Category Archives: Religion’s Cell Articles

Unfairly Judging Others is Dangerous

John 7:24 – Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

judging4One of the areas of life where many people fail is in judging others fairly. In today’s society, we judge people based on whether or not they agree with us.  If a person does not agree with us, the tendency is to attach labels to them and talk bad about them any time their name is brought up in a conversation.  Some will even go a step further and orchestrate situations that will further make the target of their slander, appear as they say.  I have even watched many religious zealots twist words and scripture to their viewpoint to “prove” themselves “right” and their opponents wrong in order to incite other believers to violence against those who disagree with them.  Sadly, there may be agreement in many areas, but one area of disagreement can make any individual become an enemy. Judging others unfairly leads to division. Division leads to fighting; and, fighting can lead to war.  The two main areas where this type of unfair judgment is exercised is in religion and politics. Within these two areas of society, it is nothing to bash or harm those who disagree; not only this, but publicly!

What we fail to realize is that by doing so, we are practicing slander and hate against our neighbor. God commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  In my mind, anyone who steps on someone else to elevate themselves, their opinion, or belief, is not to be trusted no matter who they are; no matter their credentials. If they will do it to others, they will do it to you as soon as you are in disagreement with them or their beliefs.  There is a way to disagree with a person and allow them to retain their integrity and character without trying to attack and destroy it.  Everyone should read my article, “Handling Opposing Beliefs.”

unfairly judgingAny time we tear another down because of differences, we are propagating hate, not love, toward our neighbor. This is the same neighbor that God commands us to love and to do good to! Any time we use our words to attack another because of disagreement, it shows the true lack of character of the individual voicing the slander. That person has some more growing to do. It does not make that person a “bad” person. It just means they need to grow more.  However, we must not be ignorant of the fact that a person who does such things can eventually become dangerous because they could get to a point where they stop at nothing to destroy the one whom they oppose. This holds true in religion and politics.

Has it ever occurred to any of us that just maybe the person we think so negatively about may have some good traits or qualities about them that are admirable? Could there even be some really fantastic accomplishments done by the one in whom we judge unfairly? What have they endured to get to where they are today?  judging2Could these ones we oppose be moral, upright, God-fearing men and women who have great marriages and families, but along the way, made a mistake or two?

It’s time to stop the hate and slander and remember the good of the individual. It’s time to let go of pride and arrogance and humble ourselves enough to be willing to consider an opposing view for the good it may contain, or, the truths it may reveal. We should not be afraid of hearing truth just because it is opposite of what we have been taught to believe. Be slow to judgment, quick to hear, slow to act.

When we spread slander and attach labels to people, we are automatically telling the world they are less than; they are worthless; they are to be opposed; labelsthey are to be silenced. I see cyberspace filled with labels such as: haters, bashers, feminists, Democrat, Republican, Atheist, Gay, conservative, liberal, fat, ugly, liar, etc.  PEOPLE are not the labels we attach to them. People are all human beings with feelings. We all have good and bad qualities. We are mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. We are not the labels attached to us in order to divide us and bring harm upon us. Labels divide! Men and women are using labels to divide and/or destroy the ones they’ve attached labels to, whether they realize it or not.

In religion:

  • I see religious leaders slandering, discrediting, and attaching labels to abuse victims.
  • I see religious leaders asserting their beliefs as the only truth and attacking publicly, those who present a differing truth or belief. One religious faction is actually murdering their opposition (ISIS)!
  • I see religious followers physically attacking, stalking, harassing, and slandering sexual assault victims who step forward to the police.
  • I see religious followers entering into chat rooms, forums, and private facebook groups to spew their slander in order to win more people to their cause and to motivate others to attack the same person(s) they oppose.

ErhmanMany have become too arrogant to search out the truth about what they have been taught to believe. Many religious people do not realize scriptures have been changed to suit a particular faction’s agenda and belief. The thought of which, is abhorrent; so it falls on deaf ears. My blog is full of Greek and Hebrew Scholar’s findings on scripture corruption that is fully ignored in order to believe the ones who “believe as they do!” “They” are the experts, not the ones I quote who truly are.  I say this with much sorrow and disappointment.

Sadly, the desired outcome is to destroy the target in every instance. It would be wise to beware of those that spew negative and hateful comments about others, whether publicly or privately. Think twice about acting on what they tell you against another human being even if they quote scripture to do so. Many innocent people have been destroyed by such conduct and we will all have to give an account to God for it.

In Politics:

  • I see Republican and Democrats alike advertising their slander and hate on television and the internet against their opponents running for office.
  • I see Republican and Democratic followers alike fighting and arguing amongst each other.
  • I see Republican and Democratic followers looking to be offended at every opportunity so they can rail on some poor unsuspecting soul for sharing some article that had a political statement in it they did not notice.
  • I see a country divided by political faction.

politicalThe level of anger and emotion across this country is at an all time high. The deceitfulness, the slander, and the division taking place in our country is all due to unfair judgment of others; and even worse, it’s due to an insatiable appetite for control of others, money, and power!  There are agendas out there. Everyone seems to have one. If we don’t get rid of the agendas and change our thinking in order to look out for the common good, our country is doomed. It will become a hotbed of tyranny and deception in all areas of society. The ones who will suffer as a result will be the weak and vulnerable – the aged, the disabled, women, and children.

In order to judge fairly, we must be willing to remove politics and religion from the equation. Politics and religion cause war. Politics and religion imprison.  Politics and religion divide. Politics and religion distort truth.  Only then, can judgment be based on facts and fairness.  It’s time for Americans to get outside of themselves and realize that we are all human. We all do good. We all do bad. The problem lies in our focus. Let’s stop focusing on the negative and work on building upon the good! God calls it “edifying” our neighbor.  Each individual has within themselves the ability to do good. When that ability is stifled through deception and influence, the outcome is negative and the impact, far reaching.

judging0We should consistently make an effort to acknowledge positive traits in those we disagree with and develop a habit of not mentioning anything negative, attacking, or slanderous in the same sentence. Too often, I hear a positive comment followed up with at least half a dozen or more negative comments! THAT is not how we as human beings should be conducting ourselves. If more people would force themselves to acknowledge the good and then shut their mouths, we would not see much of the division we currently see in society. Just because you don’t like someone does not give you the right to broadcast their weaknesses, faults and other things you don’t like about them. As difficult as this may sound, we must always keep in mind the good things done by those we disagree with or oppose –  even if you know of negative things they’ve done.  If we don’t, we will dehumanize them.  Dehumanization leads to abuse, and possibly the death of, the individual. Currently, ISIS has dehumanized Christians. They can be murdered, tortured, and raped because they do not agree with Islamic belief! Recently, a man was beheaded by a Christian in Oklahoma because he was practicing witchcraft and the killer disagreed with him doing that! Unfairly judging others can incite people to violence and murder of those who are dehumanized.

Over the last five years I have seen the public slander, humiliation, and character assassination of people by religious zealots who do not even know the people they are destroying! How can this be? They are basing their actions on the “opinions” of others who believe as they do and/or, in many cases, corrupted or twisted theological teachings.  unfairly judging2This is why it is imperative that we “park” opinions about others, publicly.  How foolish to destroy people you don’t even personally know just because you disagree with their viewpoint, religious belief, or lifestyle! This is the biggest problem in America right now.  Everyone is sitting in the “Judgment Seat” exercising judgment based on false assumptions, other’s opinions, religious belief, political belief, etc. People are being dehumanized all around us and attacked and destroyed.

