Marlene Winell, a “human development consultant” out of San Francisco, and her colleague Valerie Tarico, a psychologist out of Seattle, recently wrote an article entitled, “How Conservative Christianity Can Warp the Mind.” The first thing to note from jumpstreet about these women is that they reside in ultra-liberal parts of the U.S. Another interesting thing about this lengthy article is that the women offer no scientific proof whatsoever to back their claims. No brain scans to reveal what happens to the brain while a person is practicing religion versus when they defect from their religion. No clinical study of behavioral patterns or clinical diagnoses from any group of peer-reviewed psychiatrists on any substantial number of people who were in a religious routine versus when they left any religious routines to live a secular lifestyle.
All the women presented were bad religious experiences a few people told them about and the notion that since they are atheists themselves with fancy-sounding titles, we should just assume whatever they say is the God’s-honest truth–without the ‘God’ part in it, of course. But that’s all it took for socialist-leaning website Salon.com to pick up the article and re-publish it with the subheading, “Research reveals religious beliefs can alter brain function, making us more prone to anxiety and depression,” when no scientific evidence is given on any altering of brain functions. Here’s a quick lesson on Atheism 101–it’s okay to lie to get people on your side since they’ll be better off anyway in the long run as atheists versus other religions.
Tarico and Winell, who coins the new phrase “religious trauma syndrome” in this article with the hope it will catch on and make her famous, use the lengthy article to expound on 3 basic points, namely that conservative, evangelical Christianity exacerbates the following:
- Authoritarianism: “a rigid power hierarchy [that] demands unquestioning obedience” with God at the top followed by powerful church leaders who exercise power over congregational men who in turn oppress their wives below them. Then those men conspire with their wives to oppress and abuse their children–all of it leading to mental illness issues with everyone involved.
- Isolation or separatism: “a means of maintaining spiritual purity” by warning members against being unequally yoked with unbelievers in marriage or friendship as displayed by homeschooling and demands that people within their group only socialize with outsiders when the need arises to convert them.
- Fear ‘of sin, hell, a looming “end-times” apocalypse, or amoral heathens binds people to the group, which then provides the only safe escape from the horrifying dangers on the outside.’ Therefore, “anything that threatens the group itself—like criticism, taxation, scientific findings, or civil rights regulations—also becomes a target of fear.”
It’s amusing to note these 3 things they sound the alarm about on Christianity are the very same things they themselves use. A glimpse at 19th century history up to the recent situation in Houston with its mayor shows that atheists/liberals love authoritarianism. From Karl Marx to Lenin and Stalin to the Kim family running North Korea and every similar leader in between promoted this to the point of killing millions to retain their hierarchies. Such abuse of power occurs in secular and religious settings. The good news is that God did not form his hierarchy to promote abuse of power. From Genesis to Revelation, he even urges his followers to buck, resist, and flee abuses of power. But Tarico and Winell overlooked that part.
With regard to isolation and separatism, atheists/liberals want to be isolated and separated from all things evangelical whether it’s kicking out Christians’ freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or freedom of association from the public square, out of the workplace, off the TV, and off the Internet. Most Christians I know have no problem socializing with non-Christians even when it isn’t for proselytizing since they are aware this is what Jesus did and what Paul spoke about in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13. Many of us keep in mind, however, that this socializing can be perfect opportunities for sharing our faith by our actions or our words.
And their third point of fear is what their whole article uses to discourage people from Christianity. When you use “Christianity can warp the mind” in your title, then point out the most extreme cases of religious abuse and any mental degradation it causes, that’s nothing but fear. Fear is definitely abused in some churches, but not all. In many cases, the fulfillment of what the Bible says about the end times can be shown in today’s headlines without any doubt, so the fear is valid and real pertaining to why unbelievers need to pay attention to what the Bible says.
Tarico and Winell and those who left “religion” to become secular ultimately want to blame others and God for bad experiences. God is not to blame since he often encourages us and provides us with ways to avoid taking what abusive people dish out. The people who abuse can be blamed (Luke 17:1-2). So is the person who chooses not to get out of the abusive and/or cultish situation when the escape is made clear, especially since God expects us to learn for ourselves what the Bible says, like how to have peace of mind.
Harry A. Gaylord