HOME   People do good because they are human, not because they are religious! 

Do not give God any credit for the good they do, they did it!





Many believers in religion argue that there are forms of religious faith that are toxic. Many atheists believe that though religion is a bad thing, the reason it is bad is because it is based on religious faith and religious faith is always about what you want to believe and not the truth. Whoever does not care about truth does not care about others much either. If faith is a problem, that gives the critic a way to blame say Catholicism for what Islam does. Catholicism is to blame in the sense that it endorses faith and all the violent Muslim terrorist is doing is putting faith into practice.


Sometimes you expect something to touch a person's good buttons and the opposite happens. Faith could look harmless and be pressing bad buttons if not in all believers but in many of them. What if faith should change people for the better and does not always do it? What if it is faith's fault?


The Christian book Toxic Faith is very useful. But despite its grand assertions about the dangers of toxic faith, the fact remains that Christianity, the faith it espouses, is a toxic faith and contradicts the book's main suppositions. Manipulative means having a hidden agenda. Christianity is manipulative - it pretends to be pro-health.


People are always taken in by the people in a sect who are seen as good. Any system needs some charmers to take off. Catholicism likes to parade saints and this attracts people to it despite the fact that a few seemingly good people in a system does not make the system good. It is superficial to judge a religion as great just because some of its members are outwardly great and are paraded. The rule might be that religious people would be better people without religion so those saints could be exceptions. There are exceptions to every rule. It is superficial for people of no religion have the same degree of goodness as most ordinary religious people. Good people in a religion never show that the religion is in any way good but they do show that human nature is good. To call any religion good because of the nice people in it is insulting. It is odd how religion would take responsibility for being inept or a bad influence if most members turned out bad and it does not if the number of bad people is small! It is not a question of statistics!


Jesus was prickly - if he lived - but it seems his followers often did so much good that their religion became a success. The argument that a religion is good if it has mostly good people in it is invalid. Their goodness is human goodness. It is an insult to them to accept their claim that it comes solely from the power of their religion.


There is a dangerous tendency among a few to argue that a religion should be allowed to teach what it wants even if it is pure hatred. But what about the victims? They say that victims should see that it is something in the haters that is the problem and not the religion. The victims them are accused of being unfair if they blame religion or the person as a religious person. It is twisted to protect religion and faith and not people.

Some argue that religion never harms because we are never upset by something another person is or does. What upsets us is how we react.


Those who argue that way are really apologists for evil. Even if we are to blame for being upset, somebody else is too.

Toxic Faith (a summary by B. Jackson)



A. The following is a summary of the book Toxic Faith by Stephen Arterburn & Jack Felton (Oliver-Nelson, 1991)


B. I wrote this during the most trying time of my life when the issues raised by Arterburn and Felton came as a godsend to me. They apply the insights of family systems theory and religious addiction to life in the church. I helped to father a church in Indianapolis that had aspects of toxicity and these principles and truths enabled me to understand and explain much of my history in both my family of origin and the church



A. Religious addiction


1. Def. of addiction: when a person is excessively/compulsively devoted (sacrificing family, job, economic security, relationship with God, their bodies or mental health) to a substance, relationship or behavior


In response to Point 1: Jesus Christ asked for excessive devotion to him. He said we must give up all our money, stay with our wives for life and have such a revulsion for sin that it is to be compared with the hatred of sin that a person feels if they cut off their hands to prevent themselves from sinning. He said that whoever is not for him is against him - this is very uncompromising and intolerant.


If there is a God, then we are insignificant. Christians believe that God didn't have to make us. They will answer the only way they can. They will say that God gives us importance for he loves us so much and he has a plan for us. We are to love God with all our feelings and our whole being - that is far more extreme than putting alcohol before yourself. At least then you still care about yourself a bit!


All religion, whether it manages it or not, is an attempt to nurture religious addiction in the vulnerable. The book says you can and should have a committed Christian faith without religion for it sees faith in terms of a personal relationship with God. This does not get away from the problem of religious addiction. You may see yourself as having a personal relationship with God and you may be very individualistic. You will deny that you are religious. But you are. You are trying to be your own religion with God.


2. When people suffer from not knowing they are secure and significant, things which should be learned from one's family of origin and ultimately from a relationship with God in Christ, they have a vacuum in their soul that demands to be filled



In response to Point 2: To say that all people have a vacuum in their soul that can only be filled by God through Jesus Christ is to say that counselling and psychiatric and everything else should be Christian and anything that isn't should be banned.


Not all of us experience this vacuum. And the vacuum is emotional. It is a common mistake to assume that emotional problems are psychological problems and spiritual problems. Somebody that is feeling bad has had a bad chemical reaction to some event or situation. That is all.


It is a form of bullying to assume that we have this vacuum that only Jesus can fulfil. It also accuses those who have ditched Christianity of damaging themselves and going to to damage others.


Point 2 is a promoter of toxic religion not a repudiation of it.


The Christian is asked to base their faith on the idea, "Christianity fills a hole nothing else can fill," thus even the good Christians are only outwardly good. They base their happiness on a toxic principle. That has to lead to misery whether they admit it or not.


The idea that liberal Christians have, that all who are sincere in their religion are saved by Jesus whether they know him or not contradicts the experience of some that they were not saved or fulfilled until they explicitly knew of Jesus even though they were sincere in their previous faith. The notion that Christianity alone is the one true faith is highly offensive in today's world. It receives vehement opposition even from so-called Christians who are sick of the arrogance and division and hatred that are rooted in it and they fear the implications that could be teased out.

3. The pain in our souls was intended to drive us to God who, alone, can meet the deep longings of the heart.
Instead of getting the message, we pridefully fight relying on God alone to meet our needs. We avoid listening to the pain by playing self-protective games. Along the way, we often find patterns of behavior that dull the pain, thus making it easier to live with. These pain medications can be virtually any substance, relationship or behavior that provides relief. When a person develops a pathological (abnormal) relationship to a mood-altering experience or substance that has life-damaging consequences, addiction exists


In response to Point 3: belief in God automatically leads to fatalism. If God is all powerful then randomness does not truly exist. If you win the lottery he has rigged the game. And if you ask him for a win you are asking him to fraud for you. Also, if God should hurt us in the hope of driving us to him that is vindictive. Christians try to manipulate people into having a relationship with a horrible God. They are trying to spread an addiction.


