Not quite there yet

I was sent this list of 10 “biblical” beliefs that poison Christians, hosted on a site that opposes ‘spiritual abuse’. It’s a weirdly twisty look into the views of a fairly liberal but clearly fervent Christian — I actually agree with them that a lot of these beliefs are actively harmful, but the reasoning they use to reach that same conclusion is odd, to me. That makes it interesting to read, because it provides a peculiar perspective on concerns that are familiar to atheists.

So each of the ten statements consists of a claim that the author disagrees with — I’ve put those in bold. Don’t charge in all shouty about how that stupid statement is wrong, because that’s a position the author shares with you. Then they explain why that’s wrong, and that’s where it gets a bit skewed, because the rationale often consists of assertions that God doesn’t work that way. Well, yeah…there is no god, and you have no more ability to say what it thinks than the most hidebound orthodox conservative Christian fanatic.

Then each statement ends with a positive claim about how things really are. I’ve put those in italics.

We are worthless.

Truth: People are never worthless, regardless of their lack of merit.

That’s one of my big irritations with Christianity: the doctrine of original sin, and the idea that we are all inherently evil, requiring some strange kind of redemption-by-proxy to be good. The author’s ‘truth’ sounds very humanist, but they arrive at it by way of the assumption that God “delights” in us. It’s a weak resolution of the problem: how do they know? Maybe God is a hateful psychopath who is looking for any excuse to torture us.

Who we are, as men and women, is defined by the roles we play.

Truth: Faithfulness to who God made you to be, not role-playing, is the mark of manhood and womanhood.

This one is pretty much a defining characteristic of the conservative Abrahamic religions: the group has control over private sexuality and gets to tell each member how they should live. Once again, I agree with the author’s conclusion, but find it weird to see it phrased as “who God made you to be” rather than just “who you are”.

Church leaders have “spiritual authority” over you.

Truth: Spiritual authority belongs to God alone. Follow his voice.

We start to drift apart here. I see no virtue to denying the authority of an institution to instead claim that you, personally, are following the direct orders of God’s voice. How about denying the existence of “spiritual authority” altogether?

Distrust all emotions.

Truth: God gave you feelings as a gift. Listen to them. Like a gauge on a dashboard, emotions are helpful indications that something needs attention.

Wait, wait, wait…Christians do this denial of the importance of emotions, too? I thought the Vulcan stereotype was an atheist ideal! Apparently, detachment and reliance on prayer and bible-reading are the religious strategy for avoiding emotions. Huh. You learn something every day.

I don’t think of emotions as a gift, though (and they’re definitely not from a god) — they’re part of your psychological well-being.

Distrust your thoughts too.

Truth: God gave you a mind as a gift to use to create, explore, understand, gather wisdom, and ward off enemies and imposters.

Now I’m feeling some sympathy for the poor stunted Christian. They’re told they can’t trust feelings, but they can’t trust logic and reason, either? So they’re just stuck with accepting what they’re told by religious authorities? Tragic.

I agree with that ‘truth’. Now the author just needs to go a little further and use their mind to reject faith and religion altogether.

Yet you are special to our group.

Truth: You are special no matter where you choose to serve. You don’t need institutions making you special.

Oh, yes, that special Christian smugness. That one just annoys.

Beauty, pleasure, and rest are an ungodly waste of time.

Truth: God created rest and beauty for humans to enjoy. All of God’s gifts are spiritual.

I have never understood the appeal of Puritanism, and I’ve always suspected it’s just an aspect of the impetus to control others in the group. Once again, though, declaring that beauty is a gift from God, rather than an aspect of human perception, grates. No, it’s not.

Suffering is a sign of a true believer.

Truth: Spiritual growth comes through vulnerably receiving and living in God’s love. Suffering is no thermometer on God’s blessing nor spiritual growth.

Also known as the Mother Teresa gambit. I hate it. This is one of the more destructive views in Christianity: it leads to both the justification of the status quo (your suffering is as god wills it, and you are just racking up the points with Jesus for your pain) and the perversions of the prosperity gospel.

I dislike the author’s answer intensely. Spiritual growth is a meaningless concept, but there is the implication that it can be measured. Not be suffering, we are assured, but by…what? They don’t say. I’d suggest that the usual Christian substitute measure is by smugness.

Let the “weaker brother” rule.

Truth: God calls us to become grown-ups in the Fruit of the Spirit and disciple those who are weak.

I confess, I have absolutely no idea what the author is talking about here. This some esoteric doctrine within certain kinds of Christianity, I take it, and I had to look it up. I still don’t get it.

Shaming and scaring children is godly discipline.

