Deal with any sense of unsafety in your life. It is hard to grow, love, sometimes even to function if you feel unsafe. Your body focuses its energy and attention on the primary need to SURVIVE. Even if you know the unsafety isn’t real, your body thinks that death is a real possibility. Religious fundamentalism operates by creating and sustaining a sense of unsafety. A constant sense of danger and sense of threat is created from without and within: from god, the world, and especially oneself. Adherents are threatened with hell in the afterlife (“the second death”) and divine discipline in this life for unsanctioned behavior. God is a thought police who google search-indexes the heart and mind for anything that doesn’t fit his divine agenda. The religious devotee is put in the impossible situation of constantly trying to resolve her anxiety about unsafety by going back to the religious institution that continues to reinforce it. The religion promises grace and forgiveness (relief from unsafety), simultaneously feeding its followers a steady diet of fear of self and the world. The adherent is taught to practice confession, church attendance, prayer, and evangelism as assurances of safety from divine judgment, but these activities reinforce the judgment they relieve.
The world is a scary and dangerous place for the believer, who constantly fights forces of temptation from “the world:” secular society and people of other religious faiths. These are seen as threats to one’s standing with god and one’s life purpose of serving god in total obedience. Disobedient society has the power to bring god’s wrath upon the nation, making the believer to feel paranoid and unsafe living in her own country. The threat of national judgment, along with personal judgment if one falls prey to worldly desires, is a constant reality in non-religious societies. Thus, the religious fight for religious legislation to alleviate their paranoia about secular people. Ironically, religious legislation tends to backfire because it promotes intolerance of religious belief when it enforces one religious stance to the exclusion of others that contradict it.
The most dangerous place for a religious fundamentalist to be is her own mind. In the mind and the heart, religiously unsanctioned impulses carry the threat of hell, or lesser versions of punishment. Thus, the religious person is trained in obsessive-compulsive practices of thought purification. Confession becomes a compulsion, like hand-washing is for phobias about germs, wherein the religious person attempts to alleviate her anxiety by confessing. But the act of confession only creates more anxiety, because it reinforces a sense of powerlessness, fueling the addiction it attempts to solve. The body is also a dangerous place to live for the religious person because of its “fleshy,” nonspiritual drives, which distract the believer from devotion to god, or cause him to give in to sexual temptation: a slippery slope into hell.
In such religious systems, the whole of reality is unsafe: one’s internal and external home are full of spiritual and material dangers. Fear of unsafety is often cultivated when a person is most vulnerable: in childhood, or when seeking help for drug addiction, death of a family member, and other life crises. Thus, the trauma of unsafety becomes deeply rooted and internalized, manifesting in anxiety disorders, PTSD, long-term addictions, and unhealthy relational patterns. In order to break free of unsafety, the religious must find safer beliefs about themselves, the universe, and other people. Upon leaving religion, they quickly discover the messages they heard about the non-religious world are not true. Though life has many dangers, most of them are manageable and most threats are imagined, not real. Dealing with anxiety, or the perception of unsafety rather than actual unsafety, tends to be the real task of most who live in Western society. The secular world is more forgiving and freer than religious authoritarian systems of thought surveillance with harsh punishments of torture for sexual behavior or any form of deviance. Most people in the world tend to be helpful, and most conflict is a result of misunderstanding or not knowing how to meet one’s needs. The unsafety promoted by fundamentalist religions is unnecessary, and completely counterproductive to spiritual thriving and moral action. The “fear of the Lord,” is not the beginning of wisdom as the Bible claims: it is the root of deception and ignorance. Though fear is an effective means of entrapment and obedience, it will never create true morality or true obedience. These can only come from hearts that are empowered and free.