Religion is about being and doing not just believing.


People tend to form groups and be intolerant and sometimes violent. Violent means aiming to hurt. Even silence is a form of violence when engaged in with an intention to let harm take place. Religion may be violent against other religious groups. The religious tend to be disrespectful of those religious people who differ from them.


You might say, "Considering that, we see that even if religion disappeared tomorrow people would still be forming their exclusive little societies and causing division." But at least there would be no religious element. There is a difference between a golf club that excludes women than a religion that excludes sinners or other religions. The golf club prejudice is not as ingrained or as damaging.


Some experts say that religion is a wonderful maker of peace except when it exercises a high degree of control over and a dominant influence upon political and civic life.


When members of intolerant religious systems become easygoing and liberal and become religious moderates, this is due to their fundamentalism being distorted and "infected" by secular principles. The moderates are guilty of double-think. It is not religion that is good but the secular influence. The religionists don't have a strong enough faith to obey their vicious scriptures.


They hypocritically say, "Let us make our children religious and maybe they will not get pregnant before marriage or end up on drugs". Their efforts to keep their kids on the straight and narrow are destined to fail because who listens to hypocrites? 


Point 3 is ludicrous for the Christian doctrine that we must detest sin and love the person who expresses his sinful nature through the sin is pure hypocrisy. This implies that God is a God of judgment and hate.


More honest Christians reject the hypocrisy. They teach, "Sometimes it is said that God hates sin (impersonal) but loves the sinner (personal), but this attempt to mitigate the wrath of God is not really faithful to the biblical witness. Wrongdoing in the Bible is never disassociated from the wrongdoers, who are fully responsible for their actions. Retribution cannot be shifted to an impersonal level without it ceasing to be what it is. We cannot imagine a judge excusing a murderer who says he is sorry and offers to clean up the mess, as if the crime were all that mattered. However sincere his repentance might be, the murderer would still be held responsible for his sin, just as we are held responsible for our sins before God" (page 222, The Doctrine of God, Gerald Bray, IVP, Illinois, 1993).
Christians say that we need a general purpose of life. It bases this claim on its dogma that God has made us for himself so that we can have a relationship with him for all eternity. They are not talking about a purpose at all though they pretend they are. They are really taking about feeling you have a purpose.

4. Addictions can be divided into three basic types: substance addiction (e.g., alcohol), emotional addiction (letting an emotion run your life e.g., depression), process addiction (e.g., work, religion)


4. Devotion to God may be caused by emotional addiction and process addiction. If you understand God as that which only really matters then you are telling yourself you should get addicted.

5. Addiction is ultimately idolatry, that is, the worship of a relationship, substance or behavior instead of God. The idolator worships what is not God. Anything can be an idol - not just a religious figure or a statue of a god. The idolater may say, "I cannot be happy unless I make money. I do this for the glory of God in my own way. I know even in my addiction and greed I am following a warped form of good. Indirectly, I glorify God."


5. To worship a relationship with God is not the same as worshipping God. You can cherish your marriage rather than your spouse. It is easy to love what a person does for you and to imagine that you love the person. The person is bigger than what virtues they have. The Christians say you must love God not to fulfil any need in you but you must simply love him. If you love God, you will love him no matter what he does to you or what he becomes. Even if he were evil it wouldn't matter.


If you loved another person literally with all your heart and soul and mind, that would prove you have an addiction. According to Christianity, its not an addiction when the other person is God. Talk about double standards. And its even worse when you cannot relate to God like you can to yourself or another person.


6. Religion becomes unhealthy when our attendance and service flows, not out of faith in God who has loved us in Christ and given us opportunities to serve out of that place of rest, but out of a need to be loved and find worth. Religious addiction is hard to spot because it has to do with motive. Two people could be serving side by side and one is doing it by faith in God for an eternal reward (gold, silver and precious stones; 1 Cor 3.12) while the other is doing it by faith in the behavior for a temporal reward with no eternal dividends (wood, hay and straw). Religious addicts are also usually the best workers in the church so their dysfunction is not only overlooked but rewarded. Meanwhile, their lives head for disaster.


6. Who knows if most Christians are suffering religious addiction? You can't tell such apart from those who are not suffering for this addiction. You can't disprove the possibility that all Christians suffer from this addiction.


Religious addiction tends to be more internalised than other forms of addiction. A person who is addicted to God will not show it the same way as a person who is addicted to alcohol would.

B. 21 erroneous beliefs that can fuel toxic faith (various forms and degrees of unhealthy Christianity)


1. Security and significance with God depend on my behavior


1. The Bible and the Christian Church threaten God's punishments, including everlasting torment in Hell, on all who fail to behave. Christianity is the most toxic religion imaginable when it teaches that the lost who die will go to Hell forever. Even a sect that battered its recalcitrant members would be less controlling and mean.


A faith that says people will be damned for not having the right beliefs is worse than one that says people will be damned for failing to do good works.

2. When tragedy strikes, true believers should have a real peace about it


2. Asking people to be at peace when disaster strikes them is asking them to become complacent in the face of evil. It is putting pressure on them to pretend to be happy. It is being unsympathetic. If the believer "should" experience a real peace then the believer is being accused of being somehow defective if he or she doesn't. And you can't make yourself feel peace in the midst of tragedy. You either feel it or you don't. There is no should about it.

3. If you had real faith, God would heal you or the one you are praying for


3.Jesus himself said that faith heals. He started the deadly faith healing tradition that has contaminated the religious world since.

4. All ministers are men and women of God and can be trusted


4. The tendency to regard all men and women of God as trustworthy is especially strong among Catholics. The Protestants see the men and women of God as holy and trustworthy just because they have a minister role but the Catholic sees the priests, for example, as being that and more. The priest is seen as another Christ and in possession of Christ's greatest powers. The Catholics have seen priests and nuns - but not Protestant ministers - as worthy of absolute trust. This led to the culture of cover-up for child abuse and other crimes.

