I was brainwashed into raging Laestadian beliefs

– Never give up to think critically about every ideology. Know that you are worth it.- Anonymous.

Mind_control1PA Finnish young woman wrote touching description about her current life situation considering how to deal with the dilemma she is facing with the Laestadian beliefs which her family and friends are believing.

I’m a 17-year-old female high school student in Finland. When it comes to religion, I’d say that out of all the young finnish people most are atheists (myself included).

However, I was born to a very strict and raging religion called Conservative Laestadianism. It is a Lutheran revival movement and the most succesful Laestadian movement. There are about 155.000 Conservative Laestadians, and most of them live in Finland, Sweden and USA.


I was brought up and brainwashed in a very close-minded community. It seemed to almost intentionally try to keep me separated from the other (normal) kids. I was taught that only Conservative Laestadianism can sell you the ticket to heaven. However, the prize isn’t exactly the lowest:

– Premarital sex is a sin.
– Contraception is a sin.
– Homosexuality is a sin.
– Wearing any makeup is a sin (as well as colouring your nails).
– Having piercings and/or tattoos is a sin.
– Dyeing your hair is a sin.
– Any music from the last century is horrifyingly sinful.
– Being a professional athlete/actor is a sin.
– Going to the cinema is a sin.
– Having a TV is a sin.
– Alcohol, drugs, gambling and swearing are sins.
– Being a female priest/preacher is a sin.
– Movies and kissing are frowned upon.

I may have forgotten some unwritten rules, but the list above gives you an idea of the kind of life I’m supposed to live.


As I grew older and went to school, I was very insecure and ashamed of who I was. I tried to hide my religion from my friends as well as I could. But often I felt like I was missing out on life, since I wasn’t allowed to do almost anything.

When the school started to teach about evolution, I was just utterly confused. But since it all made sense, I started to believe in scientific explanations about the universe. However, I had to watch my mouth at home, because I was afraid that my parents might get mad. Later on I learned that they actually believed in evolution, because ”God’s day can be a lot longer than ours”.

Milky Way Galaxy (Linnunrata) and the location of our solar system. (Graphic: NASA.)

Milky Way Galaxy (Linnunrata) and the location of our solar system. (Graphic: NASA.)

My Secret Life

As I became a teenager, I started living a secret life. I listened to modern music, danced if I wanted to and went to movies with my friends. I abandoned religion and became an atheist. However, because I hid everything from my parents, I felt like I had no real control over my life. Future seemed scary and uncertain. I started cutting myself and controlling my eating habits to escape from reality. I was screaming in frustration but no one heard me.

However, now I’ve decided that I don’t want to hide anymore. But coming out of the closet isn’t easy. There is no way I could gracefully escape from the cage my family’s religion has built around me. Because the Laestadian community is so large and powerful, it will certainly raise a huge fuss if one decides to leave it.

I’m happy with my social life and I don’t want other people to see me differently. I don’t want to become the black sheep. I’m also afraid that people would start ponting fingers at my parents, since my brother came out as a non-believer just about a year ago.

I’m also concerned about the problems this religion causes. All the decision-makers in the comminuty are men.

Stressed mothers of oversized families are often depressed. Intolerance of certain people (e.g. gays) is encouraged. Young people feel insecure and lost in today’s world, which so eagerly feasts on things that are considered sinful.

I wanted to bring this particular religion to daylight and hear your thoughts on it and the dilemmas I’m facing.”

*        *        *

Thoughts gave Halla, 17 years. Published in discussion of the site of Richard Dawkins, January 10, 2013.  41  comments including intersting personal experiences and informative points. (Foto: Suviseurojen Kuvapalvelu.)

Critics of religion, such as Richard Dawkins, maintain that the children of religious parents are often unfairly indoctrinated.The process of subjecting children to complex initiation rituals and techings before they are able to critically assess the event is seen by Dawkins and other critics of religion as cruel. – Commented by Xsa.

*        *        *

Read more:

Anonymous:  I left the Conservative Laestadian movement

Edward Dutton: Conservative Laestadians in Oulu

Dr. Propelli: Rebekka Naatus: Lestadiolaisena voi ateistikin olla turvallisen yhteisön jäsen (Also an atheist can be Laestadian and stay aa a member of the comfortable Laestadian community).

Finland’s First Conservative Laestadian Female Priest: Mrs. Mari Leppänen

Halla: Conservative Laestadianism. A Comment and discussion in the site of Richard Dawkins, January 10, 2013. (40 comments.)

Johanna: Læstadianism. Sami Culture. The University of Texas.

Jumalaan uskomattomuus yleistyy aatteena. YLE uutiset 23.20.2012.

Laestadianism. Wikipedia.

Laestadianism in America. Wikipedia.

Lucas: Conservative Laestadians admit serious mistakes in dealing with child abuse issue – trust is gone in SRK

Mika Luoma-aho: God and International Relations: Christian Theology and World Politics. New York: Continuum International 2012.

Maria Sofia & ESA: Hanna Pylväinen, etninen lestadiolainen New Yorkissa

Political dimensions of the Laestadianism in the research focus funded by Academy of Finland

Rhyming Blue: Living as my true self – leaving the Conservative Laestadian one true faith’s community

Ed Suominen : An Examination of the Pearl

Synnit.  – The List of the Sins of the Conservative Laestadians. In Finnish.

