Writings from Christine

15 Narcissistic Religious Abuse Tactics

by on December 30, 2014


If you suspect religious abuse, ask your clients this: is spiritual perfectionism demanded?  Are you terrified of not being accepted? Does the narcissist in your life have crazily ridiculous implausible spiritual expectations?

There was a time when your religious beliefs brought you companionship and peace, but now you struggle with intimacy, insecurity, and comparison. You used to find security in your faith, but now there is the only sanctuary in ceremonies and rituals. How did you get here?

A narcissist uses their religious belief to manipulate, control and dominate you through fear. They systematically take the life out of your faith and replace themselves in the center.

It doesn’t matter the religion. Major organizations such as Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and Jewish or even minor sects such as Mormon, Taoism, Confucianism, New Age, or Rastafari can be used. Even those who do not profess a belief in God such as Atheistic, Agnostic, or Satanism can be included.

It is not the type of belief but rather how the faith is used that makes it abusive.

  1. It begins with dichotomous thinking, diving people into two parts. Those who agree with the narcissist’s beliefs and those who don’t. Interestingly, only the narcissist is the judge and jury of who belongs on which side. Your opinion is insignificant.
  2. Then the narcissist makes fun of, belittles, and shows prejudice towards other beliefs. This tactic is done to remind you that if you change your views, you will be treated likewise.
  3. Suddenly the narcissist becomes elitist and refuses to associate with people or groups they consider impure or unholy. They prefer isolation and insist you do the same while condemning others who don’t.
  4. Next, the narcissist requires that you completely adopt their point of view. There is no room for differing opinions or questioning their authority. Any voicing of opinions to the contrary is met with threats of abandonment or divorce. There is no free will for you.
  5. Demands of total submission without question follow. You are not free to question their authority and any attempt to do so is met with spiritual, physical, and/or verbal discipline. Name-calling, chastising, and silent treatment are common maneuvers into compliance.
  6. The narcissist is no longer satisfied with private dominion but instead needs the appearance of power in public. They expect strict adherence to whatever image they have created regardless of the accuracy of that image. Even the slightest hint of challenging their façade is met with quick and cruel reprimands.
  7. To further intimidate, the narcissist labels people who don’t comply with their beliefs as disobedient, rebellious, lacking faith, demons, or enemies of the faith. This is done in front of others to reinforce their opinions and instill fear inside and outside the family.
  8. There is a huge emphasis on public performance. They demand perfection and happiness at all times. Religious activities such as attending church have extreme demands, excessive expectations, and rigidity. No allowances are given even for grieving over the loss of a friend or relative.
  9. Strict adherence to their rules and regulations is commanded with absolute statements about insignificant issues such as hair color or style. Non-compliance is met with severe discipline and even ex-communication.
  10. To further segregate, the narcissist uses secrecy or withholds information to a few select worthy individuals. Sometimes they require proof of advanced spirituality or some deeper level of commitment before they will share.
  11. Questioning the narcissist is worse than questioning the religion. Blind obedience to the narcissist is expected as their opinion is more important than religion. In essence, they have replaced your religion with themselves and you are expected to worship them.
  12. Narcissist frequently uses their religious position of authority to connive for their own personal benefit which is often financial. They will justify this behavior by saying they deserve it because they are better than others. You, however, will not be included because even your best is not good enough.
  13. For the narcissist, the end justifies the means. They may engage in criminal misconduct or cover up the transgressions of others in the name of their religion. This includes covering up sexual abuse, physical abuse, financial felonies, and misdemeanors. They believe they are above the law and therefore can subvert it.
  14. To complete the isolation, estrangement from extended family members and friends outside of the religion is mandatory. This includes shunning, alienation, or persecution. You are completely alone now with only them as the voice in your life.
  15. At the end of this, you find your own beliefs have lost their vitality and your religious growth is stagnant due to the constant abuse by the narcissist. It is not unusual for you to question your faith and even abandon it due to sadistic behavior.

You don’t have to be subject to religious abuse. Study these steps and refuse to be part of any organization that encourages this behavior. Your faith is far too precious to be destroyed by a narcissist. Don’t let them steal your joy.

To get your copy of the book, Abuse Exposed, click here.

Posted under: abuse Narcissism Writings from Christine

17 comment on 15 Narcissistic Religious Abuse Tactics


    Thank you for writing this. My father fit the bill pretty much perfectly, and in more covert ways, so do my mother and step-father. I can only say that a deep, personal connection with Jesus from a very early age is the only reason I didn’t run screaming from Christianity years ago. These wounds do make being “a Christian in community” very, very hard, though.


    Great article. I was trapped in this type of religion since I was born. I’m almost 30 now. It has caused me immense damage. EVERY single point in your article was true of them. Seeing this list has been really helpful. Any thoughts on how to find a therapist that has experience dealing in these issues? I’m not from your area. I feel my current therapist does not fully understand the depth of the issue.


    Thankyou Christine. I have just emerged from being divorced by a narcissist wife who is in the mould of her narcissist parents in religious leadership within a tradition that passively encourages narcissism. So in retrospect I didn’t have much chance to live authentically & have much disappointment on a few fronts! My mistake was not knowing the warning signs that were around me. What a relief to find some good clinical psychologists (after 30 years) and also read material like yours! I write from Australia and there is a huge federal enquiry here about abusive behaviour by religious (& other) institutions over past decades, essentially regarding sexual abuse of children but the culture of relationship pathology & personal abuse within some faith communities is in common with your article. Life goes on & things are now growing better for me. And God waits patiently to bring us healing!


    Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m going through this right now. My wife is not only using her religious views to control me, she’s also using our children. The fact that our church leadership encourages such a thing is a tragedy (LA Luz Bible Church). It’s enough to make most people give up their faith.


      So sorry about your experience.


      Marshall – NEVER GIVE IN! Jesus is coming brother, to set you free and fill your heart with the treasures and joys you’ve longed for – THIS I PROMISE….!!! You keep the path of faith and pray the devil stand behind you!

      Pray each and every day promise me please….promise me you’ll remain true to our God. And through your commitment, that very oath you swore upon, you too brother will walk with “The Lilly Of The Valley”, overflowing with unconditional love and completeness.

      – Christopher Nicolais


    My crazy muslim mother threatened to shave my head bald in my sleep because i refused to wear the hijab..


    How else can religiosity exist, if not precisely in the 15 ways you describe above as “narcissistic”??

    Every religious organization requires that one comply with those 15 ways. Some religious organizations are just more indirect about these requirements than others.


    […] dealt with some of these 15 Narcissistic Religious Abuse Tactics before I took a step back from my abuser. At one point, we had minimal contact for 7 years. One […]


    […] a skeptic and even I believed him. For more interesting takes on Religious Abuse by Narcissists: 15 Narcissistic Religious Abuse Tactics by Christine Hammond Narcissism & Religion: A Perfect Match @ Esteemology  What is Christian Narcissism by Dr. […]

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