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Quote of the Day: How Evangelical Theology Harms People

jim palmer

One of the ways toxic religion is a disservice to people is how it theologizes life in a way that prevents people from responding to situations as they truly require.

“Honor your father and mother” should never mean accepting their manipulation, abuse, or toxic interactions or behavior.

“Turning the other cheek” should never mean that you allow someone to violate your boundaries.

Being a “person of faith” should never mean that seeking professional therapy is a sign of spiritual immaturity.

“Taking up your cross” should never mean denying your needs, desires, and individuality.

Being a “Proverbs 31 woman” should never mean assuming a posture of inferiority, submission and appeasement to men, or tolerate domination or abuse.

The “fear of the Lord” should never mean living in a state of anxiety and uncertainty about being unconditionally worthy of acceptance and love.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them” should never mean giving another human being authority over your life and choices.

People are not told that the right choice in life includes:

  • standing up for yourself
  • saying “no”
  • enforcing boundaries
  • terminating toxic relationships
  • seeking professional therapy
  • caring for yourself
  • honoring your needs and desires
  • zero-tolerance for disrespect or abuse

— Jim Palmer, Chaplain with the American Humanist Association, Facebook


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar
    Karuna Gal

    I wish I could have had something like this essay to read when I was a kid. It would have given me a way to counter the toxic conditioning I was experiencing from the Catholic Church and my family.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    I agree with all of the commenters. Essentially, our religious training–whether it’s Catholic, Fundamentalist or some other kind–empowers predators and tells us to accept our lot as prey.

    Since it’s almost always children who are inculcated with such toxic notions of what it means to be “good,” to prevent it, children need to have critical thinking and reading skills before they’re brought anywhere near a religious institution, its leaders or its texts. Of course, that is exactly what those religious institutions–and their political and cutural enablers–won’t allow.

  3. Avatar

    This is something that needs to be taught everywhere. When you are indoctrinated by any religious cult, they are taking away your dignity, your voice and your identity. I am angry that was taken away from me and can remember always feeling like I was a bad child for no reason. I was a straight A student, never back-talked my parents, although, mostly from fear, never neglected my many responsibilities-I was a good kid. Toxic parents, toxic environment and toxic indoctrination of religion. no child should have to feel this way.

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    Mark Graham

    Thanks for this quote! I am a Christian, but not an Evangelical Christian, and I don’t appreciate how Evangelicals have hijacked Christianity and given true Jesus-followers a bad name. It’s absolutely shameful that they have no shame for what they’ve done.

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Bruce Gerencser