Monday, March 27, 2017

Can the Church Be Psychologically Harmful?

If a former believer says that Christianity made her depressed, obsessive, or post-traumatic, she is likely to be dismissed as an exaggerator. She might describe panic attacks about the rapture; moods that swung from ecstasy about God’s overwhelming love to suicidal self-loathing about repeated sins; or an obsession with sexual purity.
A symptom like one of these clearly has a religious component, yet many people instinctively blame the victim. They will say that the wounded former believer was prone to anxiety or depression or obsession in the first place—that his Christianity somehow got corrupted by his predisposition to psychological problems. Or they will say that he wasn’t a real Christian. If only he had prayed in faith believing or loved God with all his heart, soul and mind, if only he had really been saved—then he would have experienced the peace that passes all understanding.
But the reality is far more complex. It is true that symptoms like depression or panic attacks most often strike those of us who are vulnerable, perhaps because of genetics or perhaps because situational stressors have worn us down. But certain aspects of Christian beliefs and Christian living also can create those stressors, even setting up multigenerational patterns of abuse, trauma, and self-abuse. Also, over time some religious beliefs can create habitual thought patterns that actually alter brain function, making it difficult for people to heal or grow.
The purveyors of religion insist that their product is so powerful it can transform a life, but somehow, magically, it has no risks. In reality, when a medicine is powerful, it usually has the potential to be toxic, especially in the wrong combination or at the wrong dose. And religion is powerful medicine!
In this discussion, we focus on the variants of Christianity that are based on a literal interpretation of the Bible. These include Evangelical and fundamentalist churches, the Church of Latter Day Saints, and other conservative sects. These groups share the characteristics of requiring conformity for membership, a view that humans need salvation, and a focus on the spiritual world as superior to the natural world. These views are in contrast to liberal, progressive Christian churches with a humanistic viewpoint, a focus on the present, and social justice.

Read the entire article here:    Psychological Harms of Bible-Believing Christianity


Anonymous said...

Being involved in the church of Armstrong and her splinter groups can cause psychological harm !

Black Ops Mikey said...

Shared Psychotic Disorder

Shared psychotic disorder, or folie à deux, is a rare delusional disorder shared by 2 or, occasionally, more people with close emotional ties. An extensive review of the literature reveals cases of folie à trois, folie à quatre, folie à famille (all family members), and even a case involving a dog.

In the most recent update to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), shared psychotic disorder was removed as a separate disease entity and was included in the section on other specified schizophrenic spectrum and other psychotic disorders. In the updated version the entity exists as “delusional symptoms in partner of individual with delusional disorder.” According to the DSM-5, in the context of a relationship, the delusional material from the dominant partner provides content for delusional belief by the individual who may not otherwise entirely meet criteria for delusional disorder.
ICD-10 diagnostic criteria for Induced Delusional Disorder (folie à deux) is as follows:

Two people share the same delusion or delusional system and support one another in this belief.

They have an unusually close relationship.

And in Armstrongism, it's not rare -- it's been institutionalized.

Temporal or contextual evidence exists that indicates the delusion was induced in the passive member by contact with the active partner.


Of course, that 'unusually close relationship' in the case of a cult is between the leader and the members: The relationship is perceived by the members as being extremely close, with the reality that most of the time the cultmeister has no interest in his followers except for what they provide in money, power and narcisstic source -- he (or rarely she) could care less.

So, really, people like Dr. Michael Germano (or, earlier examples, Roderick Meredith and Herbert Armstrong) are freaking nuts. The people hang on every word and believe everything they are told. Except... they have reservations which are overwhelmed by the personality dominating them.

Beyond this, the sects of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia are dysfunctional looney bins, making conflicting and extreme demands on the people within them, so the whole congregations submit their wills and make their consciences flexible to adapt to the crazies they serve, thus becoming (by definition) psychopaths, doing things they wouldn't even begin to think of if they hadn't been surrounded by other people suffering from the same disorder, for example, tossing their teenagers out of the house because the leader says to or people who let their children die because the minister says not to take them to the doctor.

It's all crazy.

The thing about treating folie à deux is that when the patient gets away from the crazy person, sanity starts to return.

Unfortunately, with the ACoGs, though, they've made their mark and recovery takes a very long time, particularly if the people involved were alcoholics who were persuaded to drink and need rehab to get well with a depleted body in the third stage of alcoholism near death because they were convinced drinking was good for them by that erstwhile boozer, Herbert Armstrong (and many of his henchmen).

So if you are in the CoHAM, leave and you will probably get well and if you an alcoholic, you need to permanently get off the sauce NOW (recovery may take awhile, but it is likely that sanity will slowly return unless you get into something just as bad or worse like Scientology).

