So many christians – and this frustrates me to know – don’t actually know what they believe, right … they know what they believe personally, they just don’t know what the system that they are perpetuating teaches … and I feel like it makes it so easy to be in denial about the problems with it.Chuck Parson, The Life After Podcast1
In October 2020 approx. 73,9%2 of Denmark’s population, were members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark (our national church).
In a poll done by the market research institute YouGov for Kristeligt Dagblad in 2009, among 1114 Danes aged 18-74 years, only 25% answered that they believe that the baby Jesus is the Son of God, and only 18% answered that Jesus is the saviour of the world.3
In a Eurobarometer survey from 2010, it was found that only 28% of Danes believe there is a god, 47% said they believe in some form of spirit or life force, while 29% answered that they don’t believe in the existence of any kind of spirit, god or life force.
In a survey from 20164, done by Epinion for DR (Danish Broadcasting Corporation), 1095 (danish) respondents was asked how much they agree or disagree with the following sentence: “In my life, my religion is very important”. As many as 49% answered that they “completely disagree”. Only 17% said that they “totally agree”.
In a survey by market research institute YouGov in 2019 for Kristeligt Dagblad, only 43% of those who are members of the Church of Denmark, said that they believe in God.5
Why are so many Danes willingly supporting and every single year together spending many billions of Danish kroner6 on a faith that they don’t actively believe in, and aren’t really interested in?
A faith that is fundamentally, on several key points, the exact opposite of a democratic and humanistic way of thinking. A faith that many of the same people would most likely say no to, if a missionary came to their door, read the creeds aloud and sincerely explained their meaning, and then asked if they might want to support the spreading of the faith.
At the same time, Protestant Christianity can be deeply damaging, not at least psychologically and sexually.
Protestant Christianity is figuratively the perpetrator of violence who, despite the fact that you are innocent, keeps beating you with an iron bar so that you are in a hell of pain, and at the same time tells you that you are the guilty one and deserves it. Then he offers you some painkillers on the condition that you recognize how unworthy and useless you are in yourself, how good he is by giving you the pills despite your unworthiness, that you acknowledge that only he can take the pain, the shame, and the blame (that only his pills work), that you will never ever so much as consider using the pills from somebody else (no curiosity about whether he is actually speaking the truth), and that you will therefore always promise to follow him, because otherwise he will, for all eternity, have to beat you even harder for, in that case, you deserve it because you don’t follow him.
You are now caught in a vicious circle of lies, psychological manipulation and religious trauma reactions, where you believe you are unworthy and sinful, deserves that he beats you, and that only his pills can take the pain and sin away from you. You hate yourself and are filled with shame because you are so useless, but you are grateful for the pills and the security that they give you. You love your master, because he is so good to you and you want to tell everybody about how effective the pills he gives you are.
Protestant Christianity is a faith that is fundamentally psychologically manipulative and violent, not at least against many of those of us who are so unlucky to grow up within the faith and therefore never had a living chance to know of any other way to exist.
The damn thing is that precisely because the psychological violence is a quiet, manipulative, psychological process, which often happens over many years, makes it so invisible to most people – and it doesn’t make it any better that Protestant Christianity in Western culture, and not at least here in Denmark, at the same time is so widely accepted and normalized as it is, and that many, incl. many psychologists and doctors, aren’t trauma informed (especially when it comes to religious trauma) and don’t know what adverse religious experiences are and how they can affect you.
Psychologists Marlene Winell and Valerie Tarico describe in an article why we don’t notice the psychological damage that Christianity is causing:
One is the nature of the trauma itself. Unlike other harm, such as physical beating or sexual abuse, the injury is far from obvious to the victim, who has been taught to self-blame. It’s as if a person black and blue from a caning were to think it was self-inflicted.Marlene Winell and Valerie Tarico, The Crazy-Making in Christianity: A look at real psychological harm7
The second reason that religious harm goes unrecognized is that Christianity is still the cultural backdrop for the indoctrination. While the larger society may not be fundamentalist, references to God and faith abound. . . . These lend credence to theistic authority.
Religious trauma is difficult to see because it is camouflaged by the respectability of religion in culture. To date, parents are afforded the right to teach their own children whatever doctrines they like, no matter how heinous, degrading, or mentally unhealthy. Even helping professionals largely perceive Christianity as benign. This will need to change for treatment methods to be developed and people to get helped.
In addition, Protestant faith has historically, for most of the time since it was created by Luther and the other Reformers during the Reformation, also been a physically violent faith. This also applies here in Denmark, where we even, for not that many centuries ago – not at least as a result of the Reformation – by law, had religious coercion with violence and the possibility of the death penalty as a consequence, if you didn’t act as a good Lutheran-Evangelical Christian. One thing that is important to note here, is that the ideology and the creeds were the same back then, as they are in the Church of Denmark today.