If you disagree with someone or do not like them, keep your mouth shut about them! Anything you say will not be fair. If their name comes up in a conversation, hold your tongue and your opinion! No one can see the “good” in those they oppose. Keeping the mouth shut and parking one’s opinion is for the common good as well as the good of the person disliked. Parking one’s opinion has to be practiced. It is not an easy thing to do in today’s culture where everyone believes they have a right to their opinion, even if it is hateful, destructive, and attacking. The truth is this: God commands us to judge fairly. When you are emotional, it is very difficult to judge or speak fairly; especially, if you are in disagreement with someone.  The best position to take in a disagreement is this: whatever you are going to say should be fair, gracious, and kindly stated while allowing the opponent to retain integrity and save face. It should not be loaded or anger inducing. It should not “point” the hearer into a place of hostile judgment or action.

There is so much more I could say on this topic of judging others unfairly. It is because of this practice that the weak and vulnerable suffer. It is because of this tactic, our country is divided. It is because of this tactic, thousands suffer loss. Let’s stop judging others and judge ourselves instead. If we all changed ourselves for the better, America could be a great nation again.  As long as our nation is divided, it cannot be great. It is only through unity we can remain strong. Division allows the enemy to enter in and destroy.

The REAL change begins with each of us changing our attitudes and perspectives, exercising HUMILITY with those we disagree with, and making a conscious effort to use words that allow our opponents to retain their integrity. The real hope and change for America is within ourselves, not the government, not religion. If we change ourselves, America changes.

We are Not Entitled to Anything

We are not Entitled to Anything

entitlement picOne of the prevailing attitudes in society today is the attitude of “entitlement.” Countless multitudes of people believe that they are “owed” or “deserve” things based on who they are or what they have done.  As an adult, I often find myself saying, “I deserve better than what has been handed me.” Sometimes, I have even felt I deserved the love and respect of my children as their parent. However, I no longer feel that I am owed or deserve better in life; nor do I feel that I deserve, or am owed, my children’s love or respect. Let me explain.

Today’s culture has instilled a mindset of entitlement here in the U.S. Advertisers are very adept at telling us what we deserve. We are taught that because of ______, we deserve _____.  You can fill in the blanks.  However, this is not true. As hard as it may be for you to hear this, no one is entitled to, or deserves, anything.

By way of example, I will use my relationship with my husband to show you how destructive this attitude can be.

My husband worked very hard for his employers. As a matter of fact, he worked on average about 70 hours per week, year in and year out, all our married lives. There were countless weeks where he exceeded that 70 hours and he continually brought his work home and let it interrupt “our time” together. He has always had a fantastic work ethic and has even instilled the same work ethic in our children.  This said, when he did have any amount of time with me at home, he felt he “deserved” to be catered to and waited on by me for whatever he wanted. He didn’t feel he needed to do any work at home.  After all, because he worked so hard at his job, he felt he was “entitled” to not fix things around the house or help me with anything at all!  He made me feel like a servant in my own home when he was off!   If I did not do what he wanted, then he would get angry at me and we would end up in a fight. He felt “entitled” to do nothing and be catered to.

While he was working, I was taking care of the kids, the pets, the house, the yard, the finances, the grocery shopping, kids activities, church responsibilities, etc. My days were just as full as his with stuff to get done every day – and night, if the kids were sick! He expected me to work a minimum of 8 hrs a day every day and if I didn’t, he would get angry.  I felt I deserved and was “entitled” to be treated better than a hired servant and, I felt I deserved to have more of his time too!

While my husband was “expecting” certain things from me, I was “expecting” certain things from him. When either of us did not get what we expected, it caused us to get angry and argue. This “I deserve and am entitled to” attitude was further exacerbated by the teachings of the churches we served in. The women were degraded to nothing more than servants to their husbands and the men ate it up! They felt entitled to a sex slave, a servant, a cook, a housekeeper, a bookkeeper, a teacher to the kids, and so much more! This led to lots of arguments, it led to abuses. Eventually, it almost led us to divorce! Because we both felt we were “entitled” to be treated a certain way, we would get angry when we weren’t.

As a result, our marriage began to crumble.  When our marriage began to fall apart and my husband realized he was about to lose me, he had a change of heart and attitude. My husband suddenly realized that he did not “deserve” anything from me! He stopped taking me for granted and began to treat me with genuine love and compassion without expecting anything in return. Did he “want” my love and companionship? Yes. But he was no longer demanding it!  He would tell me, “Honey, I love you so much. I don’t deserve your love, or you. But if you choose to love me, I will be the happiest man alive.” His change in attitude and actions toward me opened my eyes to my expectations of him and helped me to see that I needed to eliminate any expectations in my mind!

As a result of letting go of what we each felt “we deserved,” our relationship developed into a respectful, caring and loving relationship that transcended anything we had ever experienced before in our marriage.

The “we want” mentality, instead of “I demand,” led to each of us appreciating the little and big things that each of us did for each other on a daily basis. When you expect and don’t get, it causes anger and resentment; or worse, bitterness! When you want something and don’t get it, it just causes disappointment. Disappointment is much easier to deal with than anger and bitterness! My husband does not “owe” me his love. Do I want his love? Yes. Because I want his love, I treat him with loving care and do not get angry because he works all the time. I also go out of my way to please him and he does the same for me.  Because he wants my love, he doesn’t expect me to wait on him like a servant and instead, pitches in on his off days to do what I need help with and, even give me a break!  It’s okay to want things, but we have no right to demand, expect, or feel entitled to anything. It’s okay to want better; but it’s not right to feel entitled to better.  Am I making sense here? The difference in attitude is a huge difference! It determines how we act and react toward others.

When we feel “entitled,” we do not appreciate what we have and, we become angry, resentful, and bitter toward others when they do not meet our expectations of what we think we deserve. It also causes us to take for granted what we do have and what we do have then becomes not good enough.  When we want something, and do not get it, we are simply disappointed and move on to something else.

We are not entitled to anything. Entitlement produces anger, resentment and bitterness. It is a kiss of death to a relationship. If you want a sure path to destruction, just believe you are entitled to something. Entitlement thinking will cause people to neglect the emotional and physcial needs of others while focusing entirely on themselves and their wants and needs.  This is selfishness personified!  The sooner we let go of this mentality, the sooner life becomes new and relationships blossom.

The Most Ignored Commandment

Lev19_15The Most Ignored Commandment

“in justice shall you judge your fellow man” (Lev. 19:15 – Heb) Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour. (Lev. 19:15- KJV) You must do no injustice in a case, neither showing partiality to the poor nor deferring to the powerful, but judging your fellow fairly (Lev. 19:15 – AAT)

Many read this commandment and automatically assume it only applies to magistrates. In making this assumption, people fail to realize this commandment requires everyone to be fair in their judgment of others. There is no room for prejudice within the scope of this command. Everyone, no matter their economic status, their educational background, their sex, or their religion, must be treated equally and fairly. In today’s society, such a thing as fair treatment has been lost in the attempt for control, power, or revenge.

In order to be fair, we are not allowed to listen to the side of one person without the other person being present. It is wrong to talk about someone to people and make them look bad when they are not there to defend themselves.

“You shall not go about spreading slander among your kinsmen; nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake . . . (Lev. 19:16 – NAB) “Don’t gossip. Don’t falsely accuse your neighbor of some crime . . . (Lev. 19:16 – Tay) “Do not whisper calumnies in the public ear, and swear away thy neighbor’s life . . . (Lev. 19:16 Knox)

We are also not allowed to judge a person based on the one-sided information. Sadly, most people today, ignore this command regarding justice. Instead, what we find are countless individuals who are harsh and unfair. While this is true in all of society, I have found this especially true among God’s people and this should not be so. Let me explain.

There are many of God’s people (doesn’t matter the religious affiliation) who have a higher regard for their own character than of those they judge. Let that statement sink in for a moment. Not only do people regard their own character above others, but many also believe religiosity determines character.  Religiosity does not establish character! Yet, religious people have a belief that the non-religious lack character and/or ethics.  This is very sad.

Also, many religious people judge themselves based on their good intentions and others by their actions. For example, if we don’t visit a friend or relative in the hospital, we usually rationalize in our mind that it’s okay. After all, I “wanted to go visit them, but didn’t have the time.” My intentions were good! Yet, when we are in the hospital and others don’t visit us, we don’t spend the time rationalizing excuses for the non-visitors. Instead, we judge them by their actions and become offended because they did not take the time to visit us.

