The 6 Most Common Ways People Abuse Their Spiritual Beliefs

By Georgia

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Last Updated: August 7, 2021

Spirituality and religion are both deeply personal and communal experiences. What and how someone believes can completely change the trajectory of their life; introducing them to new people and a new world, and sometimes breaking bonds and severing connections with people they once loved. 

But while so much can feel right and positive with one's personal beliefs, a lot can also go very wrong when we don’t consider how sharing those beliefs can affect others. It is important that no matter how ingrained spiritual systems are in our own lives, we don't allow it to spill over inappropriately into the lives of others. 

 

Let’s talk about the 6 most common ways people abuse their spiritual beliefs.

 

1. Converting People to be Believers 

Increasing the congregation and bringing more parishioners into the fold is one of the tenets of some major religions. 

But while it may be expected of followers to recruit more people into the fold, and although conversion may be encouraged, once someone expresses disinterest in changing their faith, their preference should be respected. 

It is unfair to expect others to respect one's faith when that person has no respect for anyone else's. It is not okay to constantly bring up one's faith or the benefits thereof when no one else is interested in discussing it, or being lectured on it. 

Know when it’s time to change the subject and let it go. 

 

2. Spiritual Superiority

Likewise, while it is wonderful to find peace and happiness in one's own belief system, it is unkind and unwelcome to claim moral or spiritual superiority over another person or different beliefs. 

If what or how someone believes is not working for them or is causing more harm than good, it is okay to broach the subject if you are close and trusted enough to confide in. 

But coming from a place of superiority is still not a recommended tactic, even if what you believe would provide a better spiritual experience than the oppression and burden the other is potentially living with. 

No one faith is right, has all the answers, or works for everyone, even if part of that faith is believing so. 

 

3. Expecting Everyone to Abide by Your Religious Standards 

With so many ways to worship in the world, it is impossible to have a single standard for everyone to live by. But people who overextend their spiritual beliefs often hold others to their standards, requiring non-believers and followers of different faiths to abide by the rules of their specific religion. 

Outside of common sense laws meant to protect people and their property, trying to change someone's behavior based on another's beliefs doesn’t work. 

Forcing one's religion onto others and holding them to an entirely separate standard will not change hearts or minds, it will only breed animosity.

 

4. Accusing Others of Religious Persecution

Religious persecution is very real and a serious threat to life in many parts of the world. But unfortunately, some people, typically from privileged backgrounds in developed countries, seem to find persecution wherever they step. 

They may be feigning religious persecution on purpose to advance their cause and promote their beliefs, or truly feel their religious rights are being trampled on. But what they fail to understand is the seriousness of the accusation they are lobbying, and the meaning of true persecution. 

People who misuse their spiritual beliefs think their faith is special and exempt from the same rules as anyone else's. If public prayer or other religious activities are banned in a location, they believe theirs shouldn't be and claim their religion is being targeted when it is not; especially if private prayer or other practices are allowed. 

They also view inclusion of other's rights and beliefs as exclusion of theirs. This typically manifests itself during the winter holidays as the non-existent “War on Christmas.” 

Saying “Happy Holidays,” is not an affront to Christmas or Christians, it is inclusive of everyone, including those who don't celebrate Christmas. These are examples of religious virtue signaling and can be quite obnoxious.

 

5. Tolerance for Hate

Spiritual abuse can unfortunately go hand in hand with hate and intolerance. Regardless of someone's personal beliefs about gender identity, sexual preference, bodily autonomy, and more, some religious abusers believe they don't need to respect or tolerate people they disagree with because they are on the “right” side of an issue. 

They believe having a direct connection to their Higher Power and divine guidance allows them to be disrespectful, hateful, harassing, threatening, and even violent toward others because their faith allows for it; even if the law doesn't. 

 

6. Getting a Free Pass 

Along the same lines, people who abuse their spiritual beliefs will often justify malevolent, criminal, amoral and anti-religious behavior because they apparently got the OK from their Higher Power. 

Many people throughout history have used the excuse of “It's OK because God told me to,” to harm, abuse or murder people, commit crimes, and go directly against the religious texts they try to force others to live by. 

Looking for another perspective? Read How Spirituality Can Help Make You a Better Person

 

Don’t Force It 

It's easy to become overzealous when someone feels like they have the answers and can help others find the peace, community and purpose they have. 

But every person walks their own path. And although some religions and belief systems claim their way is the only true way, no one can force faith upon another. 

It is in no one's best interest to guilt, shame, harass or manipulate someone into what we think would be a better life for them. The other person has to find their own way and be just as excited and motivated to participate in their faith as any other follower. 

They should feel comfortable and free, not like a hostage. Sharing one's faith with others is a wonderful thing, but only if they are open to receive it.

 

Photo by Budgeron Bach from Pexels

 

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3 comments on “The 6 Most Common Ways People Abuse Their Spiritual Beliefs”

  1. I do understand we don't want to beat it down their throats or say my way or the highway. There are so many Christians take their faith like a buffet. They pick and choose what commands they want and put back what doesn't fit their lifestyle. If we except Jesus as Lord of our lives. God's word is God's will. His whole truth.

  2. I'm a human being first and what I believe trust and know is what happens comes next. I wouldn't shove my beliefs on anyone nor will I use it as a weapon like I have the power to do so. We all have a higher source to answer to rather we believe in it or not. My experiences and beliefs are apart of my life. I love the Lord and I fear and care about what he thinks of me even when I'm not at my best. I know it's in me. I trust he has what is best for me. It's up to every individual to get that in them if they choose and how they choose. Ask someone else and they would have their opinion about their beliefs.

  3. Jesus say he the only way to Salvation
    By no other, And I do recognize if the Spirit of God Do Reach Out , Many Still Will Reject Him!
    I Also Believe No One Is Able To Look Down On Another, Cause If It Wasn’t For The Mercy Of Jesus , Where Would We Be?

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