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This is one of a series of articles in Lesson 1 in
this site - free your
to guide you in calm and conflictual times, and
significant psychological wounds.
This article explores how spiritual and religious beliefs and church
organizations can promote or reduce the lethal [wounds + unawareness]
and help or hinder your personal healing. This is written to people of any religious
or spiritual faith, including
atheists and agnostics.
article doesn't promote a particular spiritual belief or
religion. It aims to raise your awareness of the impact of
your religious and spiritual beliefs - specially if you're nurturing minor kids.
The article offers...
Perspective on (a) spirituality and religion, and
beliefs, and faith
Criteria for judging whether someone's beliefs are toxic or nourishing
Options if you feel your
and/or someone else's beliefs and worship are too toxic.
This article assumes you're familiar with...
the intro to
this non-profit Web site and the premises
you believe that spirituality (as you define it) is an essential
ingredient in personal and family wholistic health? If not, this article
will probably have little value for you.
All kids and adults in every era and civilization have
pondered primal unknowns: the origin and nature of life, the Earth and
the universe; mysterious ecological events; good and evil; "fate,"
Paradise, Hell, death, and a possible afterlife.
Personal serenity, family health, and social order depend on finding
viable answers to these questions. Lacking understandable scientific information, most (all?) people and societies have formed and
taught spiritual and religious beliefs ("faith") to answer these
primal questions well
perceptions of the world, our decisions, and our actions are influenced by
our rich mix of beliefs - usually without conscious awareness. Some beliefs
promote our wholistic health and growth, and social
and ecological harmony and balance. Other beliefs hinder these things. Is
that your experience?
The beliefs about spirituality and
religion that kids acquire can significantly affect their life-long wholistic health,
relationships, and longevity. "Attitudes" range from...
atheism (there is no God,
or angels, saints, heaven, Hell, Satan, demons, or afterlife"); to...
agnosticism(I don't know
or care if these things exist or affect me); to...
religious and/or spiritualfaith [I accept without
question that (some form of) these exist and significantly affect me and
other people]; to...
spiritual/religious beliefs and my religion's scriptures are right(the
absolute "truth"), and anyone who disagrees is
wrong, bad, and potentially dangerous.
Premises - healthyspiritualandreligious
beliefs, practices, and church communities
prevent and reduce
psychological wounds. Toxic
religious beliefs, practices, and communities unintentionally
(a) promote the harmful ancestral [wounds + unawareness]
low-nurturance families, and resultant ignorances, psychological wounds,
and protective denials; and (b) inhibit true recovery
If you're skeptical about (or fearful
of) normal personality subselves, or are in protective denial of significant psychological wounds
and their effects, this article will probably be of
little value. Option - read this letter to
you, and try this safe, interesting exercise. Then
About Attitudes, Beliefs, and Faith
attitude is a learned
right-wrong judgment about someone or something ["Believers are better than
(morally superior to) non-believers."].
A belief is an intellectual concept that a person (like you) accepts as
usually or always true - perhaps depending on some situational
factors ("I believe that ___ is true when ..."). For example, do you
that the sun will rise tomorrow? That the Earth spins? That atoms exist? That you'll be alive
tomorrow? That lights will
come on if you flip the switch?
Across our years we (you)
automatically collect a stunningly complex array of attitudes and beliefs about
life on Earth from...
sensory experiences and perceptions (water is always
demonstrable natural events and processes
(plants die without soil, water, and sunlight),
what trusted people tell us (eating some
mushrooms will make you really sick), and...
what we compute from credible and sacred sources (e.g.
believe the Bible is God's revealed word, and in Darwinian evolution").
Most people (like you) also form
some beliefs on faith - i.e. without direct experience or
tangible "proof" - because we get some meaningful benefit. That
(a) comforts us ("There is life after death!"), and/or (b)
provides security and social acceptance by like-minded people.
people report "spiritual" experiences ("God / Mary / my
Invisible Guardian / an angel spoke to me!" / "It was a real miracle - she regained her full eyesight without medical treatment!")
Others don't have such experiences, or discount them as unexplainable, "a
"my imagination." Either way, most of us have beliefs based on faith
- do you agree?