5. Material blessings are a sign of spiritual strength

5. The Old Testament God spoke of material blessings being a sign of his favour.

6. The more money you give to God, the more money he will give to you


6. Christianity teaches that God rewards all who give money to his cause. It might not be the reward of more money but a spiritual blessing. In response to point 6, Jesus Christ himself is to blame for the teaching of some that the more money you give the Church the more you will get back. Catholics tend to believe that God will give you back double the money you pay for the upkeep of the Church. Jesus said that if you abandon all for him you will get more back from him in return.

7. I can work my way to heaven


7. I can work my way to heaven is listed as a sign of toxic faith. Some people are happy to believe they have done enough to get in.
The Protestant belief that Jesus obeyed God for us to earn our heaven for us so that we can go there even if we are just after committing a murder is far more toxic.

8. Problems in your life result from some particular sin


8. Christians think that problems are all in the mind and the reason we suffer is because we are too prideful to accept what God allows to happen to us. They think we make our suffering worse by refusing to accept God's will.

9. I must not stop meetings other's needs


9. The Bible itself says that we must sacrifice ourselves to devote ourselves to the needs of others as if they were better than us. You are asked by Paul in the Bible to think of others as better than you.

10. I must always submit to authority


10. The notion that, "I must always submit to authority" is condemned. If I say I don't, I am wrong. I submit to my own authority. Believers say we must always submit to God's authority. Point 10 seems to be referring to constant submission to human authority. What is the problem with that? If its simply bad to have to obey somebody all the time then its bad whether or not it is God that is being obeyed.
As for the notion that its different to obey God all the time, we meet the following problem. Is anybody who follows man necessarily better off than anybody who follows man's interpretation of God and his will? There is no difference in reality.

11. God only uses spiritual giants



11 Nobody thinks that! Spiritual giants are no use on their own - they need to be of use to those who are not spiritual giants but who are just spiritual.

12. Having true faith means waiting for God to help me and doing nothing until he does



12 Jesus Christ did that. He refused to walk away from his impending execution though he had the chance.
The believer argues God is in control. If you help yourself, all you are doing is co-operating with how God has decided to help you. So you are not really helping yourself. It is a short step from the notion that your efforts in themselves are unimportant to the notion that you may do nothing to help yourself or others for God will help anyway. In fact, if it is all about God then helping yourself is not really helping yourself at all!

13. If it's not in the Bible, it isn't relevant (all truth is in the Bible)



13 True Christians believe that the Bible alone contains the essential knowledge that God wants us to have. This doctrine does not claim that there is no such thing as truth outside the Bible. Nobody would claim such a thing! But we do see that all that implies that the truth that matters and that we are obligated to accept is solely in the Bible. The one who truly accepts that cannot for example complain if somebody starts forbidding the creation of new medicines. To complain implies that there are truths outside the Bible that we have a duty to accept.

14. God will find me a perfect mate



14 Christians seem to believe that. They believe in prayer even though it fails half time. And any seeming benefits or results could have nothing to do with it.

15. Everything that happens to me is good



15 Christianity argues that evil is not a thing or a power. Rather it is merely good that is in the wrong place. Thus everything that happens to a person is in reality good.


God alone matters in Christianity. Thus the motive for assessing evil as not being a thing is to glorify God and give him a good reputation. It is not about helping people who demonise evil as if it were a power and who trap themselves in fear. It is not about compassion.

Suffering is real and no truly good person sees suffering as good that is in the wrong place and time.

16. A strong faith will protect me from problems and pain




16 Suffering is experiencing what is useless to you and others. If you bring good out of your suffering it does not follow that the suffering is any less bad. The good appears in spite of it and not because of it.


There is more glory in seeing good coming in spite of suffering. There is more courage in the person who refuses to use crutches and blindfolds when it comes to suffering. There is more wisdom in that person and that person will only get stronger. The crutch helps temporarily but it will break and break hard. Helping you to get and keep a crutch is the job of priests and ministers. They are the real enemy. A real friend wants you to stand on your feet and throw the crutch away.



Faith forbids you to see suffering as useless for an all-good God cannot allow useless suffering to happen. He would be evil himself if he did. So this doctrine suggests that a strong faith will not keep problems and pain away but will protect you a bit.

17. God hates sinners, is angry with me, and wants to punish me



17 The Bible repeatedly speaks of the anger and wrath of God. The teaching that Jesus has died for us on the cross claims that the anger and wrath is directed at us and Jesus just took the punishment for us. It's still our punishment though he bore it for us.

18. Christ was merely a great teacher



18 Surely the teaching of Christ if its useful and good is more important than Christ himself?

19. God is too big to care about me




19 The Catholics pray to saints for they don't want to deal with God directly. That's an example of a religion that thinks God is too big to care about people. But typically, it pretends not to think that!

20. More than anything else, God wants me to be happy (free from pain)




20 By condemning that view, Christianity shows its true colours.


The Church hates that view. It accuses God of needlessly allowing evil to happen. The Church argues that the reason God puts up with them is that it is his plan to make us good and happiness takes second place. If there is a choice, he wants you to be good and not happy.


A believer who thinks God opposes pain and suffering could be seen as motivated to fight them. But it won't last for it contradicts reality.

21. You can become God


 21. The book condemns you thinking you are God. If God can allow evil to happen, why can't you think you are God and taking on human vulnerability for some purpose? In fact a religious faith that forbids you to think you are God is toxic. It insinuates that you are offending God and it doesn't matter if it helps you to think you are God.


Those who say they are servants of God are lying. They are servants of what they want to think about God. In other words, they hide their self-interest and call it God-interest. The God they give you is an idol they have created from perceptions and doctrines. By implication, they are the real gods for they give you God and create God for you. To honour their God is to honour them more. It is really honouring them not their creation.

