowed, eyes closed. (Which is fine, I mean maybe they were all already Christians?) However, as I’m looking at nobody responding, Mr. Pastor starts saying, 'OK I see you there, oh I see another over there, amen, and you back there, praise God. Yes I see you over there, amen come find me afterwards.' It was perplexing to see him lie to so many people like that. And this wasn’t some nobody youth pastor; he was like quite legit having written books and being mentioned in national articles and stuff."

—u/timcooksdick

  Getty Images
Getty Images

22."In Mormonism, there's a ceremony called Baptisms for the Dead. Prior to the ceremony, 14- or 15-year-old me was required to have a private, closed-door meeting with the head of my congregation (the Bishop). In that meeting, he asked me very explicit questions about pornography, sex, and masturbation. He needed to know my soul was pure. Fucking WEIRD, and creeped me out."

—u/jostler57

23."The final straw for me was my church asking a homeless man to leave and not come back. He would sit and listen to the sermons, never bothered anyone, and always sat in the very back. I confronted my youth group leader, and she defended the preacher."

—u/chaoz2030

24."A couple of friends of mine invited me to a summer camp when I was in middle school. The first warning sign I noticed was the packing list included a Bible, but I brushed it off because the camp brochure had horseback riding, water slides, and a bunch of stuff that seemed cool. And then I get there. And one of the first things we had to do was line up and 'deposit' our money in a camp account. Why? So during our twice-daily church services, we could write 'donation' slips that would take money out of our account and 'give' to the camp. It was full-on, 100%, a super conservative religious Christian summer camp that just happened to have fun stuff in between the ridiculous religious nonsense. Fun stuff like 'bands' coming in to sing religious smash hits like 'My Daddy Ain't a Monkey.' No. I'm not lying. That was the name of the song..."

"Thank God I was there with another guy who my 'friends' convinced to attend camp with us. I eventually confronted them about their lie, and they admitted they had done it because they knew I wasn't a believer and did it to 'save me.' I told them that I didn't care what their reasons were; if they were my friends, they wouldn't have lied. And if they believed so strongly about it, would they really lie, etc. Left camp bewildered and more than a little betrayed. As the years went on and I continued to see the complete lack of integrity and regard for honesty amongst religious people, I was still disappointed, but not surprised."

—u/ButtholeBanquets

25."I was 6 years old in a Saudi elementary school. There was this one Christian Bosnian kid whose dad was a butcher; he was incredibly kind and often gave me delicious smoked meat sandwiches. The thought of him going to hell as a non-Muslim was illogical, and made me question religion for the first time."

—u/Svstem

26."When I lived in Texas, I attended a Church of Christ with some very subtly progressive leadership. They were as down-home Texan as they come, but they preached the actual message of Jesus — not that hate-filled, fear-mongering stuff you get from most evangelical churches. When a certain president was doing a lot of hate-motivated stuff during his presidency, the sermons reflected what was going on with precision. IRL, we were torturing migrant children and putting them in cages...so the sermon was about kindness and Jesus's thoughts on welcoming foreigners. IRL, a certain person was extorting another country's leader for dirt on a political opponent...so the sermon was about doing what's right because it's the right thing to do, not for personal gain. That kind of thing. It was months and months of our pastors addressing the issues as directly as they could without 'getting political' and pissing off any members of the congregation..."

"I had always noticed the Trump bumper stickers and the 'Jesus was a Republican' bumper stickers in the parking lot, but one Sunday, I decided to notice who was in those cars and see if they were actually paying attention to the sermons. ... Nope, they were the ones dozing off and zoning out and looking at their fucking phones. Their pastor was tailoring the sermons to those peoples' spiritual growth, and they weren't even fucking listening. I couldn't keep going there. I now do all my praying and worship the way Jesus taught us to: in private."

—u/GingerMau

Did you have an experience that turned you away from religion? Or maybe you had an experience that turned you toward it? Let us know your story in the comments.