Whether based on experience, intuition, or faith,
our beliefs can significantly affect
our hormones, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Example: seeing
a large spider crawling on your bare foot automatically causes
a surge of adrenaline and fear, and probably a reflex to brush the
spider off or kill it. This happens because we believe "large spiders
bite and may cause me hideous agony and even death!" (yes?)
If you accept these premises and value your health and life-quality, then (a) identify your main spiritual and/or religious beliefs,
and (b) assess how they're affecting your wholistic health. Have you ever
thought about that? Do you know anyone who has?
spiritual beliefis a personal conviction that there is some unseen
Power/s or Force/s in the universe that affects life on Earth, including
you and other people. Spiritual beliefs span...
the origins, traits, intentions, and
behaviors of spiritual beings (e.g. good or evil,
knowable or not, demanding or accepting,...), and...
if and how spiritual beings may affect you and others.
Some people include
learned beliefs about reincarnations, sequential lives, and spiritual advancement or
regression here. Pause and note what you believe - if anything -
about each of these items. Which do you feel the strongest about?
Do you agree that you have
"spiritual beliefs"? Where did you get them?
religionis (a) a man-made system of ideas, rules, traditions, rituals,
goals, organizational roles, sacred icons and artifacts, physical and
financial assets, and (b) the people who accept and use this system to
satisfy some important personal and social needs.
causes actions and rituals like genuflecting, making the cross, stroking prayer wheels, chanting, saying the rosary, praying to Mecca, baptisms, weddings, last
rites, excommunication, crusades, inquisitions, singing hymns, witnessing,
reciting credos, and saying confession;
usually span learned convictions about...
a Holy book or scripture,
one or more prophets or messiahs
proclaiming God's commandments ("the Word") and perhaps doing
saints and martyrs;
worship-related groups and denominations,
preaching evangelizing ("spreading the
dis/obeying God's commandments as defined in a scripture,
atonement for sins, heresy and blasphemy, and perhaps
personal salvation ("I believe if I go to church and read the scriptures
regularly, I'll be saved from doom and go to Heaven.")
religious credo is a
set of beliefs promoted by original and modern church officials
you have beliefs about religious topics like these, where did you get them?
Differences between religious and spiritual beliefs are illustrated by the
age-old conflict between ordained church officials and
"Gnostics." Christian clergyhave traditionally insisted that obeying the
patriarchal, disciple-based hierarchy of ordained church officials is the only way
lay people can know God's will and reach "salvation." Gnostic "heretics"
insist that they learn God's will directly, and need no church dogma
or clergy to guide and interpret for them. I suspect most organized religions have a version of
this primal values conflict.
that spiritual and religious beliefs can improve or diminish personal
wholistic health and family nurturance-levels raises the question
"How do I
distinguish nourishing beliefs from toxic ones - what criteria do I
use?" Do you have an answer for that?
YouTube clip provides perspective on what you're about to read:
Criteria: Toxic or Nourishing?
See how you feel about this premise -
beliefs that promote...
(vs. numbing, reality distortion, or denial); and...
self-love, self-confidence, and self-nurturance; and...
healthy and "nourishing." Any
beliefs that hinder one or more of these is "toxic."
short, beliefs that promote significant unawareness and personal or social
distress are toxic. Any beliefs that foster awareness, unselfish love, serenity, social and
ecological harmony, comfort, and healing are nourishing.
Do you agree?
narrower criteria: spiritual and/or religious beliefs
which raise or maintain a family's (or a society's)
nurturance level can be judged as
nourishing, and any that decrease the level are toxic.
Option - use these opinions
to form your own criteria, rather than accept them as absolutes. We each must form and act
on our own criteria, or ignore weighing the impacts of
spiritual and religious beliefs. The latter choice promotes the [wounds +
that is crippling many families and our society.
Example of a Toxic Prayer
Decide whether teaching
young kids this this traditional Western bedtime prayer is healthy or toxic:
"Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord
my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul
Do you think an average young child
who or what "the Lord" or what "my soul" is, and (b) is
psychologically affected by learning to say "If I should die before I wake"?
Would an average child wonder "What if the Lord doesn't 'take' my
soul, whatever that is?"