Vanhoillislestadiolaisuus, amishit, hutteriitit ja mennoniitit (Compare Laestadian beliefs with the ones of Hutterites, Amish and Mennonites. In Finnish only.)

Marjo Valtavaara: Conservative Laestadians’ lifestyle debate boils over onto the Internet. Helsingin Sanomat 23.10.2007.


6 kommenttia

Kategoria(t): ateismi, atheism, ban of birth control, ban of television, bans, Conservative Laestadianism, eroaminen uskosta, forbidden things, get rid of, häpeä, heaven, helvetti, iankaikkinen elämä, identiteetti, identity, in English, irrottautuminen yhteisöstä, johtajat, johtokunta, kadotus, kasvatus, kiellot, kontrollointi, laestadianism, lapsuus, leimaaminen, manipulointi, meikkaaminen, mielenterveys, naispappeus, normit, norms, nuoret, painostaminen, pelko, pelot, perhe, puhujat, secession, sin, SRK:n johtokunta, sukupuolijärjestelmä, synnit, syntilista, tasa-arvo, televisio, televisiokielto, tiede, tieto, ulossulkeminen, uskon jättäminen, vallankäyttö, yksinäisyys, ystävyys

6 responses to “I was brainwashed into raging Laestadian beliefs

  1. Roope

    Täytyy sanoa, että jos olisin ateisti, olisi vaikea elää elämän tarkoituksettomuuden kanssa. Minun olisi ihan mahdoton ajatella, että tänne ihmislapsi vaan syntyy, kasvaa, käy koulua, käy töissä, jää eläkkeelle ja kuolee pois. Ja se oli sitten siinä. Tai entä soitten että lapsi syntyy mutta kuolee jo lapsena. Mikä oli tarkoitus? Usko tuo elämääni tarkoituksen, juuri minulle. Se antaa myös tarkoituksen yleisesti elämälle maan päällä. Usko antaa myös voimaa ja halua hyväksyä sen, että itse ei ymmärrä tämän kaiken merkitystä, mutta Jumala tietää sen. Jumala antaa uskovaiselle tunteen, että kaikella on tarkoitus, vaikka sitä ei ihminen itse aina näekään, ja sen ymmärryksen, ettei minun ihmisenä todellakaan edes tarvitse ymmärtää Jumalan suurta suunnitelmaa. Pitää olla nöyryyttä hyväksyä se että ei voi kaikkea hallita eikä ymmärtää, eikä tarvitsekaan. Jos minulla ei olisi toivoa ikuisesta elämästä, olisi tosi vaikea löytää mitään syytä tässä elämässä rämpimiseen.

  2. I am a laestadian and I am 16 years old. Maybe it is slightly different there (I live in the U.S) but I have always been taught differently. For an example, being an athlete is not a sin or going to the cinema is not a sin. There isn’t a list of can and can’t dos. There are some things in the bible that are stated as sins and believers try to stay away from things that will lead us to sin.
    Also the mothers of most of the ”oversized” families I know, incuding my own, are some of the happiest people I know. I agree that there are some that are depressed, but that is true for other mothers of families big and small all across the world, not just laestadians.
    I am young and I am strong and confident, as are my friends. I love being in faith. It has actually made me more comfortable about myself. And I should also say I am not brainwashed 🙂 I have somedays had the same thoughts as Halla but truly deep down in my heart I feel that this is right and I do NOT feel deprived.
    I don’t want to offend anyone any way, I just gave my thoughts 🙂

    P.S I am curious, is this a blog purely dedicated to sharing peoples’ horrible times of being a ”Conservative” Laestadian?

    • Editorial board

      Dear Vviivvaaakor,
      Thank you for your comments.

      This blog is open to all who respect other people, and responsible debate. We appreciate high all kind of arguments, opinions, and experiences, concerning faith, Laestadianism, and other religions and issues on spirituality etc. Your contributions are warmly welcome.

      In case you might write a longer text, kindly send it to verkosto [at] luukku.com.

      We strongly recommend anonymity on the site because the costs of becoming recognized in Laestadian communities can be seriously heavy.
      Be free to write your thoughts!

      Editorial board

  3. Danielle

    I am 22 years old and I feel the exact same way. I feel like I’m not allowed to have a voice if it isn’t agreeing with what my family believes. I just want freedom to be myself and not be shamed or judged. I don’t understand how wearing makeup or dying your hair can be considered the worst sins of all when the church is constantly preaching that we will have our sins forgiven no matter what as long as we ask someone to forgive us. Wouldn’t that make those rules pointless? Couldn’t a person dye their hair and just ask for forgiveness? This religion makes me so upset because I was excluded from my peer group so I really felt like I didn’t belong and then at the same time they didn’t want me to feel like I belonged outside of the religion. I just feel really lonely and unable to speak my voice. I want to be able to do things that make me happy and not have to worry about if I’m shaming my family.

  4. Jaska Jokunen

    Miksi fantasia ”ikuisesta elämästä” on niin tärkeä oljenkorsi? Elämä jatkuu DNAssa, lapsissa, suvun perimässä. Se on miten elämän ikuinen kierto kulkee eikä suinkaan yksilön oman navan ympärillä.

    Sitäpaitsi jos elinaikanaan pitää aika käyttää kädet ristissä kyhjöttäen niin voisi kuvitella siitä saavan ihmiselämän aikana tarpeekseen ;).

  5. sirdavidthedragonslayer

    16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
    17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
    18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
    19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
    20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
    21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
    John 3


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