Everybody should be free to choose for themselves, what religions they want to support and/or believe in and which they don’t want to support and/or believe in, including the right to choose to live a life free from religion.
Here in Danmark the freedom of religion is a part of the Constitutional Act of Denmark. But it is far from enough, because the Evangelical Lutheran Church is, at the same time, also in our constitution as a national church that is supported by the state.
The majority of the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church’s (our national church / Church of Denmark’s) income here in Denmark comes from the church tax. In 2018 I left our national church and I therefore no longer pay church tax. But in addition to this, the Danish National Church is also on our Finance Act, where the state gives the church a subsidy, which among other things are used to pay a larger part of the pastors’ salaries and pensions1.
As a child I was indoctrinated into Evangelical Lutheran Christianity, among other things through the Church of Denmark’s Sunday schools, and was therefore, psychologically speaking, only able to leave the faith at the age of 38. Today, I’m an agnostic atheist. I am now left with various (especially religious) traumas, an experience of having been emotionally and mentally raped by the ideology and theology of Protestant Christianity, as well as having been deprived of an important part of the first 38 years of my life.
At the same time, I’m forced to be okay with the fact that a part of the taxes I pay to the Danish state, goes to the Church of Denmark and the pastors’ salaries, so they can indoctrinate and potentially traumatize even more children and young people with a Lutheran doctrine, that I no longer believe in, and have personally seen the very dark side of.
How is that fair?
The same applies to all other tax-paying citizens in Denmark that have other beliefs / convictions than the Evangelical Lutheran. Why should they, through the state, be forced to help perpetuate the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark (our national church)? Again, how is that fair?
In Denmark today, it isn’t possible to live a life 100% free from religion, which includes the freedom from being forced to financially support religions through the state. Consequently, we don’t yet have full religious freedom and not at all religious equality. The economic side is, unfortunately, only one of several signs of how poorly we also here in Denmark, so far, have been to create complete freedom of religion and religious equality.
Proselytizing is always objectification.
The infographic above is created by Chrissy Stroop. In the blog post “Empowerment against Evangelization: Countering Conversion Attempts by Asserting Moral Autonomy”2, she writes:
“Proselytizing is always objectification. Let people follow their own consciences. . . . when you seek someone out for conversion, you are making that person into an object. You are placing yourself above them, even colonizing them. You have ceased to respect the very moral autonomy that makes your target a human being with dignity equal to your own. To my mind, this is extremely damning, and in the face of aggressive evangelicals I often come back to this point. Their narrative dehumanizes me. I reject it and assert my humanity.”
You can read Chrissy’s full explanation, here: https://cstroop.com/2019/08/29/empowerment-against-evangelization-points-for-countering-the-stress-caused-by-conversion-attempts
It isn’t freedom of religion, if it doesn’t include freedom from indoctrination (incl. from parents, other family members and the local pastor).
Yes, I know it. For many people, this is a controversial opinion to have, because it means that religious parents, pastors and other religious leaders, missionaries and schools, shouldn’t just be allowed to “educate” (the right words here are often indoctrinate, brainwash, traumatize or intimidate) children and young people into their own faith, without regard to the psychological consequences of the faith for the children. It means that I, among other things, go against the Church of Denmark’s pastor vows, where the pastors sign that they promise that they “will work for the youth’s Christian enlightenment and guidance”, and against that parents, for example through infant baptism, should be allowed to ritually force their own faith down the throats of their children. Indoctrination is a form of child maltreatment. But this shouldn’t be controversial, especially not if we really believe that freedom of religion should be for everyone.
Exposing children to sexual situations before they are mature enough to consent to sexual acts can, in worst case, result in them being psychologically deprived of their sexuality and an important part of their lives, and later in life having to do the hard work that it is to reclaim their own sexual identity, sexuality and a good relationship with their own body. We therefore have a sexual minimum age as well as legislation against paedophilia to protect children from that kind of coercion and abuse.
We should likewise have provisions that protects children from religious coercion and abuse until they reach an age where it can be assumed that they have the maturity and knowledge that it takes for them to be able to freely make their own informed religious choices. At the same time, for those who have been harmed by growing up in religious circles (like the Danish national church) there should be help to heal from the damage done.
This should among other things include public information about indoctrination and religious trauma (and other forms of damage done by religion and faith), as well as a health system that openly recognizes religious psychological damage and traumas and, among other things, provides free access to certified secular trauma trained psychologists.
Why? Because the alternative, as it is today, ends with some children and young people psychologically getting their religious freedom taken away from them and in a mix of sexual, emotional and psychological traumas – or said in another way: Religious Trauma Syndrome3.
What is most important? The well-being of children, also later in life, as well as their right to freedom of religion and their ability, without fear, to be able to choose for themselves when they reach an age where it becomes possible, or the right of adults to force their faith down the throats of others, not least children and young people, and see them as their mission field, without the children themselves having a living chance to say no? Why should oppression, religious indoctrination (including through the Church of Denmark’s Sunday schools) and psychological manipulation be okay, just because we call it religion and religious indoctrination at the same time (including through the Church of Denmark) is so normalized and accepted in our culture today? Should it be okay just because the effect of the indoctrination is psychological (and thus are invisible to most people except those of us that it has harmed) and staggered in time?