Many people also judge themselves by their intentions when their actions are bad. If they are being rude, callous, hateful, condescending, hurtful, etc., they rationalize in their mind that their behavior is justified because they are doing so in righteous anger on God’s behalf toward the offending soul. Hurting and/or judging others because they don’t believe or act like you is wrong. Hurting others because they sin differently than you is also wrong. Just because your intentions are good, does not justify unethical treatment and bad attitude toward others.

Have you ever been wronged by a person who saw nothing hurtful about their attitude or behavior toward you? I have – too many times to count. And, sadly, I have dished out the same and rationalized in my mind the deplorable attitude I meted out. Oh, how I wish I could go back and retract my words!

When I was in the fundamentalist Baptist religion, we were taught by example how to mete out judgment and condemnation to the point that we even dished it out upon those who were dealing with tragedy in their lives. Why would we do such a thing? Because we were taught, for non-believers, that tragedy was God’s hand of judgment for sin in their life. This belief affected our thoughts and behaviors toward that individual and caused us to judge them unfairly. I say this with much sadness. We condemned and judged those who did not believe or act as we did while being compassionate and understanding toward those who DID believe and act as we did. We had a double standard! The same tragedy on an unbeliever was dealt with differently than that of a believer! Thus, we stood guilty of breaking God’s commandments.   And to top it off, we had no facts to base our assumptions on, only the “word” of our religious leaders. Sadly, this realization brings me much sorrow as I reflect on the negative talk many of my preachers said about so many good people. As a result of this gossip, these precious people were shunned and the attitudes of the rest of their church family toward them inflicted much hurt. To the hurting, this is secondary abuse and many do not realize it.

How sad when we hurt the people we love most and rationalize our behavior; and, when we are confronted by our harsh treatment, we make excuses. What is even sadder is when we hurt the already hurting by violating this commandment; even worse, is when we do psychological and bodily harm to those we judge because they act or believe differently than we do! We are quick to judge, we are quick to reach a negative conclusion about others, and we are quick to condemn.

It only takes one negative action on the part of a good person and we rush to crush them. Wow. Have we deteriorated to such an extent in our humanity that we rush so quickly to condemnation? Where is the compassion and love that causes us to be longsuffering toward others? If we truly followed God’s command to “love our neighbor as ourselves,” we would not be passing judgment on others so quickly. Instead, we would be seeking out excuses for their behavior in the same way we do for ourselves. In doing so, it would cause us to be more compassionate, longsuffering, and forgiving.

If we are not in a position to know both sides and the facts of a situation involving two people, don’t make a judgment about either!  NEVER believe someone else’s negative words aimed at discrediting another! In most instances, guaranteed, they will be slanted to the accuser’s agenda! ALWAYS stand back and wait if you are not privy to the side of both parties and the facts!  To believe a one-sided view, will cause us to automatically gravitate to a hostile standpoint. Once our mind becomes hostile toward and individual, there is nothing too cruel that they deserve and we will gladly dish out that cruelty. It breaks my heart to see God’s people dishing out cruelty in his name.

Of course there are instances where we will find ulterior motives too. While many may be subtle, still there are others that are hard to ignore. For example, there are religious organizations and people that provide aid or benefits to the less fortunate in order to build a following or recruit members. An example of this would be a church bus route that uses candy and prizes to entice children to church in order to get to the parents. The ultimate goal is to get the parents as members so they can give money to the church. Some organizations also provide aid in order to sexually exploit women and children. In these instances, we should not judge favorably until restitution is made to the victims. There are even some that extend aid to the less fortunate for murder. An example of this would be terrorist organizations. Hamas provides clothing, food, and other forms of aid to the poor in order to gain a following that will enable them to recruit suicide bombers. These suicide bombers are used to hurt and murder those whom Hamas hates.  Also, beware of those individuals that extend to you their aid and then call in the ‘favor’ later.

We should never condemn a person based on hearsay. We should always check out both sides of the matter before assuming the worst about a person or attacking them. To do otherwise is not only foolish, it is unethical and, makes you complicit in the sin! “You shall not nurse hatred against your brother. You shall reprove your fellow-countryman frankly and so you will have no share in his guilt (Lev. 19:17 – NEB) Beware of those who gossip! Don’t believe what you hear! Always give the other person the benefit of the doubt until you have both sides of a story as well as the facts. I cannot express how often I hear bad things about good people. I cannot express adequately the pain this brings me.  I remember one time where I was discarded as a friend because I refused to believe what I was told about another friend of mine and continued friendship with the accused.  I had both sides of the story and the facts showed the accusation against this person to be false.  Sadly, this is the risk we take for judging fairly by those who do not. We may lose friends.

I have made a choice that I intend to live by. I will not believe gossip and slander. I will patiently wait and assess the facts for myself and make a decision based on those facts. Sadly, many don’t understand why I do this and criticize me because of it.  What I have found is that in almost every instance to date, with a little patience and some digging, I was told wrong information with the intent to create animosity or, the accuser made big assumptions based on someone else’s opinion! In other instances, it was a matter of a poor decision that hurt others and the individual was literally crucified for it, even after apologizing and making restitution for the mistake made. When gossip is believed, it can incite people to violence against the victim. I have witnessed this first hand with many religious abuse survivors. Usually, when this has happened, the gossip was being spread in order to silence truth. This incitement breaks another commandment: “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:18 – KJV).

This leads me to another area of concern – that of passing on negative or defamatory information to those who don’t need to know it. Usually, this is done to destroy a person’s character so that no one will believe what they have to say. Many institutions utilize character assassination in order to silence truth; especially if the truth exposes their wrongdoings. Those who judge others unfairly and spread gossip, commit a far greater sin than the wrong for which they are condemning in someone else. Usually, the religious, will disguise their slander and gossip under the mantle of “pray for so-and-so because . . .” Beware of those people who do such things. Don’t believe what they say!

“If you do not judge others fairly, how can you be judged fairly in your time of need? The Talmud promises a divine reward to those who judge in a merciful manner: “He who judges his fellow man favorably is himself judged favorably [by God]” (Shabbat 127b). On the other hand, those who judge harshly will be judged similarly: “In the measure with which a man measures, so is he measured” (Sotah 8b)” [A Code of Jewish Ethics]. We must be careful about passing judgment on others because, in reality, it will really be ourselves we may be judging.

Since the Bible teaches that “There is no person on earth so righteous, who will do only good and not sin” (Ecclesiastes 7:20), we should not set standards for others that neither they nor we can meet. All of us occasionally stray off path. It would be wrong to attack, label, gossip or shun such a one because of a sin committed (unless it’s a wrong of huge proportions or is a deliberate attempt at destroying another), or because they have done something we don’t like.  Usually, in this category of sins of ‘huge proportion,’  would fall rape, murder, slander, sexual assault, physical assault and those attempts at destroying the life and liveliness of others.  Any others I would assess less harshly.

In order to judge fairly, it often involves overlooking insignificant matters. On the other hand, if someone is repeatedly mistreating you, then it is probably a good idea to break ties with that individual. It is not a good idea to tell everyone you know about their behavior toward you. There may be a valid reason why this person treats you so unfairly. Just because they treat you this way does not automatically mean they will treat others the same way.  Also, if we are going to criticize flaws in others that we ourselves have, we should first acknowledge the flaws in ourselves so that we will be less harsh in our criticism.

What is best? To not judge at all. We should avoid having strong feelings and views on too many subjects. Those who are quick to condemn and judge usually believe that there is only one right way and one wrong way. They do not understand that there are many right ways and many wrong ways. How something is done is based on preference.  So before passing unfair judgment on others, or spreading that gossip about them, remember this: You are not as good as you think you are, and the world is not as bad as you think it is. Don’t judge others unfairly and don’t let other’s opinions influence you to judge unfairly no matter what position that person holds. Treat everyone with dignity, compassion, honesty, respect, and love.

