The Ten Characteristics of a Harmful Faith System

from Faith that Hurts, Faith that Heals by Stephen Arterburn & Jack Felton 1991 Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville Tenn.

1. Special Claims The members of the harmful faith system make claims about their character, abilities, or knowledge that make them "special" in some way

    a. The Claim of a Special Anointing or Calling

    b. The Claim of Special Powers from God

2. Authoritarianism The leader is dictatorial and authoritarian

3. An "Us Versus Them" Mentality Religious Addicts are at war with the world (flesh and the devil) to protect their terrain and establish themselves as godly persons who can't be compared to other persons of faith.

4. Punitive Nature Harmful faith systems are punitive in nature. The minister addicted to power punishes and purges the system of anybody who would upset the status quo.

5. Overwhelming Service Religious addicts are asked to give overwhelming service. Deep depression, extreme anxiety, and a general numbness are common in overwhelmed religious addicts.

6. Followers in Pain Many religious addicts in the system are physically ill, emotionally distraught, and spiritually dead. Denial becomes a quick and easy tool to live a lie until both physical and emotional trauma break the religious addicts' facades of perfection.

7. Closed Communication Communication is from the top down or from the inside out. With an attitude of spiritual superiority, religious addicts reinforce that they are always in greater touch with God's truth, more sensitive to God's will, and more worthy of being listened to than anyone else.

8. Legalism Rules are distortions of God's intent and leave Him out of the relationship. As new people come into the hurtful faith system, they are indoctrinated into the rules rather than strengthened in a relationship with God. It becomes a faith system based on "don'ts" rather than a faith centered on God. What you do is valued more than who you are.

9. No Objective Accountability Religious addicts have no system of objective accountability. If religious addicts were in healthy, accountable, relationships with others, hurtful faith would not be allowed to flourish. A person accountable only to God is a person out of control.

10. Labeling The technique of labeling is used to discount a person who opposes the beliefs of the religious addict. Labeling attempts to dehumanize persons so that dismissing them or their opinions is much easier. Labeling allows religious addicts to define truth, uphold that truth as defined, and destroy anyone else who would dare to question that truth.

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