Home  About Contact Donate Articles on Relationships Radio Marriage & Family Counseling Services  Keeping it Hott Seminars  PrepareEnrich Justice of the Peace Weddings


Identifying Poisonous Teachings

When Religion Causes Pain

By Barrington H. Brennen, August 4, 2011, July 26, 2018

 WORD Format


Over the years I have written a few articles about toxic faith.  In November 2008 I wrote in an article entitled “The Church Must Change” that “Toxic faith prevents one from searching deep into the word of God and one’s life with an open mind.  It makes one depend on someone else to guide one’s life more than the Creator.   If one can break away from this poisonous faith, there will be a beginning of hope and a prevention or avoidance of abuse in all its forms.”   Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton in their book “Toxic Faith, Experiencing Healing from Painful Spiritual Abuse” list the forms and variations of toxic faith.  They are: compulsive religious activity, laziness, giving to get, self-obsession, extreme intolerance, addiction to a religious high.


Toxic faith or poisonous religion freezes people in a state of legalism, rigidity, and oftentimes aloofness. When religion should be bringing us closer with a spirit of kindness and compassion, far too many religious leaders are actually creating members who are judgmental, harsh, and self-righteousness. The concepts of understanding, tolerance, sensitivity has lost their importance in many religious houses.

There are many erroneous theological teachings that have mushroomed in our churches that are really a corruption of teachings we’ve held for centuries. For example: Spiritual leaders are “demanding” that God answer a particular prayer. They make statements like “I declare in the name of Jesus that you are healed.” We have no power to declare anything. That concept is toxic that leads many committed believers into depression, severe doubt and feelings of rejection. Trusting God to do what is best for us has become impotent in the hearts of many believers. Instead, they are demanding from God. They are being taught that if there is any questioning about doubting then there is no faith in God.

Some churches have developed rituals that have no scriptural base and really make no sense. For example, they lock doors when praying or preaching. The leaders make the congregants feels that “this is what God said,” or “this is the only way to demonstrate true faith.” This kind of teaching is leading people to cease taking much-needed medication or medical treatments for diseases. They are being taught that taking medication or doing chemotherapy is a sign of lack of faith in Jesus. The truth is this a very poisonous teaching. It is doing more damage to the physical, emotional, and spiritual lives of people than the effect of a class of wine.
Once again, I have noticed that it seems easier to start a new church that to start a new business. We have so many churches but not as much loving and caring. It is as though as the number of churches increase so does the crime and partner and child abuse.


In the Bahamas we claim to be a people of religious faith.  However, far too often the faith displayed is toxic.  There is too much damming and condemning and not enough encouraging.  There is far too little teaching that transforms lives and too much teaching that frightens people in to the kingdom.  Far too many church members are not being taught to think for themselves or are not taught that they really should think for themselves.  Thus, I thought to share from the book “Toxic Faith” these three topics for your personal enrichment and discussion:  “Erroneous Beliefs That Can Fuel Toxic Faith,”  “10 Rules of a Toxic Faith System,” and “Characteristics of Healthy Faith.”


Get the together with your family, church or community group and discuss each point.   Discuss with an open mind.



Erroneous Beliefs That Can Fuel Toxic Faith:

1.      When tragedy strikes, true believers should have a real peace about it

2.      If you had real faith, God would heal you or the one you are praying for

3.      Material blessings are a sign of spiritual strength

4.      The more money you give to God, the more money he will give to you

5.      I can work my way to heaven

6.      Problems in your life result from some particular sin

7.      I must not stop meetings other's needs

8.      I must always submit to authority

9.      God only uses spiritual giants

10.    Having true faith means waiting for God to help me and doing nothing until he does

11.    If it's not in the Bible, it isn't relevant (all truth is in the Bible)

12.    God will find me a perfect mate

13.    Everything that happens to me is good

14.    A strong faith will protect me from problems and pain

15.    God hates sinners, is angry with me, and wants to punish me

16.    More than anything else, God wants me to be happy (free from pain)


10 Rules of a Toxic Faith System:

1.      The leader must be in control of every aspect at all times

2.      When problems arise, find a guilty party to blame immediately

3.      Don't make mistakes

4.      Never point out the reality of a situation

5.      Never express your feelings unless they are positive

6.      Don't ask questions, especially if they are tough ones

7.      Don't do anything outside your role

8.      Don't trust anyone

9.      Nothing is more important than giving money to the organization

10.    At all costs, keep up the image of the organization or the family


Characteristics of Healthy Faith:

1.      Focusing on a personal relationship with God in Christ, not religion

2.      Looking to God to meet the needs for security and significance

3.      Growing in faith as evidenced by walking into pain

4.      Respect for the personhood of others

5.      Serving others for their sake

6.      Being vulnerable

7.      A trusting atmosphere

8.      Celebrating uniqueness by recognizing people's spiritual gifts

9.      Relationships being the heart of everything

10.    People being taught to think

11.    Balanced thinking rather than extremes in black and white

12.    Non defensive

13.    Non judgmental

14.    Reality based

15.    Able to embrace our emotions

16.    Able to embrace our humanity as evidenced in the ability to allow for mistakes

17.    The ability to laugh



Here are three beliefs that I believe are truly balanced and are a part of the faith that I belong to. These are from a document entitled “A Statements on Biblical Spirituality” by Andrews University Theological Seminary. 

  1. I do believe that healing power continues to be manifested through the name of Jesus Christ today, but also through proper lifestyle, physicians, ministers and mental health professionals as well as human families as they express God’s love to one another.  

  2. I do not believe that all study of the Word of God, all prayer, and all behaviors of service and devotion are performed under the influence of the Holy Spirit.  Sinful humanity has the ability outwardly to do some of these good things, but for the wrong motives or sometimes in a routine fashion devoid of meaning. It is easy for the unrenewed human mind to become blinded by human learning and service and not be actuated by the Spirit.”  

  3. I do not believe that spiritual practices earn us any increased standing with God.  Our salvation is through the sacrifice of Christ alone, by His grace accepted through faith (Eph 2:8R10).”


Barrington Brennen is a counseling psychologist, marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical psychotherapist in the USA. Send your questions to question@soencouragment.org   or call 242-327-1980 or visit www.soencouragement.org 





Below Are Guidelines For Sharing the Information On This Site
Permission is granted to place links from these articles on social media like Google+, FaceBook, etc..   Permission is also granted to print these pages and to make the necessary copies for your personal use, friends, seminar, or meeting handout. You must not sell for personal gain, only to cover the cost to make copies if necessary.    Written permission (email) is needed to publish or reprint articles and materials in any other form.    Articles are written by Barrington H. Brennen, Counseling Psychologist and Marriage & Family Therapist.

P.O. Box CB-11045, Nassau, The Bahamas.     
Phone contact is 242-327 1980 Land / 242-477-4002 Cell and WhatsApp   
Copyright © 2000-2023 Sounds of Encouragement. All rights reserved.
April 26, 2000, TAGnet/NetAserve / Network Solutions

Click Here to Subscribe to Newsletter

"Dedicated to the restoration of life."