What’s it like to grow up in a religious sect

What’s it like to grow up in a religious sect

On November 30, 2014, Anna Van Praagh wrote an article for The Telegraph titled, “What’s it like to grow up in a religious sect?” (http://bit.ly/15LWTmC). This article exhibits the life stories of three women who grew up in religious sects. The following blog focuses on the first story of the article, which highlights Jahnavi Harrison, a 27 year old who was raised in a strict Hare Krishna community (Van Praagh, 2014). Throughout the majority of her childhood, Harrison spent her time worshipping Krishna, sharing meals, working and praying with other members of her Hare Krishna community (Van Praagh, 2014).  To provide further insight and understanding into the community Harrison war raised in, Van Praagh (2014) restates the background of the Hare Krishna movement, which was also examined in RELS 341. As Harrison states, Hare Krishna began in 1965 under the leadership of AC Bhaktivedanta and extends from the more commonly known religion of Hinduism (Van Praagh, 2014).  Furthermore, Van Praagh (2014) states that the main goal of Krishna followers is to “attain Krishna Consciousness through ethical living and spiritual devotion.” These followers do so by abstaining from the acts of gambling, drinking alcohol or caffeine, sexual intercourse, watching television or listening to pop music (Van Praagh, 2014).


Harrison claims to have experienced a happy and fulfilled childhood until, however, she was exposed to the ‘outside world’ during her high school career (Van Praagh, 2014).  As Harrison states “I found the experience intimidating and a huge culture shock” (Van Praagh, 2014). This emergence into the outside world proved to be extremely challenging as Harrison faced discrimination and prejudice towards her religious upbringing (Van Praagh, 2014). This traumatic transition led her to feel as if she were living a double life, full of anxiety and extreme stomach pains (Van Praagh, 2014). As termed by Hammer and Rothstein (2012), the controversy and prejudice faced by Harrison, could be fueled by the retaliation movement of “child saving” (44-45). This movement exemplifies those that have the mission of saving the children born into a second-generation new religious movement, such as Hare Krishna (Hammer and Rothstein, 2012, 44-45). As Hammer and Rothstein (2012) point out, “…the prescience of children made NRMs particularly vulnerable to social control by government’s, given recently developed concern about protecting children” (44-45). The “child saving” movement became commonly popular throughout the nation, which may explain the hostility and misunderstanding faced by Harrison as a vulnerable cult-raised youth exposed to the opinions of the outside world (Hammer and Rothstein, 2012, 52-53).


As a woman who was raised in a traditional religion, I cannot begin to understand the trauma and isolation that youth, who were raised in a new religious movement, experience when facing the outside society. This new situation could easily lead to over stimulation of activities such as alcohol, drugs, pop culture, etc. I could also see how mentally and emotionally strenuous it would be to constantly live in fear of the retaliation that may be received once one’s religion is discovered. I believe it exemplifies the extreme bravery of these three women to step out of their comfort zones and contribute their stories to Van Praagh’s article. I hope that these stories will provide a source of support for others who may experience this situation in the future.

For more articles about the Hare Krishna movement, check out these informing sources!







#CML #uwrels #uwreligions

Works Cited


Olav Hammer and Mikael Rothstein, eds., Cambridge Companion to New Religious Movements


Van Praagh, A. (2014, 11, 30). “What’s it like to grow up in a religious sect?,” The Telegraph. Retrieved From:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11257637/Religious-sect-whats-it-like-to-grow-up-in-one.html


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