Recently I read an article talking about abuse. But not the kind of abuse most people immediately think of: physical domestic violence.
No, this article spoke about something a little more sinister. Spiritual abuse.
I agree, physical violence is horrible. But often times, emotional, verbal, mental abuse is worse. Bruises on your body heal, but bruises in your mind never truly leave.
Spiritual abuse comes in several forms. From guilt to patriarchy, people of faith often find themselves the unknowing victims of abuse. Religion survives by showing people their unworthiness and offering them a solution. In western culture, this usually comes in the form of Christ, a redeeming figure who can remove *sins* and make his followers clean.
Religion defines what is considered a sin. And then lays out instructions on how to rid yourself of such sins. Religion also offers ways to maintain worthiness, including monetary donations.
My experience is in Mormonism, so that is what I will use as my basis for examples.
From an early age, children born into Mormonism are taught that they are imperfect beings. Their goal is to be as perfect in this life as possible. They are also told they will fail, because no one is perfect except Christ. But that if they cast their burdens on him, Christ will take away their imperfections and make them whole. In essence, they cannot survive eternally without Christ.
Christ has demands, made known by his prophets, or leaders, in the Mormon church. These demands, if met, ensure salvation. If not met, offer no salvation. Children are baptized members at the age of eight, typically before puberty, typically while still in elementary school, typically without any sort of advanced reasoning or understanding of what they are doing. They are just following what they have been taught to do, or indoctrinated into doing.
From there, they are taught that to remain *clean* as they were at baptism, t hey must follow Christ's teachings. And are brainwashed and abused into a never ending cycle of guild and repentance. Never measuring up to the standard of perfection laid out before them. Always feeling inadequate, always feeling like they need Christ's atonement. Never feeling they are good enough just as they are.
Women bear a lot of the spiritual burden in the Mormon church. They are taught that leadership and presiding authority is for the men. They are taught that their bodies are inherently seductive and should be covered. They are taught that their greatest achievement will be reproducing and raising children. They are forced to detail their spiritual shortfalls to men. They are forced to defer to their husbands, starting day one in the temple. They are taught to be ashamed of their feminine figures, and to subsequently shame other women who have the audacity to expose their knees and shoulders.
This is abusive. I do not have statistics on hand, but I understand Utah has one of the highest rates of suicide in the nation. It has some of the highest rates of prescription narcotic abuse, along with staggering numbers of obese and morbidly obese individuals. These members are self medicating with food, miss-using prescriptions, coping with the guilt and unworthiness through suicide.
Another factor in maintaining worthiness in the Mormon church is temple attendance. In order to go to the temple, you have to pay tithing, which is 10% of your income. So you not only have to beat yourself up with guilt, but you have to pay money as well. And thus the Mormon church has successfully trapped its members into a cycle of guilt, repentance and payments, which can now be conveniently paid online.
Be wary of anyone who tells you that you have a problem and then offers you the solution. Its how door to door security system salesmen make the bulk of their money. And it's how the Mormon church is so sickeningly wealthy. They have absolutely no conscience, for they demand money from those who are on welfare. They demand money from those who struggle to make it each month. They say god will bless them. And then take their money. They tell them they are not worthy, and never will be, so they need Christ, they need their prophetic words saying no tattoos, no coffee, and pay 10% of your meager incomes.
It's abusive. It's taking advantage of people. It's wrong