C. 7 irrational thinking patterns common in religious addiction
1. Thinking in extremes: driven by an all or nothing, black or white mentality (no gray; my way or the highway) that causes the addict to be very hard on himself/herself and others



1 There is nothing more extreme than the Christian division of people into saved or unsaved and those ready for eternal Heaven and those fit only for eternal torture.

2. Drawing invalid conclusions, not based in reality; global thinking i.e., using words like "never, always."

2 Don't Christians say that God never lets you down? They deny that being let down is really being let down. Don't Pentecostal Christians often encourage taking stupid risks to prove your faith in God to be true? Don't Catholics say that blasphemy and sex outside marriage is always wrong? Don't Catholics say that Jesus was an ordinary man who was also God and who struggled to get himself to risk his life in the hope that God would raise him from the dead?

3. Filtering out the positive and distorting reality. These people selectively hear only the negative and are consequently negative about everything, especially themselves; in response to positive input they say, "yes, but..."


We are all selective.


The problem with religion is that it gives us extra stuff to be selective about!

4. Filtering out the negative and distorting reality. These people selectively hear only the positive to shield their already low self worth. They allow in themselves what they would condemn in others. A lot of relational wreckage; the weight of restitution can be crushing when they finally see it

If the Churches took point 4 seriously they would not last much longer.

5. Thinking with the heart; feelings become the basis for reality because I think my perception is "certainly accurate."

The Bible claims that God enables us to know what we do not know. Christians claim to know their faith is true. This doesn't make sense so they say its a miracle of God. They are in reality just pretending to know. All religious war mongers and bigots start off thinking they somehow know what they cannot know.

6. "Should, ought" thinking; constant self condemnation of not being able to measure up

Christianity says we have an evil nature. How's that then for self-condemnation?

Instead of thinking "I should" I should always think, "I could".

7. Co-dependency; egocentric feeling of being responsible for everything; must be in control; eyes always on the needs of others at the expense of their own

Jesus Christ was an all or nothing teacher. He said that whoever is not for him is against him. He exaggerated how bad the unfulfilled willingness to sin is. He made out that looking at a woman in lust is committing adultery with her in one's heart and that the one who hates should be treated like a murderer.


Christians themselves engage in global thinking. They say God always answers their prayers. Even when they don't get what they ask for they say he gave them something better so he did answer them after all.
Believers often feel that if they feel something is true that makes it true. An atheist would see through the folly of doing that. But the believer imagines that his feelings are a communication from the Holy Spirit. The believer is more likely then to be irrational than the atheist.


It is interesting that the list condemns "should" thinking when the Bible is full of commandments from God and Jesus about what we "should" do.

A. 11 Characteristics of a toxic faith system
1. Religious addiction is developed in a toxic faith system. The following characteristics differentiate it from systems, churches, and ministries committed to growing people in faith and developing their relationship with God

Those points certainly show that Roman Catholicism is one of the worst religions.


The first point speaks about religious addiction. Catholicism certainly teaches that religion is more important than spirituality. It is a religion built on spiritual abuse and it practices such abuse all the time.

2. "Special" claims


a. The leaders of toxic faith systems claim a special pipeline to God which places them at a level above all the others in the church which creates an atmosphere of unapproachability. The leader can use this superiority to manipulate the followers who either believe and obey or suffer the consequences


b. In the toxic system, the minister will set him/herself up as having a special destiny or mission that can be performed by no one else. This special anointing or calling many times is nothing more than the pathological need to be valued or esteemed. He/she can also posture special powers from God like the ability to supernaturally heal


c. The victimized followers, seeking a closer relationship with God but focusing more on the addicted leader than on God, lose contact with God and often fall away from faith permanently. Misguided loyalty allows the delusions of the leader to grow and destroys the faith of the loyal.

The only hope for everyone involved is for the leader who claims to be God's special officer to be forced into accountability or dethroned to protect other potential victims.

The second point speaks about how toxic religion has leaders who have a hotline to God. The pope and the Catholic clergy certainly claim to be infallible under certain conditions. No religious leader likes to be thought of as infallible all the time - that puts too much pressure on him. So not surprisingly, the Roman Catholic Church lays down conditions for infallibility. The priesthood is like a caste and priests are often unapproachable.


They certainly think they have spiritual powers that make them superior to the laity.


The Catholic Church claims a special power to work out the truth - a power it says that no scientist or other religion has.


Faith healers fool people by making them think they are cured by them. As bad as this is, what the Catholic priesthood does is worse. At least the faith healers try to provide evidence. But the Catholic priests claim they have heal souls by feeding them with bread and wine they have turned into Jesus and forgiving sins and putting in virtue. The healing they give is undetectable and put beyond evidence. They have excuses for when the healing doesn't work. The excuse is that the person didn't really want the healing so they never go it. If that is not cheating then what is?

3. Authoritarianism
a. Churches and ministries are started and grown through the vision of a strong leader. The authoritarian leader comes to power because a driven personality accompanies talent and charisma. A toxic system arises when that leader moves into a free rein style with no real accountability. Often, this ministry is the first experience of authority for the leader
b. Those who work in this setting find themselves either agreeing with the direction of the ministry or leaving. There is no room for compromise since the dictatorial leader believes that everyone should submit to his rule
without question. Those who fear for their jobs or feel they may not be able to find similar jobs will comply with the leader rather than challenge certain decisions or actions that appear to be wrong. The leader and the people, therefore, mutually deny their accountability structures and wave the option of having safeguards in the system

The third point warns against leaders being authoritarian. Catholicism is authoritarian - in the places where it is not, it is really a case of the Church not being able to throw its weight around. 

4. An "Us Versus Them" Mentality

a. Religious addicts are at war with the world to protect their terrain and establish themselves as godly persons who can't be compared to other persons. They see themselves in the cutting-edge ministry and other people need to come into the light
b. Those in the exclusive society believe they are serving God but they are serving a person, and that person's concept of what should be and should not be
c. Any scrutiny of the ministry is seen to be an attack from the enemy

The fourth point says that toxic religion has an us versus them mentality. The strongest sign of such a mentality is when a religion claims to be the one true Church like Catholicism does. 

