When I was thirteen, shortly after my disturbed and deeply unstable mother had thrown me out of the house and I was grudgingly received into the house (I won’t dignify it by calling it a home) of my father and his new wife (my step-mother,) I became, as might be expected, and which I may conceivably expect to be forgiven for, a rather argumentative and defiant child (although, interestingly, only at home – never at school). I remember ( indeed, the memory is seared into my brain), that I was arguing with my step-mother in the kitchen and she suddenly fixed me with a violent stare and started to shout (loudly and with a kind of demented aggression) at me in ‘tongues’. I do not know if she deliberately faked it or whether it was merely a symptom of religious psychosis. I do know, however, that, as a naive thirteen-year-old, it profoundly disturbed my sense of self. Was I not just bad, but evil? And not just evil, but so evil that God had just taken the trouble to let me know, in no uncertain terms, personally (rather than, say, the serial killer that had been on the front page of the paper that day?).
Emotional abuse by parents, or, indeed, if I may be so bold as to suggest, by step-parents, has such a destructive effect not least because of the disparity in power between them and the child. The more authority and power that the emotional abuser has, the more damaging the effects of that emotional abuse are likely to be.
Those who use religion to abuse others employ the tactic of augmenting their power, authority and control BY PRESENTING THEMSELVES AS HAVING DIVINE AUTHORITY. They have the breathtaking arrogance to position themselves as god’s spokesperson. They will, too, of course, carefully select passages from religious texts like the bible to bully, control and coerce others, robbing them of their individuality and authenticity – even their independence of thought. The victim of this abuse can find that they are left feeling bad, worthless, guilty and ashamed.
They may even spend their childhoods, and, later, much of their adulthood, preoccupied that they are destined for eternal torture in hell.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).