Candidly Speaking

realitycheckaheadCandidly Speaking

For over 18 years, my life revolved around ‘serving God’ in a fundamentalist religious sect. I never dreamed or considered that it might be a cult. After all, who sets out to join a cult? Time and time again, my husband and I ignored the many ‘red flags of abuse’ to follow and please Christ. After all, pleasing God is the most important thing in life, right? We all want God’s hand of protection and blessing in our lives. We sincerely believed there was nothing more important than being ‘right with God.’ And of course, this is something that is hammered home in every sermon preached. But what does ‘being right with God’ mean? Think about it. If Jesus died to take away the sin of the WORLD, then we are all “right with God” through Christ — There is therefore now no condemnation. Christ is not the Savior of a few, but Savior of ALL. He said so himself. So what does “right with God” mean if Jesus already made us ‘right.’ This is a thought to be considered.

And, WHY do we need to be ‘right with God?’  We don’t have to be ‘right with God’ to go to heaven.  God does not require perfection to please him.  So, is it to gain his hand of protection and blessing?  And if this is the case, then who is it that determines our wrongness to the extent we need to ‘get right?’ Religion would have us to believe we are wrong with God because we are sinful. Does this mean our sins cause us to forfeit God’s hand of protection and blessing?  We all know unsaved people who are quite blessed.  Many of us were blessed BEFORE we believed. So this can’t be the reason.

I was taught by religion we were all born into sin and needed forgiveness of those sins.  Well of course religion would say that! But God says we, and our sins, were bought and paid for thousands of years ago and our sins are not held against us. Because of Christ, we are forgiven. So, how can we be wrong with God if our sins are no longer held against us from birth? And does God treat certain people differently based on this ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness?’ Is God partial? After all, some do teach he blesses those who are right with him and troubles those who are not.  If this was true, then God would be partial and He himself says he is not partial.  So who on this planet determines what makes us right or what makes us wrong with God? Who determines the rules and beliefs we need to adhere to in order to please him? Well, of course, religion does that, right?

But what does God say pleases him? Faith. That’s it plus nothing.

So, all we have to do to please God is believe and trust in Him? Yep.

God has already told us we are right with him through Christ but religion just wants to make double sure we are? Or, could it be that religion is out for itself? Could money, power, control, prestige, and sexual dominance be influencing religion? One certainly has to wonder this.

What many of us fail to understand is that we already have God’s hand of protection and blessing regardless of what we do. He rains trial and blessing on the just and the un-just the same way. He is not partial or biased. He is not prejudiced. He is no respecter of persons. He treats everyone as equal. He does not practice sexual discrimination. He does not practice ethnic discrimination. He does not practice religious discrimination. He only bases his decisions on one thing and one thing only – HIS UNCONDITIONAL LOVE toward us. God chooses love over everything else because God IS love. Love gives freely, shows compassion, edifies; is merciful, patient, longsuffering, kind and humble. God exercises all these things with us freely regardless of what we do. We just have to partake of the treasure of his love for ourselves to live in fullness. There is not one single sin that can separate us from the love of God – not one! The price for sin has been paid and the work for the salvation of the world is finished. Sadly, there are many who don’t believe his work is finished; or worse, that he really didn’t mean it when he says he died once, for ALL. Some even believe he did not pay the penalty for ALL sins and live their lives exercising their prejudice and animosity against those who commit  certains sins. They actually judge people who sin differently than they do, not realizing sin is sin and they are sinners too! There is none perfect, no not one.

Please notice that I said “salvation of the world” and not salvation of those who believe. Christ died for all sin and all sinners. There are no exceptions. He is the savior of all and “especially of those that believe.” He didn’t say he is only the savior of those who believe! Non-belief does not null and void this free gift to ALL. It is a gift to all and we must remember that. EVERY knee shall bow and EVERY tongue shall confess Jesus as Lord (This happens AFTER physical death.).  Religion would have us believe we need to accept the free gift – that this gift is not yours unless you accept it here and now. Here we go again putting conditions on God’s UNCONDITIONAL and all-inclusive love!  Religion teaches it cannot be accepted after death, the teaching of which, is nowhere stated in scripture – interesting.  Isn’t it amazing how man continually wants to limit God?  By teaching this, religion is effectively saying salvation is exclusive. Really? What part of “all” does religion not understand, I wonder? God’s gift is ALL-inclusive while man’s teaching about him and his gift is exclusive.

The reality is that Jesus died whether we like it or not to pay our sin debt whether we believe it or not. Jesus died for my sin before I ever heard of him. I was already a child of his before I knew him and before I believed he was the Savior. But religion will argue this point, of course.

Religion also wants me to believe in hell so strongly that it instills fear and ascribes to God a merciless character trait. Religion wants me to believe God is cruel, heartless, torturous, vengeful and full of uncontrollable wrath – all of this disquised by the term ‘Justice.’  hmmm…  I believe Hell is a masterful tool used to manipulate and control others through fear (Read my book on this topic.).

Religion also hates those who oppose its doctrines and rules. It will slander and harass you until you concede and conform to its beliefs. If you don’t concede, it will hurt you and incite its members to violence against you. Sadly, some religions will even try to murder you if you don’t come around to their way of thinking and believing. Ever heard of “convert or die?” It’s taking place right now with ISIS and, it took place during the Reformation and Inquisition.

Religion would also have us believe its particular BRAND of Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Islam, Buddhist, must be followed to enjoy God’s hand of blessing. Religion teaches us to adhere to its many rules and restrictions. Religion proliferates and teaches inequality. Religion teaches us we can never be good enough in God’s eyes because we are just that sinful. Religion is biased. Religion is prejudiced. Religion propagates hate and harm toward those who disagree or live differently. Religion is racist. Religion is a separatist. Religion corrupts scripture. Religion is a murderer. Religion is abusive. Religion dehumanizes. Religion divides. Religion slanders. Religion is operated and controlled by human beings for personal gain, not God.  Religion is not patient, compassionate, merciful, or kind unless you are a part of its MEMBERSHIP; and even then, you may not be extended these things!

Religion teaches people how to exercise CONDITIONAL love. Therefore, multitudes do not truly know God even though they spend their lives trying to serve him with all they have. Let that sink in for a moment. To only love those who love and believe as you do is conditional love. That’s not God. While we were yet sinners Christ died. While we were sinners, he loved us. Religion is responsible for so many evil attitudes, behaviors and beliefs! Remember that more people have been murdered, tortured, maimed and killed because of religion than in war. Look at what is taking place in Syria and Iraq! RELIGION is the reason these men are raping and murdering women, crucifying the men, and beheading and starving the children! God has no part in that, yet they are doing it in the name of God and their religion. These terrorists are taught that human beings who are not of their BRAND are worthless and worthy of sexual abuse, torture and murder (dehumanization)?  Really?  I would not want to associate with a God who condones such things. I would not want to spend eternity in the presence of such an EVIL entity. Would you? Think about it? If you have to commit atrocities in his name and harm others to please him, why would anyone want to associate with Him or you? We have to remind ourselves that God is no respecter of persons. God is no respecter of religion. God does not care what BRAND you are because he loves you unconditionally.  BUT, religion IS a respecter of persons, brand, and religious affiliation. RELIGION wants you to believe that God is a hating, murderous, vindictive entity that will ‘get you’ if you don’t follow religion’s rules, beliefs, dogmas, precepts and commands;  or, if you don’t convert to their BRAND.

