Updated: May 15, 2019
I was recently asked a question that had to do with silencing the religious voices in your head that judge, shame, condemn, manipulate, induce fear, and seek to control you. On your new-found path to freedom, here are 3 things you may hear from religious leaders to scare and control you:
“Self-realization is idolatry; you’re supposed to be worshiping God and not yourself.”
The term "self-actualization" is associated with American psychologist Abraham Maslow's concept of the "heiarchy of needs." Maslow stated that at the most elemental drive of human motivation is the desire to "self-actualize" or movement towards the realization of one's fullest potential. Contrary to what some religious leaders say to try and control people, self-realization is why you are here, and every step in your personal evolution is fulfilling our fundamental purpose. Jesus came to expose the lie of separation. He said, "I am the truth," which is th truth that God and humankind are one. Like Jesus, each of us are divine and human, and our reason for being here is for each of us to work out what this means. Self-actualization is becoming fully divine and human.
The image, likeness, and being of God is the fundamental. underlying, and unchanging nature and essence of who you are. The point of your human existence is to discover this and bring full expression to it through your humanity. Self-actualization is the most spiritual and sacred endeavor of our human experience. The religious notion that your relationship with yourself and self-actualization is somehow a selfish pursuit and diversion from true godliness is a false notion that is not supported by Jesus.
Within every human being is a self-actualizing tendency. At the root of our human personhood, we long to grow, evolve, deepen, and expand into the fullness of who we are. Too often religion denies and thwarts this self-actualizing tendency at every turn by demanding that we remain in a very small, tight, limited, and restrictive space. We are made to fear ourselves and our fullness, and fear keeps us from exploring any further than the confined place religion puts us in. You will find as you are shedding religion that this self-actualizing tendency will revive, strengthen, accelerate, and will reach it’s zenith. Some characteristics of this self-actualization include:
Dissatisfaction with one’s staus quo
Intolerance of inauthenticity
Casting off of rules, regulations, and restrictions
Resurgence of individuality
Openness to new possibilities
Desire to grow, learn, and expand
Freedom of self-expression
Establishment of personal boundaries
Reshaping of your relational world
Greater acceptance and love for others
“You are deceived. You are following false ideas that sound hopeful and beautiful but they’re darkness masquerading as light.”
So much of religion seems to be about fear:
fear of going to hell; fear of having bad theology; fear of not satisfying your end of the bargain so God will favor you and bless you; fear of others finding out how much you’re not really like the person you project and pretend to be; fear of trusting your own inner guidance and fear of thinking for yourself; fear of not upholding the expectations of your religious sub-culture; fear of sexuality; fear of people who are different; fear of the world
You have to get straight in your head that God and fear do not go together… ever. If you hear any religious teaching or idea and induces fear, dismiss it swiftly and entirely. God never stirs feelings of shame or fear to motivate people on the path of truth and freedom. Religious views that induce fear and shame are the teachings that are “darkness masquerading as light.” Of course religious leaders who are intent on perpetuating their religious system aren’t going to take too kindly to people who challenge it. Freedom is a threat to the people and systems that seek to control people. It is not the “sinners” of the world who need to “accept Jesus,” it’s these kind of "Christian" leaders. They are the “unbelievers” who turned Jesus into a religion and failed to embrace his truth. Accepting the truth that Jesus bore witness to and demonstrated will make you a heretic like he was.
One of the most incidious fears that religion instills into people is the fear of "being wrong" coupled with the threat of God's judgment, rejection, condemntaion, abandonment and eternal hell. This is one of the most damaging and abusive teachings of the church, which is the at the root of a lot of religious pathology. I wrote about this extensively in Notes from (Over) the Edge.
“The Bible clearly states that you’re beliefs are wrong, and you are in danger of God’s judgment.”
This erroneous view goes like this, “My interpretation of the Bible is the correct one… because I say so… so there!” There’s a saying that goes, “Just because it’s on the Internet, doesn’t mean it’s true.” Well guess what? Just because some religious leader tells you that the Bible means something, doesn’t mean that’s what it means. Just a cursory study of the history of Christianity shows a diversity of views on the most fundamental matters of the Christian faith. The notion that there is one “orthodox” view of Christianity that has persisted through time (and is therefore correct) is simply not true.
People often have an authority-based basis for what they believe. That is, we take something to be true because some “authority” has deemed it so – a pastor, guru, tradition, spiritual leader, teacher, author, etc. People will often say, “My authority is the Bible.” It would be more accurate for them to say, “My authority is my interpretation of the Bible they taught me at church.”
There are at least 14 factors that influence what people come up with in the Bible:
1. Your views regarding the inspiration of Scripture.
2. Whether you would favor a literal or figurative interpretation of a given passage.
3. Your knowledge and awareness of other “related” Scriptures dealing with the same issue, including the immediate context and the broader context of the entire body of Scripture.
4. Your knowledge and understanding of the background and motivation of the writer.
5. The way in which a given interpretation fits into your over-all theological belief system.
6. Your level of understanding of the original language in which the text was written.
7. The various interpretations and commentaries to which you have already been exposed.
8. The ways in which you process information. Some of you tend to emphasize reason and logic, while others depend more on personal experiences and intuition.
9. The degree to which you are willing to accept logical inconsistencies as part of your belief system.
10. Your willingness to change your views in the light of new information.
11. The degree to which you are satisfied with your current views.
12. The amount of time you are willing to devote to your theological study and inquiry.
13. The unwillingness to consider alternative interpretations that diverge from your religious tradition.
14. Your overall view of God, which has been conditioned by many different life experiences and relationships.
In seminary we held to the illusion that we were doing "exegesis," which is extracting the message out of the text. In reality we were doing "eisegesis," reading our presuppositions into the text.
In Inner Anarchy I write extensively about how the Christian church has bastardized the life, teachings and message of Jesus.