Tag Archives: Valerie Tarico

‘Religious Trauma Syndrome: How some organized religion leads to mental health problems’

In an interview with Psychologist Valerie Tarico, Dr. Marlene Winell says,

“Religious trauma syndrome (RTS) is a set of symptoms and characteristics that tend to go together and which are related to harmful experiences with religion. They are the result of two things: immersion in a controlling religion and the secondary impact of leaving a religious group. The RTS label provides a name and description that affected people often recognize immediately. Many other people are surprised by the idea of RTS, because in our culture it is generally assumed that religion is benign or good for you. Just like telling kids about Santa Claus and letting them work out their beliefs later, people see no harm in teaching religion to children.

“But in reality, religious teachings and practices sometimes cause serious mental health damage. The public is somewhat familiar with sexual and physical abuse in a religious context. As Journalist Janet Heimlich has documented in, Breaking Their Will, Bible-based religious groups that emphasize patriarchal authority in family structure and use harsh parenting methods can be destructive.

“But the problem isn’t just physical and sexual abuse. Emotional and mental treatment in authoritarian religious groups also can be damaging…”

Read the entire interview at: Religious Trauma Syndrome: How some organized religion leads to mental health problems.via Religious Trauma Syndrome: How some organized religion leads to mental health problems.

An ex-pastor’s salient point: ‘feelings, nothing more than feelings’

Feelings and experiences might just have more to do with conversion, and de-conversion, than critical thinking.

The truth is my personal experiences forced me to do what I should have been doing all along, critically examining my faith. It took these experiences because the power of delusion is that strong. So just because many of us leave the faith after some bad experiences, it does not follow that experiences alone caused us to leave the faith. The bad experiences merely caused us to wake from our dogmatic slumbers. They force us into actually thinking critically about our inherited faith for probably the first time in our lives,” writes John W. Loftus in Why I Became An Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity (italics in the original).

Loftus also notes that people usually have a conversion experience or conversion feelings, and then set out to try to justify them rationally.

And, Loftus says if feelings and experiences are grounds for conversion, they can be grounds for de-conversion, too. Or maybe he was saying feelings and experiences kind of cancel each other out in the faith-versus-skepticism debate.

Maybe all that isn’t surprising. Hume said reason is, and ought to be, slave to the passions.

But it’s more than just Loftus’s perspective on bad experiences. Consider, too, this video by Dr. Valerie Tarico, a former evangelical, and watch at least to the 3:49 mark. Tarico considers the nature of conversion experiences. If you watch about the first four minutes, you might be surprised by the research Tarico presents, at least if you consider similarities in conversion experiences to be a kind of evidence for the type of belief system you have.

Furthermore, Michael Shermer and Andy Thomson take a look at how and why the brain believes — typically not upon rational bases.

So what’s the point? The point is: our way of assessing feelings and experiences tends to be central to our appropriation or rejection of a belief, and feelings and experiences are shaky grounds in light of our best available understanding of the brain.