Jesus Christ ranted about the world being in the control of the Devil. He said that the Devil will not put demons out of people - implying the Devil controls all people for he cannot have a kingdom unless he possesses.

5. Punitive in Nature
a. The minister addicted to power punishes and purges the system of anybody who would upset the status quo
b. To outsiders, the whole ministry appears negative and punitive, out of balance, and distorted from the love, acceptance, and forgiveness freely given by God and his Son

The fifth point is that toxic religion is punitive in nature. Catholicism is punitive in nature. It teaches that no good work can earn salvation but then it dares to teach that evil works earn everlasting damnation. This is not a very encouraging proposition. Plus they want to believe that sins such as adultery and idolatry and heresy will take one to Hell forever unless one repents - the punishment is more severe than the crime.


Jesus himself was punitive in nature. In Luke 13 we read about people who were murdered by Pilate and how Jesus remarked that just because they died that way it didn't make them worse or better as sinners than everybody else. He said they were just as sinful as everybody else and that unless his hearers repent they will "likewise perish". He said that the eighteen who died when the tower of Siloam perished were not more guilty of sin than anybody else in Jerusalem. Then he repeated that unless the hearers repent they will perish the same way.


God is ultimately in control of all things. Nothing happens unless he lets it happen. Even if we have free will to break the law of God, God has consented for us to be tempted to break his law and gives us the power to do it. We do not sin in spite of God but because of him. If we sin in spite of him then he is not all-powerful and he is not God. Thus in this logic, it is perfectly acceptable to say stuff like Thank God for the tsunami like the Westboro Baptist Church did in 2004. And indeed if we really trust God and believe in him that is exactly what we will say!

The Catholic Church declares that if anybody thinks they know what Catholic doctrine is and they reject that doctrine they sever themselves by automatic excommunication from the Church. So anybody who questions the faith is purged from the system spiritually if not physically.

6. Overwhelming Service People get burned out by the service demands of the system which feeds on compulsive personalities

Jesus had the apostles leaving everything and serving him all the time.

7. Followers in Pain
Many religious addicts in the system are physically ill, emotionally distraught, and spiritually dead because they are looking to the leader and ministry to give them what only God can give.


Yes because they believe that God has authorised the ministers as his agents so to obey and serve the agents is to serve God.

If there is no God, then it follows that religion is evil simply because it takes people to a help that is not there.

8. Closed Communication
a. Communication is from the top down or from the inside out. Those at the top no longer hear the perceptions and needs of the people. The addicts on the inside no longer care about the needs of the people on the outside
b. Someone in the system has the job of shielding the leader from the truth by placating those who disagree and satisfying those who want a direct voice to the leader. The lieutenant is never to tell the leader anything but what he/she wants to hear
c. The organization eventually becomes ineffective because it loses touch with the people it is designed to serve, just like a father loses touch with his children
8. Closed Communication - the Catholic Church makes many decisions in secret. All religion keeps the archaeological, theological, scientific, historical and philosophical facts that contradict it away from the people. There is no such thing as a religion publishing books of science.

9. Legalism What you do is more important than who you are. Performance is everything.
9. Legalism was endorsed by the Old Testament God.


Legalism exists in the Catholic Church. If a Catholic simply cannot believe that contraception is wrong, the Catholic is still urged out of respect for Church authority to try to believe and pray for the grace of understanding and to tell people that contraception is wrong. The person is still obligated to refrain from it.

The Council of Trent said that if you go to confession and you repent your serious sins for the fear of Hell only, then that is acceptable as repentance. But rejecting the consequences of the sin is not rejecting the sin. It is the punishment not the sin that is bothering the person so by no means could this be considered to be true repentance. The Catholic is blackmailed to at least fear everlasting damnation in Hell when approaching the confessional to get his sins forgiven. To encourage a person to practice fake repentance under the threat of Hell is to set up the person to sin even more in the future.


What you do is more important than who you are. Performance is everything with the legalist.

10. No Objective Accountability
a. This is the key to a toxic faith system. If religious addicts were in healthy, accountable relationships with others, toxic faith would not be allowed to flourish
b. A person accountable only to God is a person out of control


Jesus Christ condemned point 10. He said that the greatest commandment was to love God with all your powers ie in totality. We are to love our neighbour because God commanded it which means we do not love the neighbour for herself or himself but for God only. Love for God alone is expressed through doing his will for others.
Thus no healthy relationship with others is possible. People do not want you to be helping them just because God ordered it.
Also, the commandments of Jesus tell you that its all about God - practically speaking you see yourself as accountable only to God.

11. Labelling


a. Labelling attempts to dehumanize persons so that dismissing them or their opinions is much easier. Rather than say that John Doe has made a negative comment, the addict proclaims that they are "traitors" or have a "critical spirit." The labels become rallying points under which the other followers can be moved to action to squelch a revolt. Once the label is in place, it becomes more difficult to see that person as a human with real needs and the potential for good judgment


b. Because it is difficult to rally against rational, thinking people who have different views, labels must be used to polarize the opponents and energize the followers to fight against those opponents. The enemy is "shot" so the underlying issues that need to be considered can be avoided


11. Labelling - the Church labels people as mortal sinners. For Catholics, the mortal sinner cannot do any genuinely good work because he has himself on the throne and not God. So it is appropriate to describe them as evil. The greatest commandment is to love God and let him fully rule you in all things therefore the greatest sin is the sin of putting yourself before God.

