Written by James Matthew Branum

Have you ever wondered if your religious community is hurting you?

If so, we encourage you to look for these FIVE symptoms of a toxic religious community.

Toxic Symptom # 1 – An “us verses them” mentality, which may include requiring members to cut off ties with family members and friends who are not part of the community. Often such communities have their own internal culture which serves to further isolate its members from the outside.

Toxic Symptom #2 – Unreasonable demands of your time and money, even when it hurts the well being of yourself or your family.

Toxic Symptom #3 – Seeking to rigorously control the sexuality of its members — we’re not talking about ethical guidance on issues of self-care and consent, but rather about the need for institutional control of the sexuality of its members.

Toxic Symptom #4 – Critical thinking is discouraged and questioning leadership is forbidden.

Toxic Symptom #5 – A strict hierarchy is maintained with leadership using fear and coercion to remain in power. No one feels secure. Often the upper tiers of leadership are governed by a different standard than those at the bottom.

If you see any of these symptoms in your community, please know that you have choices — to try to reform your community, to leave it or to find another community.

We at the Objector Church seek to provide a home for those who have experienced toxic forms of religion, but who still want to experience the positive parts of spirituality from an interfaith/religious humanist perspective. We have live webcasts every week at facebook.com/objector.church and also have two congregations in Oklahoma and California that you can be part of.

You can learn more about us at www.Objector.Church