Religions have inspired centuries of violence by using fear to motivate obedience. Thanks to secularism, most religions no longer condone outright violence. Yet fear messaging continues to inspire psychological abuse in millions of religious adherents. The same fear that inspired the genocides of the bible (fear of god’s judgment) now inspires people to endless cycles of confession, obsession, and guilt over their unsanctioned thoughts. This is still violence, although it is psychological violence, and therefore less obvious. Ideologies that inspire fear, guilt, and shame are usually a pretense for power, not spiritual development. This is my aim in exposing religious abuse: to promote freedom from psychological harm. I want us to view religion through the lens of mental health: does this ideology promote fear or love, freedom or slavishness? Many biblical texts were written by people whose agenda was to establish and propagate their own authority, sometimes with devious motives. They did this by promoting fearful ideologies. The biblical god was stylized after the ultimate authority, which at the time was the king. The ancient king’s reign was established through fear and religious control of his subjects. The biblical book of Joshua, for example, is ethnic cleansing propaganda. It inspired fear in the hearts of the Israelites. If they didn’t wipe out foreigners who live among them and had different gods and beliefs, the Israelites might get caught up in pagan religion and suffer the wrath of god as a consequence. Thus, the religious and political rulers of the time were able to control their subjects and annihilate their opposition. Similarly, if religious adherents fail to believe the authority of a sacred text or spiritual teacher today, they are made to fear getting mixed up with irreligious ideologies and suffering divine punishment as a consequence. Such messaging is perhaps more subtle, but no different in terms of its underlying energy. Psychological religious abuse is rampant in our world, and it causes great suffering for many incredible and loving people. Fear is no way to inspire moral living or spiritual development.
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