Truth: Unless we become humble like children, we will not see the kingdom of God. Teaching them that their bad choices come from being inherently bad little people will drive them away from the love of God and others. Their voices count as much (if not more so) than adults, especially over grave matters. Listen with integrity and respect and then act accordingly.

I’m glad a Christian is speaking out about this, but once again, the reasoning is bizarre. Be kind to children, not because God will reward you or because to do otherwise might scare them away from your faith, but because they are human beings who also deserve respect. It has nothing to do with an imaginary deity.

I have to add an 11th belief that poisons Christians, and if only the author recognized it, they’d realize that it’s right there at the foundation of their ten bad beliefs. And that root problem is faith. They’re still infected badly with it.


  1. says

    Maybe God is a hateful psychopath who is looking for any excuse to torture us.

    I think it’s that god likes black holes and made a bunch of them to watch them do funny black hole stuff. Everything else is just “overspray”

  2. Zmidponk says

    Let the “weaker brother” rule.

    Truth: God calls us to become grown-ups in the Fruit of the Spirit and disciple those who are weak.

    I confess, I have absolutely no idea what the author is talking about here. This some esoteric doctrine within certain kinds of Christianity, I take it, and I had to look it up. I still don’t get it.

    Back in my religious days, long, long ago, I seem to remember asking the minister of my church about this because I just didn’t get it. The way he explained it was that those who are strong in the faith may be able to do things which are technically against their religious teachings (like not observing the Sabbath or not going to church regularly) without being tempted away from the Lord. However, those actions may make those weaker in their faith copy them, and they may then be tempted away from the Lord, so, even if you don’t need to do these things to retain your faith, you should do them anyway so others don’t lose theirs.

    In other words, it’s another way of saying ‘just follow these rules mindlessly, or bad things happen’.

  3. says

    I confess, I have absolutely no idea what the author is talking about here. This some esoteric doctrine within certain kinds of Christianity, I take it, and I had to look it up. I still don’t get it.

    It’s a standard, run of the mill belief within the various flavours of Christianity. Back in my Jesus Freak days, this was better known as “don’t do anything to cause another to stumble.” Stumble/Stumbling are probably more well known to Christians than Weaker Brother.

  4. Menyambal - torched by an angel says

    There’s a bible verse saying that if your behavior drives another from God, you will be punished. Paul, I think. I’ve used it against creationists, but I can’t recall the number right now

  5. unclefrogy says

    of all the things that bug me about religion and religious thinking it is this nebulous idea of spirit and spirituality that I find the most grating. While I find the idea of growing in depth of understanding and compassion through experience and study human life and interpersonal interaction to be a real thing to be appreciated and even sought out I have no idea what would make it of the spirit.
    I can accept the use of the tern “team spirit” even though there is probably some other way to express it better. I do not think that is what is mean by spiritual life or spiritual learning.
    uncle frogy

  6. thebookofdave says

    @Menyambal #4

    Jesus also expected his converts to believe in him with childish naïvete, and warned detractors that they are better off being fitted with cement shoes and tucked in to sleep with the fishes (Matthew 18:3-7).

  7. thebookofdave says

    Spiritual authority belongs to God alone. Follow his voice.

    This turned out to be excellent advice to me when I was a Christian turning to prayer as a method of finding out what god expected of me, and one of the initial steps down that long slippery slope to godless heathenism. Eventually, it becomes difficult to maintain the illusion that your creator takes your spiritual development seriously, when all you hear in the way of feedback or direction is crickets. That’s why you’ll never hear this advice coming from an actual church leader.

  8. peterh says

    “Fear, like pain, may just be God’s way of hurting us.” – The Firesign Theatre

  9. woozy says

    In the context of this site “spiritual abuse” seems to mean childhood sexual abuse at the hands of church authorities. The site seems be for survivors who want to keep their faith (as everyone is entitled to do if they want), address and confront their abusers (as survivors should), but who get toxic replies that such confrontation will somehow weaken their faith and hurt the church which is ultimately good.

    I think in light of this it makes the twisted “not there yet” logic of countering religious “poisons” while insisting on a christian framework seems more reasonable and sympathetic. Basically they are saying, confronting abuse doesn’t make you a bad christian (if being being a good christian is important to you) and when your confront abuse you needn’t give up your faith.

    I’m okay with that.

  10. rietpluim says

    As a side note, I do think of many things as a gift – health, family, talents, intelligence, emotions. In that respect I am a lot like a Christian I guess. Except that I do not believe in a Giver. It’s more a general attitude towards life.

  11. JoeBuddha says

    Crickets? You lucky bastard! I got nothing but Mosquitos, and, let me tell you, I was glad to have ’em?

  12. khms says

    @13 thebookofdave:


    And you try and tell the young people of today that, and they won’t believe ya.

    That’s because these days, what you get is drones. Mosquitos and crickets are so 20th century!