Could a parent's endorsement of
this prayer promote an unconscious belief and fear of bedtime and
sleeping - specially if the child has some perception of death, heaven, and
hell? If so, I propose that teaching a child to say prayers like this may
make parents feel good, but may be psychologically harmful. What do you think?
far, we've focused on possible effects of personal and family spiritual and
religious beliefs. A related focus is on...
Church and Denominational Impacts
Were you raised in - and/or does your family now participate in - a
religious community (church / temple / synagogue / mosque)?
If so, would you say your church has a net nurturing
or toxic effect on you and others? If the church belongs to a national or
global organization (denomination, like Unitarian, Episcopalian, Shinto, Baptist, Muslim,
Buddhist, Baha'i, Judaism, etc.), is the net social impact of that organization toxic
or nurturing in your opinion?
If your church
and/or denomination is significantly toxic, then you're potentially
reducing your and your family's - and your descendents' - wholistic health,
serenity, and longevity.
participating in a nurturing church community and denomination may also
diminish your personal and family health. If you're
ruling subselves and key supporters are agnostic or atheistic, you'll
probably yawn or disagree.
Premise - a church and/or religious denomination's nurturance-level
can be assessed (low to high) by judging whether its faith + programs +
rituals + values + clergy + missionary programs pro-mote or
inhibit the silent [wounds + unawareness]
guess is that most busy, over-stimulated lay people (like you?) aren't vitally concerned with
their denomination's potential social toxicity, unless there's a major
scandal or public outcry. What may be more relevant to
you is the potential toxicity of your church and religious
community. If you and any dependent kids' other caregivers don't
participate in either of these, skip to the
Is Your Religious Community
Let's apply the premises above about
religious denominations to your church, mosque, temple, or coven.
Here "church" means...
the professional clergy and volunteer staff
that create and administer programs like worship; religious education;
marriage preparation, sanctification, and enrichment; spiritual,
personal, and family counseling and support; confessions; sacraments;
missionary work; and community out-reach programs; and ...
the denominational goals, priorities,
policies, and officials that shape the actions of these people;
the persons, families, and local non-members
who have been significantly affected by these programs and people.
"Religious community" means the like-minded group of people you
socialize and/or worship with, whether you all attend a physical church,
Choose an undistracted time and place, and thoughtfully
rate each of these items with "I Agree, IDisagree,
or?(I'm not sure / It depends on _____, / I don't care)."
Edit these items as needed, and hilight or star any that have special meaning.
descendents and others' kids from inheriting them (A D
make thoughtful decisions about
spiritual realities, beliefs,
and growth, rather than rigidly following someone else's values and
opinions out of duty, anxiety, guilt, and shame - including
long-dead prophets, disciples, hero/ines, martyrs and saints, and
traditional scriptural "truths." (A D ?)
see people of other
races, cultures, beliefs, and ethnicities as different and equally
worthy, not good
or bad or better or worse, (A D ?)
promote universal respect and tolerance
for healthy differences, vs. righteous bigotry and persecution.
(A D ?)
become aware of
and reduce the [wounds + unawareness]
cycle and its family and
(A D ?)
adopt healthy spiritual beliefs and practices in themselves
families (A D ?)
couples to make informed, wise
divorce, and child-conception choices. (A D ?)
And my church
and/or religious community has - or is
developing - an
effective program to help educate and motivate...
learn, practice, and model
(A D ?); and...
teach these basics to their descendents
families) (A D ?).
And my church
and/or religious community has - or is
developing - an
effective pro-gram to help educate and motivate...
to learn about each of these vital topics and why they're important
personally, parentally, and socially (A D
?). And educate and motivate ...
our officials to upgrade our denomination's policies and programs to
promote each of these priorities (A D ?). And...
our clerical leader/s and governing board are...
clearly aware of each of these factors, and...
are unified in
wanting to implement each of them in our church-community's work.
Premise: each factor above that you
agree with is a nurturing influence
of your church and/or religious community. Each factor you disagree
with is socially toxic (harmful), like not
educating and warning
people about AIDS, hurricanes, Ebola, killer bees, Lyme's
disease, or West Nile virus is.
Pause and reflect - what are you
aware of now? have you ever seen a list of religious nurturance factors like
this before? Would you tailor it in some way? What would others in your
religious community say about this list and what it means? What would your
church's spiritual and religious leaders say?
