• Janice Selbie

What Makes Religion Traumatizing?


Since trauma is subjective, not everyone will be traumatized by certain experiences. What can make a difference is the amount of support available to victims of potentially traumatizing events; how old the victim was when the event occurred; whether powerful emotions were present at the time of the event; whether the event is defined as traumatic by the experiencer, and so on.


If religions only stated that humans are good and deserve to be treated with dignity and kindness, that would not be equated with trauma. However, Christianity states or insinuates that all humans are sinful and need a saviour; that children are wilfully disobedient and should be beaten in order to comply; that those who do not obey should be killed; that parents should be willing to murder their children in order to appease God; that rape is acceptable; that perpetual torture awaits those who do not worship Jehovah, etc. Welcome to Religious Trauma Syndrome!


Imagine being a child trying to figure out if Superman and Santa are real while also being told that there IS actually an invisible Being constantly watching and judging them – who will cast them into Hell if they aren’t good enough. Parents teach this to their children, along with teaching them that they are so despicable and wicked that the same Perfect Invisible Being had to allow His own Son to be murdered because of their sinfulness. Children not yet old enough to understand death are taught that torture and murder are necessary. The real mindfuck comes when those children are then commanded to worship the same capricious god who drowned all living things (including children, pregnant women, and animals) in order to appease Him so that He won’t send them to Hell for eternal torture! This story (Noah’s Ark) is a particular favourite motif in children’s Bibles and murals.


To whom can that terrified child turn for support in the light of these terrifying teachings? Their parents believe the teachings, as do their Sunday school teachers. If the children are home-schooled, they don’t have access to those outside their religious community without their parents being present. When children and youth are most impressionable and vulnerable, the Church rushes in to ensnare them while they lack the critical thinking skills necessary to evaluate truth claims delivered by authorities with fear and threat. No wonder religious trauma syndrome takes root.


Further, parents who have been indoctrinated to believe the Bible/Torah/Koran as truth also believe that it is their most important task to ensure the salvation of their children by making them devout Believers. If they don’t, they are often cut off from parental love and support. In the case of Muslims who reject their faith, they risk being tortured and killed by their own community should their apostasy be discovered.


The person to judge whether religion is traumatizing ought not to be the indoctrinated person who contributes to the trauma. My own dear mother has stated, “MY religion [Christianity] is not traumatizing; it is welcoming and loving.” Sadly, she fails to see the traumatic damage inflicted on her own children by remaining with an abusive husband because “God hates divorce.” All religious groups and sects can be traumatizing when blind faith is preferred over critical evaluation.


If you think you may have Religious Trauma Syndrome, reach out to me for a free 20-minute consultation through my website:


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