What we fail to consider is that religion is man-made. It is not God made.  When Jesus walked the earth, were there Catholics? Were there Methodists? Were there Baptists? Were there Pentecostals? Were there Mormons?  Religion is a tool used by people to control others and to extract personal gain. If you don’t think it is, think again! Religion wants to dictate your life.  For example: There is nothing wrong with meeting together to worship. There is everything wrong in telling people WHEN and HOW they can worship. Religion has everyone successfully brainwashed into believing they can only worship God in religious buildings. Religion teaches that unless you go to church, you are not a good Christian. Your character is determined by whether or not you attend a church or other religious building? What rubbish! God says no such thing! I would suggest you read my book, Religion’s Cell: Doctrines of the Church that Lead to Bondage and Abuse, on this issue. It is man’s teaching that you must attend an actual church building to be considered a good Christian, not God’s. Church buildings allow men an avenue to gather people together in one place in order to control them for personal gain. We really don’t need church to have a relationship with God. We don’t need over-seers to have a relationship with God, either. The God I now know has a personal one-on-one relationship with me. We have each other’s full attention and affections without any distractions or interferences from others or religion.  God will show me what he wants me to see. He will teach me what he wants me to learn. God doesn’t need men to teach me anything!  He is fully capable of taking care of his own.  Think about this.   Religion has spent the majority of my life interfering with my relationship with God and preventing me from doing what God wanted me to do! Religion used abusive and deceitful tactics to deceive me into believing I needed to do what IT wanted me to do in order to be ‘right’ with God – all at the cost of my family!

Because society as a whole naturally trusts religion to be honest, helpful, and fulfilling, we allow ourselves to get sucked into some very abusive situations. This is especially true with religion because we walk right into the abuse trusting those who have leadership over us. As a result, countless multitudes are walking themselves right into abuses they never bargained for. Abusive religions instill in us that we are NOT worthy, that our faith is NOT good enough, that we DESERVE hell, that we can NEVER be pleasing to God because we can never live up to the standard set by religion and its leaders. And because our faith is not good enough, we are not good enough. Religion will gladly make up rules in order to help us be good enough while it reaps the gain.

The degradation, the labeling, the shunning, the psychological games all aimed at innocent people in order to force conformity to religion and its rules, is astounding. These psychological games are some of the most destructive instruments religion uses to gain control over the masses. Using FEAR to force conformity is one of the most treasured weapons of choice of religious institutions. If you don’t believe this, then maybe you should take a look at the history of Islam and Christianity. These religions used, and still use, fear tactics (inlcuding murder) to prevent anyone from going against them. It works very well, I would say.

The truth is that other religions use fear the same way! As a result, these fears do some major damage emotionally and spiritually to vulnerable, unsuspecting people. There is an ever increasing number of people who have become fed up with being abused and are walking not only away from religion, but God. They have had enough! They are broken, bruised, slandered, hated, despised, and ill-treated because they have decided to break the yoke of bondage to the religion and its leaders who continue to destroy them and their families. Good news, though! Though they walk away, God STILL loves them and will be compassionate and merciful to them. He will continue to BLESS them!  He will wait patiently for their return as he continues to guide their lives.  Religion wants us to believe otherwise! Shame on religion!

Marriages are being destroyed and families are being divided due to religious belief all over the world. Women and children are being physically and sexually abused due to the teachings of some of these religions. The atrocities committed by religious zealots are innumerable and the reality regarding these atrocities is at the forefront of news media all over the world right at this very moment. The world sits in shock as ISIS slaughters thousands of innocent people who refuse to convert to their brand of Islam. Sadly, man-made religions can produce some pretty mean, controlling, and merciless people. The tentacle of destruction these mean-spirited, controlling people inject into our life is shocking, destructive, and far reaching. The religious attitudes alone that degrade women and children have birthed a full generation of mysoginistic men, pedophiles, and sexual deviants. It has created cold and heartless women and men. The fruit of this mindset across the world is sex trafficking, pornography, rape, physical violence, murder and victim blaming.

Using religion to control and manipulate people has to be the most effective, yet destructive, invention of man ever created. Using religion to instill in people they are not good enough for God is tragic! Yet, this is happening everywhere. Religion tells you that if you do not do what it says,  you are not good enough or worthy enough for God’s love and, you DESERVE Hell.

Religion and its followers use God and his name to force others to conform to THEIR will, wants, and desires, not God’s. To the abused, God is abusive and God’s people are controlling and abusive. Abusive religions destroy self-esteem and self-confidence. Many of them devalue women and children making them feel worthless and setting them up for abuse (dehumanization). They instill in you that you are not worthy of God’s love, you are only worthy of going to hell. And if you are not worthy of God’s love, how can you be worthy of anyone elses love?  You are not allowed to have friends outside the sect you serve and you certainly cannot fellowship with ‘the world.’ The isolationism abusive religions teach is not only for maintaining control, it is used as a means to punish those who stray outside of their rules and precepts.

Religion is very good at telling people what to do. It has had thousands of years of practice in learning how to manipulate people and scripture. I give religion an A+ in these areas. Religion is the master of deception and deceit. The façade it wears is beautiful and magnificent.  However, that façade is a lie. The sooner we realize this, the better.

Don’t believe religion! Study to show yourself approved unto God. Follow Him, not man. When we get religion out of our lives, our true CHARACTER reveals itself. Religion has become a mask for poor character, evil, hatred, envy, strife, murder, sexual abuse and more. Take it off! Draw close to God and he will draw close to you. Let God help you fix yourself while enjoying a truly intimate and loving relationship with him. He will treat you better than religion and its followers ever will! Your failures and imperfections don’t bother him at all! He doesn’t expect you to be anything but yourself with him. How refreshing! Because of Christ you are “right with God.” Your sins are remembered no more. Stop beating yourself up and stop using Religion’s MEASURING STICK to determine how good or bad your relationship with God is. God is ready and waiting for an awesome relationship with with you if you will get the interference out from between you and him – RELIGION.

The Teen Years and Recovery – by Aaron McClaskey

From the Author:  When I embarked on the task of writing about the steps I took in order to heal from religious brainwashing, I did it with the sincere desire to give other cult survivors some “options” to take in the healing and deprogramming process. However, I am not sure that most people would be willing to go to the lengths that I went to in order to deprogram.  After all, I did what worked for me.  Remember, that in my Recovery and Healing Series, I clearly said that, “. . . what worked for me, may not work for you. Everyone’s situation is different?”

When I received the initial post and email from a mother who was hurting because of the damage the cult indoctrination did to her and her children, I felt it would be helpful for people to hear from one of my children regarding what he did in order to deprogram.  So, I enlisted the aid of my third oldest, Aaron, to give his story regarding recovery and healing from cult brainwashing as a young teenager.  I believe you will find his ONE STEP Process quite easy; and at the same time, possibly difficult. We all know that sometimes it is easier to say something, than to actually do it.  However, I just wanted to give people one more “option” in the healing and recovery process. I hope it is helpful not only for the adults, but for the teens and young adults who are Aaron’s age, to hear his story of growing up in a cult and his one step recovery “option.”

The Teen Years
By Aaron McClaskey

From the day I was born, to the age of roughly 17, most of my life was saturated in the Baptist dogma.  When I was three years of age, I was enrolled into a private Christian school. As far as I was aware, it was a fun environment. I remember going to school, meeting with my friends, and mostly having a lot of fun. At that young of an age, there was little I understood. However there was one rule that I never quite fully understood (even till this day), and that was discipline. There were times when I would do something wrong at school, and being that this school was a private one, the teachers had permission to discipline students. If I was spanked at school, then I would get spanked again once I got home. I never understood this. If the punishment for being tardy is a spanking, and I receive one from the principal, then why should I get another one when I get home? I remember strongly disliking a particular teacher. She was always mean to me and often times would pull me by my hair and yell at me for things that I had no idea what she was referring to. However, when you’re the parent and the teacher says your kid was bad and needed disciplined, then there’s not much I can say to state my case. After all, I was considered too young to have a say about it. Anyways, if the punishment was meant to “fit” the crime, then was I over-punished?