Labelling attempts to dehumanize persons so that dismissing them or their opinions is much easier. Rather than say that John Doe has made a negative comment, the addict proclaims that they are "traitors" or have a "critical spirit." The labels become rallying points under which the other followers can be moved to action to squelch a revolt. Once the label is in place, it becomes more difficult to see that person as a human with real needs and the potential for good judgment

B. The Roles of Toxic Faith



a. A healthy system is made up of individuals with a full range of emotions, intellect, free will and the ability to function independently. In a dysfunctional system, each individual plays out a role needed for the system to function. Since individuals lack the ability to function independently, they depend on one another to play out their roles and allow the system to continue. Those roles have to be played so that those in the system can remain in their denial and avoid the overwhelming fear of insignificance



b. In a dysfunctional system, roles evolve to support the system. Each person must be willing to play the roles which become more keenly defined as the addiction intensifies. Individuals become trapped in predictable behaviours that remove God and faith, replacing them with a dependency on a set of rules. As a person's behaviour lines up with one of these predictable roles, any deviation from that role is a sign of rebellion from the system and is dealt with quickly through shaming and rejection. Although each role is difficult to maintain, it is even more difficult to leave the safety and predictability of the role and act independently. A person who takes this step back toward reality becomes an outcast of the system


c. In a toxic faith system, be it family, church or ministry, the person with the role of persecutor heads the group. The persecutor is supported by co-conspirators, enablers, and victims. These people have one primary function: allow the persecutor to function, insulated from reality. Each person in each role believes the organization must continue, and it is each person's job to distort, manipulate, hide, or deny reality so the toxic system can go on. Each person in a different way protects the persecutor from outside disruptions that could stop the achievement of the persecutor's vision


d. These people create a false reality by distancing and isolating the persecutor from contact with the real world. As they grow more committed to the persecutor and the toxic ministry, they become addicted to the behaviours of the role and the feelings derived from participating in the false reality of the toxic system. Once they stop supporting the false reality that allows the persecutor and the ministry to continue, they are no longer needed by the system and are thrown out
The roles

a. The Persecutor


The persecutor plays the role of the father in the family.


In the church this person is the one with the vision that the organization must continue, and it is each person's job to distort, manipulate, when they were younger and, therefore, don't want to risk rejection as an adult. Rather than trust God and risk being rejected or betrayed by God, they focus on what they do in the name of God and what they perceive are the instant rewards sent from God. In this way they lose all faith in God and rely on their own abilities to find God's favor. The fulfillment of the mission becomes everything for the wrong reason and they surround themselves with people willing to say that the progress toward the goal is outstanding


b. The Co-conspirator


For every persecutor, there is at least one co-conspirator who manipulates, plots, and plans to keep the persecutor in power and position. The persecutor and co-conspirator work as a unit; they operate as one. Both are addicted to religion as the means by which they es person is the one with the vision that he/she and the others find meaning in fulfilling. Persecutors have often been rejected Several work together to form a team of "yes-men" that will do anything to protect and defend the persecutor. They feed into the persecutor's ego and further blind him/her from reality. When there is conflict, they usually find a way to agree with the persecutor and support his/her position. They are loyal in every way. In a toxic faith system, these are the most dangerous followers because of their proactive commitment to keeping the system intact. Their undying faith in the persecutor is the reason so many will continue to support that person when trouble, rumour, or admission of wrong surfaces


c. The Enabler While the co-conspirator actively connives to keep the persecutor in power, the enabler's role is more passive. They allow, more than promote, victimization. They are not active in the decision-making of the organization but willingly support those decisions made at the top. They know something fishy is going on but they don't want to rock the boat by calling attention to it. They are getting their worth serving something "significant," therefore, they purposely don't "see things," thus justifying their enabling activities. The fearful enabler will wait until someone else intervenes. They hope for but are afraid to work for change. Instead, they work like beasts of burden because they feel responsible for everything


d. The Victims


Victims place their complete trust in the leaders of the toxic faith system and become silent victims of something they don't understand. They fear rejection and abandonment so much that they would rather be exploited members of something than be on their own and be part of nothing. Theirs is a blind allegiance


e. The Outcast This is the only role in the toxic system that is not driven by addiction. In any toxic system, there is usually someone who can see the problem and confronts it. In a healthy system, individuals serving in that organization have respect for the person and position of leadership. For it to remain healthy, there must also be respect for the workers. When there is no respect, the "hired hands" are not allowed to disagree. If they don't like something, they are labelled complainers, negative thinkers, and not team players. The toxic system has no place for anyone who challenges the integrity or disagrees with the methods of the leader. The person who is unwilling to play the games of the persecutors and co-conspirators, becomes the outcast. They lose their friends and church because they stood for their convictions

C. 10 Rules of a Toxic Faith System
1. The leader must be in control of every aspect at all times

1 There is no such thing as a system where the leader attempts to rule every part of the life of others for that cannot be done. Any inappropriate control is toxic.  A toxic faith may limit itself to interfering in marriage and that is enough to make it a disgrace.


The leader is most likely to want to be in control not of everything but of the things he or she considers important to her or him. In the case of a Catholic priest, it may simply be the wish to dictate to others what they must believe. It is too much pressure on a religious leader to attempt to be in control all the time. 

2. When problems arise, find a guilty party to blame immediately

2. Christians blame Satan when things go wrong and they love blaming the media for their problems as Christians as well. Adam and Eve get the blame for original sin and our wish to be independent of God.
When Catholic treatments for sin, the sacraments, blatantly fail, the Church says it is the recipients fault for not being sincere enough. 

3. Don't make mistakes

3. The Church supposedly hates sin for it does damage. Mistakes do damage too. They often do worse damage than sin. Deliberate or not, the wrong action will be seen as evil.

4. Never point out the reality of a situation

Any human organisation is in danger of that. But religion because it besots people with the promise of salvation and scares them half to death makes this problem virtually inevitable. An example, the mothers of Ireland had to have known that priests were sexually abusing their children - they did nothing and indeed punished their children for complaining. The priest was a man of God and even if he did evil he didn't do evil.


Religion protects its notions from being shown implausible or wrong by telling you that God has the full information and you do not.

5. Never express your feelings unless they are positive

Christianity certainly never taught that - and that its ironically one of its endless flaws.

6. Don't ask questions, especially if they are tough ones

6. The Catholic Church says that if you don't understand its doctrines you must pray for understanding. It adds that many of these doctrines are mysteries that only God understands. Here is an example, God is said to forbid contraception no matter how much good it seems to do for he knows better than us. 

7. Don't do anything outside your role

7. The Catholic Church lays down a role for women that gives them less advantages in life than men.
8. Don't trust anyone


Even the worst of religions needs its people to trust somebody. Each religion argues that it is right therefore it makes out that those who contradict it are untrustworthy.

