Yes, I suppose I was, in a sense, "forced" to be a Christian for those 25+ years. The word "forced" is maybe not the first word I'd have thought of using, but it will suffice.
Yes, I was, for all intents and purposes, "forced" to be a Christian. I didn't really have any choice in the matter. My faith was sincere, ever present, empowering. It had a momentum all of its own. It was like a force. Like a kind of force of nature. It carried me with it.
I had a set of notions and explanations that I subscribed to. They made sense. They interlocked. They were mirrored in people around me. They fed off all kinds of sources of confirmation bias, continuously so. They felt completely irresistible. What choice did I have?
It was a frame of reference that was comfortable, familiar, constant, normal, natural, intuitive, reassuring. It felt utterly necessary. And obligatory. Not overbearing but not optional either. It was psychologically inescapable. It was like second nature. Intuitive. It was the rightful order of things, a reality imposed on me from outside, not something I had created from within by selecting its components.
It was not something I chose to do. It was not something, where I woke up each day, and decided, freely, to continue with those beliefs, or decided deliberately and consciously to not stop. For all intents and purposes, I was "forced" to be a Christian.
It was something similar to my love for my partner and children; it isn't a choice; I can't just wake up one day and use "free will" to decide to stop loving them. The imperative to love them, care for them, worry about them, is like a force within me. It is a reality about which I have little or no volition.
My Christian life consisted of a complex superstructure of instincts and assumptions and imperatives and carefully cultivated perspectives that created, just as it's supposed to, a spiritual cocoon inside of which I lived for decades and which was all bound up with my identity, my life choices, and my interactions with my human environment.
I did not choose to create that cocoon. It was just there. It existed. It was real to me. It wasn't a conscious choice.
It felt to me like it was my innate response to supernatural stimuli ~ realities ~ beyond my control. I couldn't simply choose not to believe them. It was a matter of heart and soul. It felt mandatory and invincible.
Was I literally "forced" to exist in that mental and spiritual space? Is it the right word? I suppose so, yes. As mindscapes go, it was compelling. It was persuasive. It was required. It seemed like the only alternative.
So, all this had the effect of "forcing" me to be a Christian. Yes, the word "forced" will suffice. I don't think any exercise of "free will" could have done anything about the fact that I saw myself and the world through a Christian prism. I couldn't have somehow chosen at any given moment to not be a Christian.
And I don't think any exercise of "free will" or "choice" could have done anything to prevent what happened thereafter.
I don't think "free will" could have had any effect as I moved gradually through the process of losing that faith. I don't think "free will" could have had any inhibiting or accelerating effect on the long drawn out process that eventually led to me realizing that all those instincts and superstitions and life-defining assumptions had faded away and disappeared.
In the end, I was "forced" to admit that I was no longer a Christian.