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  • Writer's pictureJanice Selbie


Updated: Nov 21, 2022

Patrick Carnes, PhD, developed the term “trauma bonding” in 1997. A specialist in addiction therapy and the founder of the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP), Carnes defined trauma bonding as

"dysfunctional attachments that occur in the presence of danger, shame, or exploitation."

Trauma bonding is most likely to happen in situations with a cycle of abuse followed by positive reinforcement, where the abuser professes to love their victim. The positive reinforcement serves to confuse the victim into thinking the abuser isn’t really that bad.

In the Bible, Divine trauma bonding might look like:

  • Declaring love for Adam & Eve and then angrily evicting them from their home (shame and danger)

  • Murdering all living beings (except a chosen few) and then declaring a loving commitment to them. (danger)

In a Christian home, Divine trauma bonding might look like:

  • Telling a child that God loves them very much, but He will torture them for eternity if they disobey Him (danger)

  • Shaming a child for masturbating while insisting that, if they will just confess their sin, God will forgive them/take them back (shame)

In a church service, Divine trauma bonding might look like:

  • Admonishing congregants for being filthy sinners, then encouraging them to come down to the altar and beg God’s loving and merciful forgiveness so that He will not torture them eternally (shame and danger)


trauma bonding is a coping or survival mechanism born out of the human need for attachment.

Like the kidnapping victim dependent on their kidnapper for survival, religiously programmed children and adults come to feel dependent on God for their own survival and safety. Repeatedly assured of God’s love, mercy, and kindness, indoctrinated Believers ignore the biblical acts and real-life facts that instead scream of hatred, cruelty, and capriciousness.

The cycle of God’s biblical abusive behaviors. followed by psalms and prayers devoted to his benevolence, creates an emotional roller coaster of abuse and trust from which it is difficult to disembark.

While there is no actual god threatening us or professing divine love, our religious community (including sermons, books, & fellow Believers/trauma bonded victims) reinforces our feelings of fear and love.

Eventually, we don’t need our Abuser – or even His community - to threaten us, for we have internalized the threats of Hell and professions of Divine love (both dependent on our obedience).

Victims of Divine/religious trauma bonding exhibit behaviors akin to those bonded to their domestic abusers, including:

  • Believing the abuse was their fault

  • Making excuses for their abuser

  • Feeling uncomfortable about the thought of leaving their abuser due to misplaced loyalty and fear of betraying their abuser

The impacts of Divine trauma bonding are also similar to those who suffered trauma bonding through domestic abuse: They may not be able to break free; and if they do, they will likely suffer from significant low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety for a long time.

If you are reading this, it’s likely you’ve already broken free of your Divine trauma bonds by Divorcing Religion. WELL DONE, YOU! However, it's not enough to merely escape.

To help heal the wounds suffered during your years of religious indoctrination and belief, and to help you recognize the signs of potential abusers in the future, seek out the help of a qualified secular counsellor, consultant, or coach.

  • To learn more about my own services as a Registered Professional Counsellor and religious recovery consultant, and to schedule a free 20-minute consultation or book a full session, visit

  • To learn more about religious trauma, be sure to attend the online Conference on Religious Trauma at the end of this month:

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