What is the difference between spiritual abuse and religious abuse?
Many people go through life believing that religion and spirituality are the same. Religion has claimed ownership of the word “faith” as though it is synonymous with dogma. In reality, religion and spirituality are two completely different experiences. They can, and do, exist without each other. In this awareness we can recognize that spiritual abuse and religious abuse are separate experiences.
Religious abuse is attributed to abuse that affects individuals physically. It is generally recognized as physical or sexual abuse that is justified by religious dogma or exercised by religious opportunists. Religious abuse is connected to human rights abuses. It affects the physical reality of those who are abused as well as those who are perpetuating the abuse. The physical and emotional trauma caused by religious abuse requires a lifetime of understanding, healing and acceptance.
Spiritual abuse is much more subtle and more difficult to detect than religious abuse. Similar to emotional abuse, it leaves no physical scars, yet causes a lifetime of fear, depression, mistrust and lack of fulfillment. Spiritual abuse is found within the religious and organizational beliefs, rather than physical actions. Spiritual abuse prevents individuals from achieving a true connection to God and accessing genuine spirituality. Through the fear-based teachings of religion, many are unable to access their own true divine worth and potential. Unlike religious abuse, which affects the physical experience of those affected by the abuse, spiritual abuse causes trauma to the soul. It affects our life experience, as well as our perception of our eternal experience. Unlike religious abuse, most individuals who are perpetuating spiritual abuse are completely unaware of the role that they are playing, because they themselves are affected by the abuse.
We cannot truly heal spiritual abuse and religious abuse with the same beliefs that abused us. Recovering from spiritual abuse requires that we first recognize its existence and where it stems from. Learning how to diagnose the fears that have controlled our lives and how to work through them, can be a long and painful process. Yet that process is well worth the effort. It requires that we recognize our fears, understand them, and learn to love them. The process then becomes a tremendously rewarding and liberating experience. It brings us to understand our true divine worth, our true connection to ourselves and a deeper knowing of Spirit. It brings an inner peace and joy that truly is heaven on earth.