Yes, we have dropped the physical violence, but the mental and psychological violence and manipulation, which is an integral part of Protestant theology, are still to be found today, including within the Evangelical Lutheran Church here in Denmark (the Danish National Church).
Are most Danes really that ignorant about the way of thinking and the ideology they say yes to by being a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church here in Denmark (the Danish National Church), as well as about the history behind it?
In the epilogue to his book, “Luther. Antidemokrat og statsidol”, Cand.mag., Mag.art. in history of religion and Semitic philology, Jens-André P. Herbener, writes:
Well, is there really such a big difference between Luther’s values and modern democratic values? Yes, there is. In many cases.Jens-André P. Herbener, Luther. Antidemokrat og statsidol, U Press, 2017, page 347-348, My translation
But the thing is that most Danes probably know between little and nothing about the dark sides of Luther and Lutheranism. It is undoubtedly connected with the fact that those in power, and the largest religion in this country, have been Lutheran for a very long time. And as victors, they have imposed the perspective that is the most favourable to themselves.
Yet, time and time again, Lutheran priests are seen lamenting the Danes’ ignorance of our Christian cultural heritage. What they more precisely mean is obviously a lack of knowledge of their version of the cultural heritage. For if they hung the mountains of filthy laundry freely on display, in churches, parishes, media, etc., it would inevitably lead to an even greater membership decline in the national church, than is already the case.
The negative consequences of Protestant Christianity can hit those of us who have grown up in these Christian environments, extra hard. Not at least because, from a psychological point of view, we have had no real choice, as we have not known anything else and therefore, as the culture we have grown up in, have often taken the faith very seriously and as the genuine truth – a faith where parts of the faith subsequently can sit in our bodies as a form of trauma and therefore be difficult to get rid of.
Here it’s also worth mentioning Protestant sexuality and relationship “ethics” (Purity Culture) and the traumas it can give you. Traumas that, at worst, can be in line with those you might end up with after a physical sexual assault8.
The Christian doctrine that are passed on by parents, teachers, pastors, and other Christian leaders – who all may mean their best – can ultimately do deep harm. Good intentions aren’t enough to prevent traumatization, neglect, or abuse.
Then there is the religious inequality and sometimes lack of religious freedom, which we, not at least by virtue of the Danish National Church and Danish Christian culture, have here in Denmark. We don’t have freedom of religion just because it is written into the The Constitutional Act of Denmark. It is a good start, but it’s far from enough – especially when our freedom of religion is a half-hearted and amputated version of the real thing, in that the Evangelical Lutheran Church at the same time, also via The Constitutional Act of Denmark, has been set up on a pedestal by the state as the national church and thus as being better than all other religions – and as a result, is also part of the Finance Act.9.
How would you feel about it if the Danish state put Muslim fundamentalists on the Financial Act and started paying a part of their imams’ salaries with your tax money? This is what is happening today, in relation to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark (the Danish National Church).
Despite the fact that I’m no longer a member of the Church of Denmark and is no longer a Christian, but an atheist and humanist, I am still forced through the tax that I pay, to help pay part of the salaries of the Evangelical Lutheran priests and the perpetuation of a fundamentalist belief, that I today consider to be enormously unhealthy and dangerous, and which has stolen decades of my life. And even worse, it is an oppression and inequality that is written directly into The Constitutional Act of Denmark.
Can we allow ourselves to call Denmark a democratic and free country as long as we are forcing everyone who pay taxes to support the perpetuation of the Evangelical-Lutheran faith in Denmark, no matter how much one disagrees with the Evangelical Lutheran doctrine?
Therefore, it is important that we completely separate church and state – something we, in the name of religious freedom and equality, should have done a long time ago.
As I said in the beginning, a very large part of Denmark’s population are still, despite not being believers, members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark (the Danish National Church). But what good is it to have freedom of religion if we don’t use it in relation to what we spend our money and resources on? Your money speaks a much clearer language than your words – especially when they don’t follow what you say you believe in. Why help with keeping a religion alive that you don’t believe in and with which you may disagree deeply on several points? How about instead spending the money on something that matches your values?
My goal isn’t to convert people from religion – your life, your choice – but when religion and/or culture such as Protestant Christianity is build on such a humanly oppressive and harmful foundation, that it totally unnecessarily deteriorate people’s quality of life and well-being, results in the indoctrination of some children and young people so that their freedom of religion is psychologically taken away from them, psychologically deprives us of many other important life choices, traumatises quite a few of us, deprives us of important parts of ourselves (such as a good relationship with our own body and sexuality), for some of us steals large parts of our lives, and in the most extreme cases can drive people to suicide, then we have a big problem we should take seriously.
