“You’re nothing without me”
“If you even think about leaving me…”
“You don’t deserve me”
“You’ll never find anyone as good as me”
“You brought this upon yourself”
“I know best”
“You’re a terrible person, and you need me to be better.”
“You’re not worthy of my love”
“I’m only doing this because I love you”
“Don’t listen to anyone who doesn’t understand what we have, they are just trying to poison you”
Abused men, women, and children hear these phases every day, all over the world from the sad, broken people who victimize them.
These statements undermine a person’s self-esteem and their capacity for rational thought. They lead to depression, and create a perverse dependency on the abuser, who continues to undermine the victims.
It’s a tragic cycle and it’s very difficult to break. Even if the victims escape, the deep conditioning they receive lingers. It twists their thoughts and relationships, potentially forever. The feeling of despair, emptiness, and brokenness can stay with a person long after they are separated from the abuser.
Here’s the left hook:
Christ the Redeemer
Everything I wrote above is true, but these actually aren’t phrases out of the Abuser’s Handbook. All of those quotes are actually Christian teachings.
From childhood in the church, we are taught that we are broken and wretched. That we’re nothing without Jesus’ love and forgiveness. That if we stray from the light of the church, we’ll burn in hell. That we’re not worthy of Jesus’ love or forgiveness, but he’s awesome, so he gives it anyway… as long as we submit to his loving will. Anyway, it’s because we’re shitty and we can’t stop sinning, so we need him or we’ll die an eternal death. He’s doing us a favor. And to anyone who tries to tell you otherwise, that’s just Satan trying to tempt you away, so expect it, and guard against it.
And it’s a cycle. Very few pastors, priests, bishops, etc., wake up one morning and decide to break and demoralize others. They do it because they’ve internalized it so very deeply that they don’t know anything else, and the thought of anything else scares the shit out of them. That’s why it’s a generational cycle.
It’s not just Christians, this is essentially how dogmatic religion must operate to remain “in business.” Throughout history the most quickly expanding religious sects have taken it as a sign from God that they doing good, but really all it means is that their brand of religion is the most aggressive and abusive (and have the strongest “make babies” norms). The brand that hooks people most deeply, scares them the most thoroughly, and renders them the most compliant. I think Mormonism is the fastest at the moment, but that’s not really important. It’s a fundamental feature of all similar ideologies.
Here’s a conundrum for free thinkers who want to spread light, love, and reason. By their nature, freer forms of thought and spirituality do not spread as aggressively as the abusive ones, because they do not as strongly create a cycle. Combine that with thinking people having fewer children than religious people, and you have a generational abuse expansion problem. The abusers are multiplying faster than the lovers.
What can we do about that?
I’m not sure what the answer is, but maybe there’s some way we can subvert or commandeer the machinery of fear and turn it into a force for good.
What we’re talking about here is essentially brainwashing. The basic steps of brainwashing are:
- Assault on identity. “You were born with sin, and you’re a sinner unworthy of His love”
- Guilt. “Jesus died on the Cross for you. You owe him!”
- Self-Betrayal. “Admit that you’re unworthy of his love!”
- Breaking Point. “Who am I? Maybe I am going to Hell.”
- Leniency. “But it’s ok… We can help you walk with Christ and have a place in Heaven.”
- Compulsion to Confess. “I’ve lived a life of sin…”
- Channeling of Guilt. “It’s not you, it’s Satan’s grip that led you to a life of sin.”
- Releasing of Guilt. “Maybe it is Satan who encourages my sin… maybe Jesus will set me free”
- Progress and Harmony. “Let us show you how you can be born again and enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
- Final Confession and Rebirth. “I invite Jesus into my heart!”
But how can light and goodwill harness such a fundamentally negative approach? I honestly don’t know. But I do know that just playing defense by inoculating our children against blind faith, and congratulating each other for how open our eyes are isn’t going to cut it. I do know that if we don’t learn to powerfully mobilize, this hopeful era of people opening their eyes will be washed away in a storm of ignorance, hatred, and fear.
I’m really looking for actionable insight here, what do you think?