9. Nothing is more important than giving money to the organization


No religion is that blatant. The problem is not one of religion being solely about money but of religion taking people's money when it has no counselling role, tells them rubbish and makes huge claims and provides no evidence or at least dodgy evidence?

10. At all costs, keep up the image of the organization or the family

10. Catholics were conditioned by their parents and the bishops to look up to the bishops and priests as demi-gods. This led to Ireland doing nothing about the open secret of clerical sexual abuse. And the bishops covered up the crimes of their priests and gave them new parishes to find new flesh. The excuse that they thought that moving the priest would help is glaring. That could not have been their motivation at all. Nobody is that stupid. Plus they knew from experience that moving only moved the problem elsewhere. 

D. Characteristics of Healthy Faith
1. Focusing on a personal relationship with God in Christ, not religion

1. Protestants see God as their personal saviour. That means that spirituality is merely between the believer and his or her God. This is individualism. Brainwashing is less likely.

2. Looking to God to meet the needs for security and significance

2.Looking to God for help and comfort will only add the problem of guilt to a person who is so depressed that they are unable to look. It is better for us to live without belief in God even if it means we will be less happy than for us to propagate a belief that torments many of those who suffer the most.

3. Growing in faith as evidenced by walking into pain

3.An atheist can accept pain better than a Christian can. If I think there is no God to help me, I have no choice but to accept the pain. Indeed it is good to take risks in order to toughen myself up. If I think there is a God, I may reason that I have no choice but to accept the pain for he is letting it happen for a reason and he will not change his plan. The atheist accepts pain because it is inevitable. The believer accepts it though God can stop it but won't. That is acceptance with a big big but. It is not authentic acceptance.

4. Respect for the personhood of others

4. Christians cheapen respect for people by pretending that your sins are to be thought of as separate from you. That really demands that the evil person be viewed the same as the saint. It is hypocritical for Christians send evil people to jail and judge them.

5. Serving others for their sake

5. Serving others for their sake is unhealthy. The healthy person should balance what is good for herself with what is good for others.

6. Being vulnerable

6. People like us to feel vulnerable when appropriate and when the intention is to create rapport with those who are in any kind of trouble. But the Bible claims that its message can give us a sense of invulnerability no matter what happens for God is all-powerful and our stronghold. The vulnerability requirement contradicts Toxic Faith's assertion that we must always feel safe in God.

7. A trusting atmosphere

Christians can only get along when they forget their beliefs. How is telling people that it is bad to intend to harm for it hurts people and hurts God supposed to help people trust? The atheist settles for leaving God out. Making evil out to be worse than what it is, is slander
8. Celebrating uniqueness by recognizing people's spiritual gifts


8. Every religion recognises alleged gifts from God and celebrates the differences but between parameters. For example, Catholics recognise speaking in tongues as being from God and deny the gifts of a person who claims that God gave him the power to consecrate the Eucharist without the intermediary of a bishop. People having different alleged gifts does not mean that manipulating and brainwashing is less likely.

9. Relationships being the heart of everything


9. Relationships cannot be everything to a Christian. The only exception is a relationship with God.

10. People being taught to think

10. Religions never teach the people how to think. Do they teach them the basic laws of logic? Those laws are really different forms of the rule that a is not b in the same way as it is a and at the same time. Anything varying from that is self-refuting. A contradiction is self-refutation. It is against your own dignity to let somebody be a self-refuter. They are trying to be inauthentic towards you. Say something politely.


Faith claims to be helped along by reason but beyond it. That means that you are taking a chance. What if what you think is beyond reason but is to be believed? It could be something against reason that is being mistaken for being beyond reason.

11. Balanced thinking rather than extremes in black and white

11. The notion that God comes first automatically endorses extremist thinking. It is putting belief in an entity above all things.

12. Non-defensive

How a faith that says you might go to Hell forever at death and that Satan is the god of this world and a Jesus who said that the whole world was in the hand of the Devil, the supreme fan of evil, can ask people to be non-defensive is a mystery.

13. Non-judgmental


Christianity says that sin has ruined God's creation, and forced Jesus to become man to die on the cross to atone for it and will take people to Hell to suffer forever. Obviously we should welcome being judged. It might save us from damnation. And to say that our sins put Jesus on the cross is judgemental. Nobody believes that people should be judged when there is no proof that they have done what they are accused of.

14. Reality-based



The Old Testament of the Bible and the Book of Mormon claim to record history. The faiths based on them try to corrupt history. No valid historian takes them seriously. We know that the Book of Mormon history is fictitious but if enough Mormons became historians it would ruin history forever.


Religion threatens our knowledge of the past.

15. Able to embrace our emotions



If sin is as bad as Christianity says, then we should fear any feeling that invites us to sin.

16. Able to embrace our humanity as evidenced in the ability to allow for mistakes


How can a religion that says human nature is sinful - ie we sin because we are sinners and it is not the case that we are sinners because we sin - seriously make point 16?

17. The ability to laugh

I'd not be as keen on laughing if I really believed that people could suffer in Hell for all eternity.


If God comes first that is no laughing matter. God cannot have a sense of humour for you need to be able to be surprised to have it. And God knows all so he cannot be surprised. Is putting such a being first going to make you more humorous? No.

A. I think that each of the toxic roles is actually a counterfeit for genuine gifts and roles in the kingdom of God:


a. A person receives a vision from God to start a certain type of ministry, be it church or Sunday school. They articulate that vision and impart it to a group of people who partner with them to fulfil it, not to gain identity but as an outflow of the gifts of the Spirit exercised in faith. The difference between the persecutor and the true godly leader is motive and degree of control. The true leader obeys by faith and is secure enough to not be controlling. He/she does not lay down in front of the people and do what they say because of being afraid of them (cf. 1 Sam. 15.24), nor do they lord it over those they lead. The leader definitely leads but as a servant and an example to the flock


b. True leaders gladly submit themselves to a group of people with whom they can know and be known. They trust their council and value relationship with them above pursuit of the vision. They wait for them so they can walk together




Despite talk about the leader having to be really a servant the fact is that a true leader is not a servant. He is an authority and a superior. A leader playing at being a servant is not a servant.


