Religion Can Really Hurt

Religion Can Really Hurt

Advocates have repeatedly said that through their religion, true happiness can be ascertained. More recently, however, a gallop poll suggests religion is becoming much less popular than previous years, and that could be for the better, as there are grounds in the theory that religion really hurts people.

In 2013, a story came out about a 16-year-old girl who suffered from bulimia. She thought adults who knew more than she would be able to stop her from this “shameful behavior.” She discussed her problem with a bible study leader and was told they could help her. They prayed together and read the “Word of God” during their sessions. She would go home feeling much more confident, believing God heard her prayers.

However her compulsion did not go away. By her sophomore year in college, she attempted suicide. Obviously she thought the problem was not just bulimia and she believed she was a complete “spiritual failure.” She then turned to a counseling department at school, but she did not feel like it was helping.

It took her several years before she finally understood. The mechanisms used in her religion were inadequate, but her perception was that it was the Evangelical religion itself that was the problem, not biblical Christianity. Other people have taken the stance against religion, as it can cause mental anguish and harm to the psyche. Dr. Marlene Winell is one of them, who talks on a psychological level how religion can really hurt people.

Winell is a human development consultant in California, and also a daughter of a Pentecostal missionary. For twenty years, she has counseled people in recovery from Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS), as many psychological symptoms can stem from religion, and the departure thereof.

The British Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Psychologists published several articles on the subject. However members from the Christian Counseling Association protested. A proponent of Christianity states that it is not the religion, faith or book that can cause the abuse but those interpreting the doctrines who end up doing the abusing.

Winell says RTS is a set of symptoms that stem from harmful experiences from within a religion. Two major factors that Winell claims play roles in RTS are a “controlling” structure and the “impact upon leaving.”  This is an extremely difficult thing to do and why the majority of people are unable to do it. In America, religion is presumed to be benign, but in reality it is not.

Whether it is religion, laws, social norms, or a relationship, breaking those things usually cause guilt. This is the power of indoctrination. Through upbringing, authorities and/or the parents of a child are the ones who influence and ultimately create a person’s conscience. To turn away from a certain belief system is to go against one’s instincts, and it is not natural.

Society has survived as long as it has because in the normal range of things, people do not wish to change the way things are run in their world. People are told what is right and wrong through the capacity to learn and it is this learning that can be considered indoctrination.

For many people, a liberal arts education helps in understanding social constructs, or influencing factors that could have previously been left undefined. Students can learn to think differently and to accept possible alternatives for the world around them. To choose just one philosophy or way of thought, and to believe in it so strongly, would be traumatizing to go against, as it has been shown. This is just one way religion can really hurt a person mentally and emotionally. Although religion is not always bad because a few congregations provide acceptance, warmth, and compassion to its members and people around the world.

Opinion By Lindsey Alexander



New York Times

Secular Students Association

5 Responses to "Religion Can Really Hurt"

  1. dkbunnell   July 8, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Great article. I lost both of my children to Christianity gone awry when they were 10 and 12. Fortunately, after years apart, we are back together. But the years we lost, because I was seen as “under the influence of Satan and demons” because I didn’t go to their Fundamentalist church, can never be brought back. Writing my book helped me keep my sanity. I’m here to tell you that I have experienced personally the tremendous harm that can result from well-meaning people who call themselves Christians.

  2. John Jones   April 8, 2014 at 7:30 am

    Religious leaders who are not medical doctors or trained physiologists should not be advising people about such problems like bulimia, especially when they tell people that all they need to do is pray rather than seek medical or physiological help. Religion can be deadly!

  3. Dwain Hill   April 8, 2014 at 5:58 am

    The problem with religions that claim to be Christian and keep saying “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” get it all wrong. God has a wonderful plan for you afterlife. He never promised life would be easy. He promised a full life. John the Baptist had a fill life; he was beheaded. Stephen had a full life; he was stoned to death. Fox’s Book of Martyrs” is filled with historical accounts of people who had a full life, yet were persecuted and murdered for their faith. Do you realize there are still people out there that think the Bible says, “God helps those that help themselves. The Bible doesn’t say that… The Bible actually says that God will help those that admit they need Him. There’s so much more, if people would read the Bible and comprehend what it says.

  4. Kevin Snyder   April 8, 2014 at 2:43 am

    What is a “gallop poll”?

    • Dwain Hill   April 8, 2014 at 5:59 am

      It’s a poll of people with the last name Gallop all around the US and sometimes the world.


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