At the age of six, I – along with my brother and sister, were pulled out of the private school and out of the church that ran it. We were then homeschooled from that point on. There were several reasons, some of which aren’t related to the church or school, but for the reasons that were related to the church and school, I didn’t understand until many years later. My parents told me why we were leaving, but I simply couldn’t comprehend the size of the situation. After leaving this church and school, my family and I spent many years at a few different churches, and every church we left was for the same reason; corruption.

My purpose here isn’t to give you a full biography on myself, or to say that all churches are bad, but for you to understand the toll that the cult environment took on me. I like to relate the Baptist dogma to smoking; many people start out enjoying themselves, but years later they realize that they’ve been infected with a cancer. As a child, they begin to teach you what you should and shouldn’t do. Some of these teachings are moral, and the others are opinions which are usually disguised as “Bible Truths.” The moral teaching, although some fell under the opinion category, still sticks with me to this day, and I can honestly say that I’m grateful for learning these values at a young age, for example; respecting my parents, respecting others, working hard, and (to an extent) representing myself appropriately.

As for the opinions disguised as “Bible truths,” here’s a list of things that were said to me…in literal form, and while you’re reading the list, I want you to imagine an older preacher yelling these things from behind his expensive pulpit:

   “It is a sin for women to wear pants!” (Yet they never touched on the fact that Jesus never said that.)

   “Woman are subjective to men and should be silent in the church!” (Yet, God allowed women to fulfill his purpose without silence.)

   “Protect yourself from all appearances of evil… It is a sin to go to a movie theatre!” (This one I never understood, especially since Christian films such as Fireproof have played there, and for nearly $10 a movie ticket, I doubt I’ll do anything other than watch the movie.)

   “What’s with all this MySpace and YouTube trash?? YOU DON’T NEED A SPACE!!!” (Funny they said that. Their social media bias was spoken with true conviction, but when you fast forward to present day, almost every church and pastor has a Facebook account… WTF – which clearly means Welcome To Facebook!)

These are just some of the legalistic and opinionated views that were directed my way through the years. There’s many more, and the worst part of it all, I believed it. I didn’t believe these things because of my research in scripture, I believed them because I was told to. I wasn’t allowed to question pastors on their beliefs, as I would have the ‘‘hammer of God’’ brought down on me. I was to believe what I was told, say what I was told to say, and maybe – just maybe, I’d be right with God. I behaved and acted in accordance with the truth as I perceived it to be. I remember participating in what they called “Soul-winning” or “Visitation.” I also remember how judgmental and opinionated I was when I would interact with complete strangers, and tell them what I was told to say in order to “bring them to Jesus.” I know for a fact that a lot of people probably looked at me as I walked away and thought “That kid was an a**hole.” They would’ve been right to think that.I was rude and judgmental to people, all in the name of Jesus. I didn’t care though. As far as I was concerned, God was going to bless me for “not letting people be comfortable in their sin.”

In my younger pre-teen years, I was sold on the Baptist cause. However, as I began to enter my mid-teen years, things began to become routine, and I began to get bored. I’m one of those people who begin to think about things when I get bored, and this is when my internal conflicts began. One of the yearly activities I would partake in is summer camp. I loved summer camp, but not for the reasons that I was meant to love it for. Honestly, I liked being able to eat a lot of food, go swimming, and have fun with my friends. What did I dislike about camp? All of the preaching services. Why? Because nearly every service involved the preacher literally telling us just how problematic we were. The preachers would always tell stories about individuals who became “casualties of the faith” and how they succumbed to lust and temptation and made life altering mistakes. Most of those mistakes in correlation with opposite genders locking lips (kissing) or any kind of touching for that matter. It sounds crazy, and it is, but it’s true. I can tell you now, just because the opposite gender is in close proximity does not mean that sex will ensue, yet that’s exactly how we were all treated every time the church would have any type of gathering. Even in Sunday school, boys sat on one side and girls on the other. It was in my mid-teens that I came to the realization that my Sunday school teachers weren’t concerned, they were paranoid!

The main agenda that all the Sunday school teachers and preachers would push is “Do you want to be right with God?” If we said yes, then we would literally be told the things we needed to do, which is quite formulated and legalistic if you ask me. So what is the list of things one would need to do in order to be considered “right” with God? Good question, here you go:

   Attend church three times a week (And yes, Wednesday services are unquestionable!)

   Show up for Sunday-school, morning service and afternoon service (Because you need to make sure you’re right with God).

   Be involved in the church! The more involvement the better, which include but are not limited to:

o   Attending “revivals” that take place during week days (Whether or not you have to work is irrelevant, you should get your priorities straight!).

o   Attending visitation every Saturday (So what if you work a full time job and want to spend time with your family? The church… I mean “God” comes first!).

o    Give at least 10% of your gross income to the church… I mean God… (Doesn’t matter if you’re struggling to provide for your family, the pastor said that God needs your money!).

o   Join the church choir! That is, after you have signed the terms and conditions (And no, I’m not making this up. They actually make you sign a document).

As you have read above, you can easily see how feeling that you have to do all these things can seem overwhelming, especially to a kid in their teens. Yet most teens are so naïve that they’ll do it because they literally do not know any different. I had to ask myself at a certain point, “If this is what being Christian is all about, do I want to be Christian?” Do not misunderstand me or this article I’m writing. My goal isn’t to tear down anyone’s personal beliefs, but to challenge you to think on your own and ask the questions that lay in the back of your mind, questions that you never wanted to ask yourself out of fear, fear that you may face rejection by everyone you know, or that you may face the reality that everything you have believed in and stood for in your life has all been a lie. I challenge you to ask the hard questions because in reality, the projection of your life depends on it.

As I reached the age of 16, significant events in my life took place, due to the church. I will not elaborate on those events here, as that is another topic for another time. However, In order for me to question myself and what I’ve believed, I had to face pain. My family had to face pain, and all of it stemmed from the very place we went to find joy and happiness – the church. Earlier I listed some of the things you had to do to be considered “right with God.” Some of you may ask why I mention those things in a negative connotation. Honestly, if you believe in doing those things out of your own merit, then by all means do it. But if you’re trying to secure yourself a place of prestige in the church by publicly doing these acts, then are you acting for God or for man? I’ve noticed many people put on a façade for others by demonstrating how self-righteous they are, and it was irritating to say the least. No one likes self-righteous, arrogant people, yet that’s exactly how you are taught to be, and it gets promoted constantly in the church (although no pastor or deacon will admit that to you).

In my eyes, I felt many times that I couldn’t live up to these standards, and as time went by, I found out I was right – but I’m happier knowing that. I felt that in order for me to fulfill the requirements of the church, I had to be nearly perfect. As a result, I always fell short, and I always felt disappointed with myself. It wasn’t till my later teens that I was made aware of an interesting fact. My dad and I often went to the gym together. There were many people that we would talk with and work out with, but one man in particular said something during a conversation that has stuck with me for many years now. He made the remark;

Everyone is so caught up with trying to be perfect, yet the last person to walk the earth who really was perfect was killed for it. Do people really want to be perfect?” 

That statement was profound, and it certainly will resonate with me for the rest of my life. Jesus never asked for perfection from anyone, any time in history, and therefore no one should ever be required to attempt to live up to this kind of status. This is why I no longer partake in an organized belief system. I no longer attend a local gathering for that belief system. Why? Because religion is man-made, not God-made. A Baptist preacher once made a statement regarding Christianity, and I thought it was also profound, considering it came from Jack Schaap who is currently in jail for corruption. He said the following;

Christianity has brought alienation instead of unity. Imbalance instead of balance. Christianity is a divider of men.”

