Reading over the list of abuses recognized by the State governments, I realized one did not make the list. Recognizing religious abuse is one of the most difficult to pinpoint and acknowledge. I recognize that religion is a hot topic for many abuse survivors for a good reason. I totally understand if a reader decides to skip today’s post. I am sharing my perspective and my understanding. I did not read scriptures for years and years because the distortions I was taught as a child caused me to mistrust what was written. I am thankful for a teacher in high school that encouraged me to pray and find out for myself what I believed.
My perspective of religious abuse is anyone that causes a person to doubt their faith intentionally for their own purposes to manipulate, deceive, and abuse. The intentional use of scriptures taken out of context to distort, pervert, and persecute another person. Also includes ostracizing, ridiculing and shaming a person for their religious beliefs. In high school my friends that knew me since kindergarten, suddenly felt a pressing need to “save me from my religion.” They relentlessly attacked me until I changed friends and no longer associated with them. Sadly, religious abuse is often, but not always, a precursor to physical and sexual abuse. World history has underlined repeatedly how a group of people can use Religious Beliefs to perpetuate horrendous crimes; Spanish inquisition, Nazi cruelty to the Jews, Witch hunts, Muslim jihad, Extermination proclamation of the Mormons (Yes, in the United States where freedom of religion is part of the bill of rights it was legal and encouraged to shoot any Mormon.) These are only a few of the examples of crimes and wars committed in the name of religion. I am not surprised when a person speaks bitterly about religion especially organized religions.
I looked up and plan to share several definitions.
Religious abuse is abuse administered under the guise of religion, including harassment or humiliation, which may result in psychological trauma. Religious abuse may also include misuse of religion for selfish, secular, or ideological ends such as the abuse of a clerical position.
Spiritual abuse is not limited to a certain religion or denomination. Any person, of any belief system, is capable of perpetrating spiritual abuse, just as anyone can be the victim of it. Signs of spiritual abuse between intimate partners include when an abusive partner:
- ridicules or insults the other person’s religious or spiritual beliefs
- prevents the other partner from practicing their religious or spiritual beliefs
- uses their partner’s religious or spiritual beliefs to manipulate or shame them
- forces the children to be raised in a faith that the other partner has not agreed to
- uses religious texts or beliefs to minimize or rationalize abusive behaviors (such as physical, financial, emotional or sexual abuse/marital rape)
Spiritual abuse is no less harmful or difficult to endure than any other kind of abuse, as a person’s spiritual life is deeply personal. However, it can be very difficult to identify, as many victims may not recognize they are being abused. In addition, the abusive partner may claim that any challenge to the abuse is an assault on their own religious freedom. Regardless of either partner’s religious or spiritual beliefs, abuse of any kind is never acceptable or justified.
Describes the behaviors that a narcissist will use to distort religion to center on themselves. I found the description fairly accurate from my experience.
You start to see that this type of abuse starts small and slowly builds until the victim loses all sense of who they are and how they fit with their faith. I sought and found my own answers. I encourage others to do the same. The sad thing is detecting the do-gooder from the abuser is tricky and sometimes hard to distinguish. I found that my own personal prayers usually lead me to the answers I need. I believe that Christ sending the Comforter, also called Holy Ghost, helps us choose for ourselves. I also believe that when my life is the hardest. God is only a prayer away. I know others have lost all belief in God because of their experiences. I grieve for their loss.