That it, at the same time, is a faith that is so widely normalized and accepted by a large majority here in Denmark, without us questioning the faith and its negative effects on people and society, only makes the issues even bigger and more difficult.
There is a serious lack of genuine criticism of religion in Denmark – especially when it comes to Evangelical Lutheran Christianity and the Church of Denmark. The propaganda of the Evangelical Lutheran Church here in Denmark has for far too long been allowed to stand largely unchallenged. We draw Muhammad cartoons and criticize some religions for their oppression and fundamentalism, while shaking our heads at others. It’s easy to point fingers at other people’s harmful cultures and oppressive ideologies. It’s easy to find all the gaps in faiths that aren’t our own. But when it comes to religion and culture, it can be very difficult to sweep before your own door first.
If you are a member of the Danish National Church, whether you are a believer or not, then I have no doubt that you, to some extent, can talk about the things that you consider to be the good sides of Lutheran Christianity – and the more you believe in Christianity, the more you probably have to say about it. But if I give you 10 minutes, how much can you tell me about the humanly traumatizing and oppressive aspects of Lutheran Christianity and the Church of Denmark, both historically and today?
If you knew more about those sides of Lutheran Christianity and the Church of Denmark, and took them seriously, what implications would they have for your faith and your support for the Evangelical Lutheran Church here in Denmark?
For me? In the summer of 2017, as a 38-year-old, I was faced with an anxious and frightening choice between, on the one hand, God and the Lutheran Christianity and culture I grew up in, and on the other hand, myself, humanism and other people – at the risk that if Luther’s God is real, to end up under his wrath and be thrown into hell for all eternity. In the end, despite the anxiety, I couldn’t help but choose myself and other people. In April 2018, I opted out of my membership in the Church of Denmark.
In the first approx. 38 years of my life, because of Protestant Christianity, I had in many respects no choice psychologically, religiously and sexually. Now I’m left with the damage done by Christianity and the church which, under the pretext of setting people free, mentally ties up people’s hands and feets. Is that what we call freedom?
In general, people who have not survived an authoritarian fundamentalist indoctrination do not realize what a complete mind-rape it really is.Marlene Winell (psykolog), Religious Trauma Syndrome10
Then, when you want to heal from the damage done, how do you find the safety and help (not at least psychologically and emotionally), that you need to heal, in a country, where approx. 74% of the population (presumably incl. most doctors, therapists and psychologists) supports the offender11, who has mentally raped you and stolen large parts of your life?12
How do you heal from the indoctrination, anxiety, shame, trauma, neglect and/or abuse when it is so systemic and normalized for, as well as accepted by, the Danish culture you grew up in and are forced to still live in? When the resources and the knowledge you need to heal doesn’t exist in Denmark?
Maybe it would be a good idea for us to become better acquainted with what kind of ideology, theology and way of thinking we are spending billions of Danish kroner on every year? I mean … it’s a fucking lot of money to spend on something we don’t consider as being important, which can potentially be deeply harmful, and which may go against our own values on several key points.
Maybe it would be worth it to take a look at the dark side of Protestant Christianity, culture, and the Church of Denmark, which your local pastor with certainty are wishing that you preferably won’t discover?
Maybe it was time we swept before our own door first?
- Dare to Doubt with Alice Grecyzn, 26 sep. 2020, timecode: 1:29:10, https://www.thelifeafter.org/podcast/episode/42df8deb/dare-to-doubt-with-alice-grecyzn
- Can be found in the anthology, Christianity Is Not Great, edited by John W. Loftus, and https://journeyfree.org/article/the-crazy-making-in-christianity-a-look-at-real-psychological-harm/
- Psychologist Laura Anderson calls it “super dangerous” and describes how it is comparable to rape culture. You can see her expounding on purity culture 47:51 minutes into this video (if you click on the link, the video should begin playing at the right timecode – let the video run for at least 6-7 minutes): https://youtu.be/VnOST_OXpkg?t=2871
She is, of course, talking about purity culture in the American version where they sometimes have Purity pledges, Purity rings and Purity balls. I haven’t come across these elements in Evangelical Lutheran Christianity here in Denmark. However, that doesn’t change anything in relation to the damage that comes out of Christian sexuality and relationship “ethics”, also here in Denmark, because the doctrine, way of thinking, arguments and the scriptures that are often used to substantiate these, are to a large extent the same in Protestant Christianity here in Denmark (incl. within our national church), as they are in the United States. Thus, they can also cause the same psychological and sexual damage.
- Protestant Christianity / the Church of Denmark
- This is the reason why there are projects in the English-speaking world, such as the Secular Therapy Project, which is part of Recovering from Religion. https://www.seculartherapy.org