 To all the young individuals who may be struggling to feel their worth, just know that there is more to life than the church and religion. Jesus wasn’t of any religion, nor did he attend a church. His message was about truth, love, beauty, and unity. He did not alienate himself from people based on their lifestyle, ethnicity, race, gender, or sexual orientation. The bible says “For God so loved the world…” I am responsible for my life and for what I do. It is no one’s place to judge and condemn others just because they sin differently than you. What helped me recover from the Baptist mentality was simply having the will to think on my own terms. I realize that thinking on your own may be difficult, as there are many influences surrounding us every day, but I encourage you to take that leap of faith, and ask the hard questions.

There’s only one word that can appropriately sum up my life after the church: Freedom.

            Some of you may be reading this with the hopes of finding out how to go about deprogramming yourself from the religious dogma. If you are anything like me, then you will find this reading beneficial, and something you can relate to. However, if you are not like me, then unfortunately I cannot explain to you any other way that you would be able to relate to. For me, deprogramming was simply a choice. I acted in spite of what I had been told for so many years. For many people, that may come easy. For others, not so much. What works for me will not work for all. This is just my story, but I hope it’s one that you can benefit from.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

As you will see from Aaron’s story, he simply chose to think for himself. Cult brainwashing is all about thinking and believing like the ‘religious leaders and religious system’ one is serving. Independent thought and reasoning is frowned upon and punished in all abusive religions. Aaron, as young as he was when we extracted ourselves from the cult, was smart enough to realize as a young teen that there were ‘red flags’ raised throughout his life. Aaron not only refused to ignore them, he also refused to ignore the reality of the pain we went through as a family because of the religious teachings. What my husband and I went through greatly impacted him and the rest of our children.  Amazingly, this shows us that children are more perceptive than we give them credit for as parents. They understand more than we give them credit for. They have the amazing ability to see through the lies that religion tries to pull over their heads once they begin thinking on their own.

I would have to say, that as a parent, I am very proud of the way he chose to recover. For him, it was a choice to simply think differently. That’s how it was for my husband as well.  He simply chose to start thinking differently and to question everything he was taught, developing his own belief system based on independent reasoning and experience.  For me, I needed to educate myself to prove every thought and question I had because I had almost 20 years of brainwashing to undo. My personality and way of doing things was different than my husband and son’s.  I was too AFRAID to accept the truth as truth without evidence to support it because my self-worth and self-esteem had been destroyed by cult teaching.  Thankfully, Aaron graciously and wisely accepted our extraction and realized as a young teenager that it’s not about ‘religion,’ it’s about love. It’s not about ‘following rules,’ it’s about following God. It’s not about going to church, it’s about have a relationship with God.  It’s not about separating yourself from the world, it’s about being a light and example to follow.  It’s not about self-righteous, separated, holier-than-thou living, it’s about exercising humility, kindness, mercy, love, compassion, patience, honesty, and integrity toward others.  It’s not about judging others, it’s about accepting them where they are, loving them, encouraging them . . .  and letting God do the work in their lives because only HE can change them and only HE can draw them near.  As a young teen, he realized these basic truths and life principles and, as a result, he has become a young adult that has gained wisdom beyond his years. Son, your Dad and I are so proud of you!

Healing and Recovery Series – Step Three

Today I would like to talk about another step that religious abuse survivors can take in the healing and recovery process. If you have not read Step One or Two in this series, I would encourage you to do so Here and Here.

As a religious abuse survivor, one of the most helpful steps that I took in the healing process was to sign up for Facebook and get involved in one of the groups for Cult / religious abuse Survivors. At the time, I had no idea that a social media group would be so beneficial to me in my healing process. The very first group I joined was a small group of a little over 300 people called Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) Cult Survivors (and their supporters).  When I joined this group, I was still hurting and scared. I was nearing the end of my two years of isolation and my depression seemed to be letting up somewhat.  So, I decided to step out and take a chance to see what I would find.

One day I was watching 20/20 on television and saw a story about a young girl named Tina Anderson. She was a victim of child rape from the same religious sect that I had just left. In the news story, they also interviewed another victim named Jocelyn Zeichterman.  Jocelyn had a group on Facebook for abuse survivors of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Church. As soon as they gave the name of the Facebook page, I found it and joined. Within  just a few weeks after the episode on 20/20 aired, the group grew to over 2000 members.

This particular group was instrumental in the healing and deprogramming process for me and my oldest sons. We all joined this group and upon doing so, realized there were others that we personally knew that were in it as well. Together, we all found healing through fellowship and telling our stories to each other.

STEP #3: Get Involved in Cult Survivor Groups and Pages on Facebook.
Join Forums, Subscribe to Blogs.

Associating with other religious abuse survivors allows you to fellowship with those who have gone through what you have gone through. There is a common bond; an understanding. Just realizing that you are not alone in your pain and suffering is like salve to your soul. You will make new friends in these groups as well – friends that will encourage you in your journey out of religious bondage. They will support you and lift you up when you feel you can’t go another day.

I caution you though. These groups have all walks of faith in them. Many of these victims of abuse are angry and hurting too.  They are all in different stages of the deprogramming and healing process. They all express themselves differently. Be aware of this and don’t allow yourself to get offended easily. Understand that these are hurting and broken people too. These groups are not a place to bring your cult mentality into. They are also not a place to proselytize. These groups are based on acceptance and love for everyone. I encourage you to join as many as you can, and watch and listen. You don’t have to post in them, but listen and quietly take in what many say. You will know when the time is right for you to speak up. In the beginning though, just ABSORB. Here are a few groups, websites, and pages to get you started.

Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) Cult Survivors (and their supporters) – Facebook group
Do Right Hyles Anderson – Facebook group
Do Right First Baptist Church of Hammond – Facebook group
Independent Fundamental Cult Abuse Surviving – Facebook group
Survivors of Abuse in Fundamentalism – Facebook group
Care – Facebook group
Together We Heal – Facebook group
Religion’s Cell – Facebook page
Religionscell.com – website
Wickedshepherd.com – website
Jeriwho.net – website
Tentmaker.org – website

Ask around in these groups for other groups, websites and blogs to visit. There are so many, it is impossible to list them all. Many of the survivors in these groups have some fantastic blogs and have written some really awesome books that will help you to recover and heal!  Don’t limit yourself with just one group. By all means, branch out and become part of many. Like me, you will eventually just narrow it down to the ones that meet the emotional needs that you have.

Associating with others that understand what you are going through is great medicine to the wounded soul that is struggling. This step in the deprogramming and healing process is one that can be used for as little or as long as you need it in order to recover. For me, this step rescued me from the absolute and total fear of people the cult mentality instilled in me.  Go ahead and give this step a try. After all, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing so.

Healing and Recovery Series – Step Two

reading picRecovery from religious abuse can be a long and arduous process. It takes conscious effort and positive, decisive actions to undo the damage from such abuse. Many are at a loss when it comes to knowing what to do. They extract themselves and their families from an abusive religious environment and then struggle under the emotional load and strained relationships. Still, there are others that are struggling with chemical dependency as a result of some of the abuses they have endured.

In step one I talked about how important it is to first “accept the truth and take responsibility.” Denial of truth and responsibility will never lead to full recovery. I also talked about the importance of professional counseling in the recovery process. Professional counselors will always be highly recommended for all stages of healing and recovery.   Together We Heal is one such organization that I recommend often to survivors of childhood sexual assault. Together We Heal offers free counseling services to those who cannot afford to pay for a professional counselor.

I also emphasized in Step One that these are steps and thought processes that my husband and I used. While they worked for me and my family, they may not work for you. Everyone’s situation is different. Please keep this in mind as I let you inside my personal “bubble” again for this next step. Also, remember that the steps I give can be done in any order best for you and your situation. You can even combine some of them. You decide what you feel is best for you!

There are countless religious abuse survivors out there who have shared their testimonies, written books, and hosted blogs in order to help other survivors to cope, deprogram, find aid, locate professional help, recover, and heal. In order for any of us religious abuse survivors to live the remainder of our lives with any semblance of peace and happiness, it is imperative that we deprogram our minds and reprogram them. This is why my second step in the deprogramming process is to READ.