Rate Your Church
Combine your answers to these and
your own factors to estimate the nurturance level (very low > low >
average > high > very high) of your church or religious community. If you feel
the level is high enough, show this article to the people who create and
implement your church's policies and programs, and congratulate
them! If you feel the level is too low now, consider these...
Implications and Options
Participating in low-nurturance
organizations usually suggests a person (like you?) is unaware of
wounds. This is because - against "common
sense" - typical
Grown Wounded Children's (GWC's) protective
false selves tend to unconsciously
chooseenvironments and wounded
leaders that replicate their low-nurturance childhoods. To see if
that could apply to you, study
Lesson 1 and its
The absence of nurturing factors like those above
(lack of accurate knowledge) in church and religious-community leaders.
For practical ways to reduce these,
see this. How do your subselves
feel about the
proposal that "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."?
symptom of a disabled true Self is
simplistic black-white (bipolar) thinking: reducing complex issues to good or bad,
right or wrong, healthy or toxic, and benign or evil. Religious organizations
and communities have many traits and different social impacts ranging
nurturing to toxic. The practical question is one of degree:
my/our religious organization or community nurturing enough?"
The Basic Question
Whether you're a spiritual person or not, and/or participate in some
religious group or movement or not, you probably have a set of
semi-conscious (right / wrong, good / bad) attitudes and beliefs about spiritual and religious questions.
may enhance or degrade your wholistic health, and/or nourish or stress your
family members and other living things. "Not caring" about this suggests
you're probably ruled by a narrow-visioned, protective false self.
If you're interested in identifying the impacts
of your spiritual and religious values and beliefs on yourself
and others, use criteria like those above to help you decide.
Your overarching question is - "Do I have significant
false-self wounds, and if so, how are they
affecting my health,
relationships, and how well I fill my
This section proposes
action options if you feel...
someone's spiritual beliefs are "too
unhealthy," and/or that...
the nurturance-level of your church or religious
community is "too low."
If you don't feel either of these, skip to
Options if Your Beliefs are
Every belief is held by one or more
personality subselves, including your resident Self. Spiritual and other core beliefs are
usually learned in early childhood, and probably have never been objectively
These primal convictions are often held by one or more
inner children who may be
living in the past. If so, part of permanently shifting their spiritual
and/or religious beliefs requires inviting them to
live safely in the present.
Your subselves need to have
an unshakable personal faith in a benign, responsive Higher Power before
they will consider wanting to (vs. having to)change their core spiritual and religious beliefs. Such faith usually
follows hitting some kind of true personal
bottom, and can
demanded, willed, required for social acceptance, or persuaded by
"logic" or threats.
You can patiently change your subselves'
unhealthy or harmful beliefs, roles, and priorities over time by...
accepting the reality of your
identifying what belief you want to update
from toxic to nourishing;
identifying the subself (or subselves) holding this belief,
respectfully building their trust
in your true Self and other Manager subselves and in a benign (vs.
caring, responsive Higher Power,
Guardian subselves that will
oppose healthy changes in that subself's beliefs, and...
patiently working to reduce their fears,
and grow their trusts and sense of inner-family teamwork and
cooperation for your long-term benefit.
This may take months or years, and often depends
on your age, history and childhood training, the
nurturance-level of your current family, whether you've hit true (vs.
yet, and who opposes your adopting new beliefs, if anyone - e.g. an
atheistic or rigid (wounded, unaware) partner, parent, sibling, and/or grandparent.
spiritual (vs. religious) faith is not responsive to "common sense,"
"reason," and/or "logical thinking." Global testimony from millions of
successfully-recovering addicts consistently affirms that unshakable faith
in a benign responsive, caring Higher Power is essential for lasting control (vs. cure) of toxic
compulsions. So is living from the
Serenity Prayer. This faith is also
essential for true (vs. pseudo)
Permanently reducing or changing an
unhealthy or harmful belief [including "My health isn't important," or
"I can take it for granted"
(self-neglect) usually requires
working patiently with one or more inner children and each child's Guardians,
one at a time. This is why mental resolutions like New Years' vows often don't produce
Changing toxic beliefs is part of a
higher-priority process: reducing false-self dominance and wounds, and
empowering your true Self to
lead your talented
inner family of subselves.