1. The persecutor is the counterfeit for the real gift of leadership which God gives to a man or woman by the Holy Spirit

God himself sanctioned persecution in the Bible. The apostle Paul and Jesus both wanted people hated and ostracised for breaching Christian morality.
2. The co-conspirator is the counterfeit for true eldership and government


a. Leaders need an accountability and decision-making structure around them. They (leader and eldership) function together as coequals with different functions based on giftedness. Those who serve the leader who is serving them do so as those who already have an identity in God and are merely walking out their response to God's grace according to the measure of their faith. They are "elding" for the right reason


b. They are not "yes men" but neither are they of an interdependent spirit. They recognize the leadership gifting on the point person and trust in what God has put on him/her. They also trust that the leader understands how the elders complement that leadership and know that he/she will listen and heed
their council. While the leader leads by giving direction and going first, they govern the church together


Not a single word is given in the Bible for helping accountability and decision making among the leadership. It preaches what leadership should be but gives no guidance in helping it be what it says it should be.
3. The enablers are the counterfeit for the true servant workforce in the church


a. Jesus told us to pray for labourers in the harvest, for the harvest was plentiful but the workers were few. Nehemiah saw to it that it was the people's job to build the wall around Jerusalem, not his. He saw to it that they had whatever they needed, training, supplies, etc.


b. The true workforce of the church is serving according to their spiritual gifts by faith and not for a sense of belonging and worth. They are not passive co-dependents who would enable the sickness of leadership because they need the sick system for their pain medication. They know they are not gifted in government so they trust that gifting on the eldership. But they also know that if they had a question, even a hard one, that the leaders would be open to their concern and make proper adjustments when necessary. They serve God, not the leader or vision, with joy in their hearts


An enabler in this case is a person who enables a religion to do evil. Merely being part of its structure or seeming to be is contributing to its evil. The less need you have to be in the religion the more you are to blame for the problems. You are keeping up a system which creates the conditions for bad things to happen.


That is why Roman Catholics who think the Vatican is seriously evil are only hypocrites. And that is what they will be until they defect and depart.

4. The victims are the counterfeit for the godfearer fringe


a. These are those that attend the larger meetings and are trying to decide if they want to give themselves to the local church. Many are Christians who have had bad experiences in the church and are hesitant; some are frightened "pew sitters" who need to be loved into the family and joyful service, others are non Christians who are checking out the faith.


b. Whichever category, they are the fishing pond out of which disciples are made. Jesus chose 12 then 70 out of the crowd that followed him. What makes the difference whether these people become disciples or victims? Everything depends on the actions and motives of the group they are walking among. Is it healthy, glorifying Jesus and honouring personhood or is it toxic, glorifying the leader and denying personhood? Motive is everything.


This is interestingly humanistic. There is no mention of Christianity's irresponsible doctrine, "God is all-powerful. Thus you must trust in him to change hearts. Even the worst of sinners can change overnight.  God is always waiting to transform them and all they need to do is ask."

5. Outcasts are the courageous detractors in the toxic system who are trying to bring health to something sick
Just as God will try to heal something that is sick, Satan will try to destroy something that is healthy. In the healthy system will be found both rebels and wolves


a. Rebels are Christians who for whatever reasons have enough wounding to create problems for members in the flock because of their sin. They are good people who are just not conscious of what they are doing and why. They may be caught in a sin and need to be restored gently (Gal. 6.1). They may be acting out congregational pain that they have not been able to understand. Whatever the case, the flock is called to a process of lovingly winning these rebels through ardent pursuit outlined in Matthew 18. This passage begins by talking about true shepherds who make lost sheep their priority. It then says we are to go to our brother who is in sin and try to win him. We are to offer numerous opportunities for repentance, each with a higher relational price. If losing relationship is worth something to the rebel (this is what separates rebels from wolves), then he/she will eventually repent and have a genuine heart change. The key to this process is love. The parable of the unmerciful servant which follows in the text highlights how the atmosphere needs to be permeated with forgiveness


b. There is a difference between the rebel and the wolf. Rebels are good people with wounds who need to be loved back to health. Wolves are divisive people with hardened hearts who the enemy has planted with a strategy to destroy the fellowship. Titus says, "Warn a divisive person once, then twice, then have nothing to do with him" (3.10). Paul told the Corinthians to expel a wicked man from their midst (1 Cor. 5.13).


Discerning rebels from wolves and treating them accordingly is one of the jobs of eldership (even wolves are to be treated lovingly and with respect as human beings!). The difference is in the heart and the heart must be discerned.


This suggests that rebels are believers who have something against their Church for reasons they might not fully understand. It is said that sometimes it is necessary to end the relationship with the rebel to get them back on track. But read Matthew 18. Jesus said that the rebel was to be treated as a tax collector or a publican! In other words, treated with contempt not love.


Christianity when it follows Jesus properly is a toxic religion. Jesus said in Matthew 18 that the person is the problem - no love sinner and hate sin there! 

The Bible text quoted does not distinguish between a rebel and a wolf. The wolf has to be a rebel. The rebel is a wolf for his intention is to cause division and trouble and to draw others into it. The text is manipulated because Jackson does not want to urge the Churches to expel all who stubbornly rebel. It's bad for the collection plate.


1. If Jim Jones was a 10 and totally healthy is a 0 then most families and churches would fall somewhere on the spectrum. Healthy would go from few to some toxic behaviours, unhealthy from frequent to compulsive toxic behaviours. How toxic we were is a matter of debate. There is no question that I/we had dysfunction. How much is (in my opinion) a fruitless sidetrack. Whether it is one cancer cell or a thousand, let's call it cancer and ask God to root it out.
2. This book was extremely helpful to me because it gave me crucial insight into what was happening to us. If we understand what toxic faith is and what drives it, we can recognise it and choose never to walk in it in any degree.

Condensed by Bill Jackson