I am an agnostic who was born and raised in a very strict Christian fundamentalist environment. God was portrayed as a demanding enforcer who lashes-out and destroys if His demands are not met. People were viewed as evil beings that should not breathe God's air unless he gives them the right to do so. Ever heard the expression, "not fit to tote guts to a bear"? I did, as a child when it was orated from the pulpit during a sermon. The preacher was referring to people in general.
The central religious premise was "fear," fear of God, fear of life, fear of other people, fear of Satan, fear of....one's self. Everything other than going to church and reading the Bible was- or had the potential to be sin. We had no television set in our house for years because TV's were called evil, of the devil, and if you had one in your home, you were in danger of hell fire! The only music approved for listening was performed in- or condoned by the church. Certain hairstyles and makeup were sure to provoke the wrath of God on anyone who wore them. In my mind, God was a capricious being who watched everyone, relentlessly, and pounced at the first shadow of a transgression. I did not hear about love or a loving God until I was an adolescent.
By that time, I had grown weary of the confining environment I had endured as a child; it felt like a boa constrictor around my torso, squeezing the very life from me that it claimed to preserve and save. Instead of feeling liberated, and more importantly, supported and safe, I was full of fear, anxiety, and anger. I became an angry teenager and eventually an angry and confused young man. This anger carried over into my adult life, and I was the cause of misery for those I loved the most. Unfortunately, my pent-up anger led me to places I should never had seen, much less been a part of. I have been violent, and I have received violence. I've heard the wails from the depths of an insane mind and witnessed the violence of the criminally insane. I have been to the brink of suicide more than once in my life. It can be said that I have been to the abyss, where I looked into it, and even placed my head inside it, and lived to tell about it. While I have faced my demons (figuratively speaking) and I am at peace with myself, these events have left me with "baggage" that cannot be unloaded...only lightened, and then to a limited degree. A positive outcome is that I am now a more empathetic and compassionate person than my loved ones or I ever dreamed I could be.