You've been weakened and are vulnerable.

Be warned.

Byker Bob said...

This is something that's self obvious to most of us who have been there. The problem is that people are easily blinded. Sometimes, without even consciously realizing it, as they are confronted by various situations, they begin to imagine how people who are part of "the group" would see the situations and handle them. They become part of a culture.

Peer pressure, and public opinion are one thing. If the group is benign, and people are following the examples of good, responsible citizens, then the group has had a beneficial effect. It's part of a wall of stability.

Unfortunately, Kool Aid imbibers in toxic, high maintenance groups which masquerade as the emissaries of God are gradually brainwashed, and twisted until they can no longer clearly discern good from bad. Those things have been redefined for them, and no longer have their original meanings. They surrendered long ago into believing that if something came from the group, it's good.

It's a permanent warp, unless something tragic or confusing happens to make them rethink their allegiances. Everyone has deep philosophical questions. Unfortunately, in the maze of life, some people are enticed into making left turns on a red light. And making others rich and powerful in the process.


Anonymous said...

Religion in the wrong hands can be dangerous. I can attest to a bad religious experience leaving you with psychological damage. After leaving LCG I struggle with depression most of those who I once called friends don't even bother with me. I did learn that all the we are a family talk is just an illusion and the person's who truly love me unconditionally are my non-Cog family even if I was a dead dog my real family would still love me. I thank God I have real family to lean on even though I neglected them for years for what I thought was my spiritual family, some of these groups give a bad name to the word family. Now I know what real family means and it is not LCG. And I am by no means implying that everyone in LCG is bad but their misguided theology of thinking they are so special that they look down on others is not good. He who knows it feels it only when you are on the otherside and experience what hundreds experience can you know and I never thought I'd be saying what I am today just a few months ago after several years of zealous devotion to what I honestly thought was God's true church.

Anonymous said...

In assessing these churches, what needs to be asked is what are the real core beliefs and attitudes of these groups, if all the religious window dressing is stripped away. The religious cloak adds a opaque or semi opaque layer, making the truth hard to see.
Scratch the surface, and you find that all the splinters are run along gang lines. These groups are gangs, governed by gang morality. But with religious window dressing. That was the case in Herbs time, and it's still the case today.

Black Ops Mikey said...

Sociopath gangs.

Didn't see that one coming.

Anonymous said...

Gangs by definition are sociopathic.

Gerald Bronkar said...

My deconversion process had two distinct phases:

First, I left Armstrongism without much difficulty. Oh, there was trauma and fear, because I had a family and no job, but it was totally obvious to me that there was no god involved in the organization. It was just a matter of being conscious and aware of reality. There was no Germany getting ready to attack America, no tribulation coming. It was 1973, and another HWA prophecy had failed. There was lots of other crap going on at HQ as well, so it was a no brainer for me to wake the f#$k up.

The second step was a more difficult awakening. There was much reading and research involved in helping me see the futility of Christianity. I'm not saying that every aspect of Christianity is bad or evil, just that it's based on a myth. This discovery began in 2005 after I retired. Christians ministers who attend a divinity school know a lot more about the bible than they are telling their membership. Check out "Jesus Interrupted" at Amazon, or don't. It is easy to discover the flaws in the Christian religion. The hard part is accepting the reality, and all that goes with it.

Anonymous said...

"These views are in contrast to liberal, progressive Christian churches with a humanistic viewpoint, a focus on the present, and social justice"

God or Satan, ANYONE, save us from the liberals (liars to the core), progressives (liars to the core), humanists (liars to the core), and social justice warriors (useful idiots and liars to the core).

Retired Prof said...

March 28, 2017 at 6:18 PM, I may be a liberal, progressive humanist, but be assured I have never lied to the core. I don't even know what/who the core is/are, so on that count I have never told it/him/her/them anything at all, neither truth, lies, nor equivocations between the two.

I am not a social justice warrior--more of a social justice draft dodger. Sounds like you may be a social justice conscientious objector. I guess that makes both of us useless rather than useful idiots, right? So what do you tell the core when you talk to it/him/her/them?

Retired Prof said...

Oh man, 6:18, I really am a useless idiot! I completely misunderstood the point of your comment. You were actually listing classes of miscreants who are dishonest in their dealings with the Marines.

No doubt the problem arose because you were reading your comment into a device equipped with voice-to-text software. Whenever you said "Corps," the device typed "core." Very clever of you to adapt the old classic joke about the young woman who would happily date sailors, soldiers, and airmen, but turned down marines with taunts and insults. She was nice to the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force but rotten to the Corps.