Relax, stretch, breathe, and reflect: do these wound-reducing and
belief-changing steps make sense to you? Trying the steps should add
experiential validity to them. If not, suspect that one or more frightened,
distrustful subselves are
your wish to change. Self-improvement
illustrates how to do these steps.
just surveyed some practical options you can take if you feel some of your
spiritual or religious beliefs are too unhealthy. Now let's shift our focus
to another important possibility:
What if Another Person's Beliefs are "Too Toxic"?
on spiritual or religious beliefs that harm themselves and/or others -
specially vulnerable minor kids - it probably means:
S/He is probably unaware of, or is
denying, that s/he is
ruled by a false-self to some extent.
You may be a
Grown Wounded Child (GWC) in denial also. This is specially likely if the
other person is your parent, or grandparent, or current or former mate.
If the person with toxic beliefs is
influencing one or more dependent kids, they're probably in a
low-nurturance family and the children are
unaware of growing their own psychological wounds.
You may caringly
confront this person about (a) their psychological wounds and/or their (b) toxic
religious or spiritual beliefs and behaviors now, later, or never. If
they're influencing minor kids now, or may in the future, I propose that you
have a moral responsibility to
yourself and to the kids and their descendents to confront their wounded
to inform them factually of psychological wounds and
not blame, scorn,
lecture, threaten, or label them as bad, damaged, stupid, or inferior! It also means
(a) keep your respective
integrities, rights, and
boundaries clear, and (b) use the
Serenity Prayer to avoid taking
responsibility for breaking their protective denials and healing their wounds
If the person is a
lay church official or professional clergyperson, ask them to study
this article on the wounds +
unawareness] cycle. Then read and discuss this article, and these several
pages on avoiding or reducing the toxic
the [wounds + unawareness] cycle in their family and community. Then ask their reactions
Again, avoid feeling you have to rescue or save
this person or "show them the light." Put your
first, and make your best respectful effort to alert her or him to
subselves, wounds, and toxic beliefs. Then turn the outcome over to your
Higher Power and attend your own recovery and family. For more perspective, see this
article on resolving significant family conflicts over
Notice with interest what your subselves are "saying" now...
Finally, let's look at...
Options if Your Church and/or Religious Community is "Too Toxic"
Recall - a "toxic" church or group promotes beliefs and behaviors that are
psychologically, spiritually, or physically dangerous or damaging to their
members and/or society. "Dangerous or damaging" means "promoting excessive shame, guilts, anxieties,
illness or injury, and
over-dependence on others' judgments and beliefs - including
scriptures and church rules - rather than healthy self-reliance.
"Why am I participating in this community or church if I believe their
policies and practices are too toxic? What would I lose - and gain - if I
reduce or end my affiliation with this group?" Note that
typical people recovering from psychological wounds eventually admit and choose to
reduce or end toxic relationships. This is specially likely if minor
kids are being harmed in/directly by the relationship.
So if you're a
person whose family attends
a significantly-toxic community or church, the question becomes "What would
each of us lose and gain - short and long term - by reducing or ending our affiliation with this
Another option is whether or not to confront key members of the church or
community about what you're reading in this article and non-profit Web site.
If some or many of the people in the organization are significantly wounded
and seem to be ruled by a false self, what does your conscience suggest
about your moral obligation to try to empathically and respectfully alert
Whatever you decide,
note that typical wounded
people will deny - often fiercely - that they're dominated by a false self.
Premise - the core issue is preserving
integrity, not "saving" anyone from the toxic effects of the [wounds +
many options about
how to inform some or
all community members, and what to inform them of. For an overview of
your options, read thisThe
same options apply if you want to alert religious denomination
officials to the ideas in this article and Web site.
Premises - all people evolve conscious or unconscious spiritual
beliefs. Your personal wholistic health and your family's nurturance
level are significantly affected by the health or toxicity of your religious
and/or spiritual beliefs and practices. This
article opens with perspective on spirituality, religion, beliefs, and
It proposes that some religious and spiritual beliefs and organizations
promote personal, family, and social health and harmony, and others diminish
them. The article offers criteria with which to judge these, and invites you
to evaluate your and your family's key beliefs, and those of your church or religious community and
any related denomination.
The article closes with suggestions if your beliefs or church seem "too
toxic," and/or someone else's seem "too unhealthy."