Therefore, freedom from being other peoples mission field, is especially important in relation to children, young people, and others in situations where they don’t have the experiences, resources and/or ability to think critical about religion on their own, isn’t able to conduct their own research and/or isn’t in a position to say no under religious pressure (which in many environments is often built into the religious teachings and is therefore constant over a number of years – often decades), and religious manipulative ideas like: original sin and that you have a dirty heart4,that your life isn’t your own5, that you are stupid and are ruining your life if you don’t build your life on Jesus6, demon possessions and threats about for example hell and eternal torture. Here, it’s totally irrelevant how the messages has been presented. It is religious pressure that often has a high potential to end up in fear, anxiety, shame7 and traumas and thus end up in not at least psychological, emotional and sexual problems, which some of the children and young people who are exposed to this, to varying degrees have to struggle with later in life (and sometimes for the rest of their life).
So, freedom of religion and religious equality in Denmark? No, unfortunately there is still a long way to go. It won’t happen before we have completely removed Evangelical Lutheran Christianity from the Constitutional Act of Denmark, and that won’t happen as long as most Danes either don’t understand the seriousness of the problem and the religious oppression that is built directly into the Constitutional Act of Denmark and Evangelical Lutheran Christianity, and which they may themselves (often ignorantly) support through the Danish National Church, or just don’t care about because they either themselves benefit from the oppression and/or because it doesn’t affect them personally.
For children who are born into this system, they are introduced to fundamentalist concepts from the time they are born and often have no idea that anything they are learning is abusive, abnormal or that life is any other way. While they may still engage in the cycle mentioned previously, these individuals may have a harder time leaving this system due to having no other prior experience of life outside of the abusive religious system and therefore no recognition that life could be any different.Laura Anderson, Religious Trauma: Understanding the Dynamics of Adverse Religious Experiences & Religious Trauma, p. 488
I’m not against freedom of religion, quite to the contrary. As I wrote at the beginning, I think that everybody should be free to choose what religions they want to support and believe in. At the same time, I’m also in favor of preventing religious harm and trauma and I’m therefore against indoctrination, like for example the “education” of children and young people in the protestant and Evangelical Lutheran faith. An “education” that for many children and young people actually (not at least due to the fear and shame that is built into the doctrine) psychologically can take away both their religious freedom and a number of other important fundamental freedoms and life choices.
A belief in freedom of religion and religious equality for all is therefore in itself a very good reason to leave Protestant Christianity and the national church. And it’s a really good reason to support a complete separation between state and church. For both ideologically and psychologically speaking, religious freedom and equality on the one hand, and Protestant Christianity and the Danish national church on the other, are per definition, opposites of each other – and always have been.
- Original sin is among one of the most psychologically destructive ideas/assumptions in Protestant and Evangelical Christianity.
It is also one of the most fundamental doctrines in Evangelical-Lutheran Christianity (incl. in the Danish national church). In the Augsburg Confession (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augsburg_Confession), which is part of the Church of Denmark’s confessions of faith, original sin is listed as the second most important article.
Luther wrote about original sin and it’s alleged consequences, in most of his writings. This because it is so fundamental for his faith and theology. Without original sin Lutheran theology falls apart. Without original sin, there is no Lutheran theology and no Church of Denmark.
Therefore, if you are a member of an Evangelical-Lutheran (or maybe just Protestant / Evangelical) church, you are by definition supporting the idea of original sin, no matter if you agree with it or not.
- “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Cor. 6:19-20, ESV
- Matt. 7,24-27 and Luk. 6,46-49. The idea is that if you build your life on Jesus, then you are like the wise man, but if you don’t, then you are like the foolish man.
What child wants to be seen as a fool by the adults in its life?
On page 68-69 in Børnefrø 2, a leadership book for Sunday school teachers in the Church of Denmark working with children as young as 4 years old, you can read that: “If we do as Jesus says and live our lives with him, we are like the wise man. But if we forget Jesus, we are fools, the parable tells us.”
It is normalized and systematized religious bullying, as well as authoritarian blackmail and brainwashing of children. Here in Denmark supported by the Danish state and the members of the Danish National Church (73,6% of the Danish population, Q2 2021, https://www.dst.dk/en/Statistik/emner/kultur-og-kirke/folkekirken/medlemmer-af-folkekirken). The children don’t have a living chance to say no. It’s another really good example of how you (with fear and shame) can psychologically take the children’s religious freedom from them – and it happens systematically, also in the Danish National Church.
- Listen to Dr. Eric Sprankle, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology, talk about shame. Both in general and sexually (begins approx. 6 min 19 sec. into the podcast): https://podbay.fm/p/the-heart-of-jacks-podcast/e/1614585600?t=374