STEP #2: READ, READ, READ!!!

I cannot emphasize the importance of this step! Do NOT leave this step out. As cult survivors we MUST deprogram ourselves. If you want to deprogram faster and with less pain, READ!

WHAT I DID

I delved into books on early church history and Jewish Biblical Literacy. I wanted to find out if all the religious dogma, beliefs, and rules I was taught were true.  Did Jewish teaching and biblical history line up with the dogmas and beliefs I was taught?  Did the Jews degrade and oppress women like Christians do? Did Jewish Scholars interpret and translate Old Testament passages the same way as our English translation? What about New Testament passages? I had so many questions!

I bought and read all Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s books. I downloaded all copies of the Bible from the 1500s and 1600s and many of the Apocryphal books that are available. I read and compared these. I bought almost all of Bart D Erhman’s books and read them. I delved into Greek and Hebrew scholar’s works from the 16th – 18th centuries – Backhouse, Heeshon, Thayer, Jukes, Bushnell, etc. I visited countless blogs and websites to read and learn. I googled everything I had ever been taught. I bought and downloaded countless resources and articles. From all these sources I took notes. I filled countless notebooks so I could have all the “important” stuff in one place. What I found was that many of the doctrines Christianity taught me as “truth,” were LIES. These were not small lies either! The lies had long term and abusive consequences for women and children.  As you study, you will discover what’s been twisted too; especially if you read the works of Bushnell, Thayer, Backhouse, Telushkin, or Erhman.

Learning new truths through the experiences and expertise of others along with documented history, was key in helping me to change my perception instilled by the cult religion I had been a part of for many years. Many of the articles on my blog were birthed because of learning new truths that debunked the lies I had believed all my life. As I read, I came across information that in my heart I was not ready to accept. I warn you ahead of time that this does not mean it is not true. It meant I was not ready for it yet. Some truths needed me to grow a little bit more before I could accept them. The ones that were not true, I figured out along the way.  I Just set the stuff I was slightly ‘choking’ on aside and kept on reading. Please understand that not everything we read and learn will be used right away in the healing process. We may have to go back to it later.

In order to change my perception of myself, I had to get educated. I had to find “truth.” As I read and learned and grew in knowledge, I began to change. The twisted scriptures I was taught to believe by religious leaders that were abusive, began to stand out with glaring reality. The evidences I discovered gave me fact-based information to re-establish new beliefs and foundations. As the change began to take place, I realized that I had been poisoned by religious bias and sexual bias!  This is when I began to systematically extract all this “poison.”  As truth entered, the toxic waste began to erupt out . . . like vomit. I found myself angry. However, I did not give “public” place to this anger. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to express it in bits and pieces to vent it. However, “vomiting” out my anger in front of others could have caused hurt to other survivors who were in different phases of growth and healing.

So, I waited and continued learning and writing. Writing down my thoughts was so therapeutic and helpful! If you can keep a journal, I highly recommend doing so during this stage. After the anger subsided, I was left with a feeling of loss. I cried for weeks over the fact I had been deceived and had wasted almost 20 years of my life for nothing. What did I have to show for it? Nothing. My foundations the church helped me build upon the opnions of men and lies, crumbled completely. The next phase was uncertainty. I felt “undone.” If I was taught to believe lies, what am I to believe now? How do I rebuild new foundations? As I continued to read, however, the anger dissipated and gave away to new understanding and perception; not only of myself, but others. It also automatically began rebuilding my new foundations of faith; except this time, my faith was not “blind.” It was now based on evidence uncovered through my research. There is nothing wrong with having a foundation of beliefs built upon facts while exercising faith in the most important area of all – the saviour. Faith in the Savior is all that is required; not faith in the church, religious leaders, rules, dogmas, or theologies. Faith in the Savior that he is sufficient to keep that which I have committed to him is all that is necessary.

Perception is everything to a religious abuse survivor because perception is “fact” in our mind. Changing my perception, changed how I viewed the facts that I uncovered. It also enabled me to accept the facts and change accordingly based on them. This is why reading was vital for me. I had to change my negative perception of myself and the world around me by analyzing the evidence of truth I discovered. I was taught that I was worthless and the cause of evil in my life. I was taught to fear the government, child protective services, public schools, law enforcement, other religions, and ‘worldly’ people. I was taught to fear drinking, wearing pants, going swimming, going to the movies, and a whole host of other ridiculous things. I was taught God would kill me, my children, or some other family member if I did any of these things!  I had to change that perspective or I would never come out of isolation! Yes, I isolated myself. I lived in such fear of so many things that I could not even go to the grocery store alone. I was afraid God would kill me or send someone else to because I was no longer in the “church.” I believe “fear” is the hardest of all things to overcome.

My fears caused depression, kept me isolated, induced panic attacks, kept me from making new friends. To this day, I still find it difficult to make new friends; not because I can’t, but because I do not trust. Trust issues will probably follow me for the rest of my life. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but, it can sometimes prevent me from enjoying others’ friendships and fellowship. There is more to life than we were taught in the cult, and fear can often keep me from enjoying life like God intended. Education and action overcomes most fears. I have been taking action and doing what I have been afraid to do. Now, I am in a much better place than I have ever been in my life. Life has joy. My relationships with my family are the best they have ever been. Life is FUN.

Am I fully recovered? Not yet. I continue reading and learning. For me this is something I will do for the rest of my life. I never want to find myself in the place of bondage to a religious institution and its leaders ever again. I never want to find myself in a place of manipulation, control and oppression ever again. And to top it off, I never want to lack the appropriate knowledge to be able to see through religious lies, men’s opinions, and false teachings! I am like a sponge, I absorb the knowledge and do my best to use it wisely for the benefit of others.

Here are some recommended books for those who don’t know where to start:

  • The Origin and History of the Doctrine of Eternal Punishment – Thomas B. Thayer
  • God’s Word to Women – Katherine C. Bushnell
  • Religion’s Cell: Doctrines of the Church that Lead to Bondage and Abuse, by Cynthia McClaskey
  • The Truth About Tithing, by Cynthia McClaskey
  • Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen
  • Healing Spiritual Abuse: How to Break Free from Bad Church Experience, by Ken Blue
  • Toxic Faith, by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton
  • Combatting Cult Mind Control, by Steven Hassan
  • Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves, by Steven Hassan
  • Misquoting Jesus, by Bart D Erhman
  • Jewish Biblical Literacy, by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
  • The LIES We Believe, by Dr. Chris Thurman
  • People of the Lie, by M. Scott Peck, M.D.

Get some education under your belt with some of these books mentioned and you will find release and freedom from the lies that have held you in bondage to institutions, attitudes, behaviors and corrupted thinking. There are many more books, but these will at least get you started in deprogramming. This step could take many months. It’s okay to take your time on this step. There is a lot to digest and a lot of contemplation to be made. What you will find after reading a few of these is that your foundations built by the cult will crumble. You will feel like I did – undone, sad, angry, etc. You will feel a whole host of emotions because you will have realized many of the lies you believed. You will have also realized the destruction these lies brought to you and your family. This is all normal! In order to heal, we must let go of the old foundations built upon lies and rebuild new foundations based on truth.  Let’s get rid of the corrupted foundations. Let’s get through, and deal with, all the EMOTIONS that will ensue as these foundations are chiseled away and removed. We don’t want to try and build a new foundation over an old, corrupted one!

Let me remind you again that there are many religious abuse survivors that have written books. Don’t be afraid to read their books! Many of them are helpful and give amazing insights! These authors want to help others to recover and heal. They, too, want to help untwist the lies and corrupted domgas of religious teaching. On my blog I have a few of these authors, if you wish to check out their works. In the next step I will be giving more resources. These resources will enable you to come in contact with more religious abuse survivors that have authored books.

I hope this information is helpful to you as you embark on your road to recovery and healing from religious abuse. Please stay tuned for the next step I took in this journey to recovery and healing!