Does religious repression help?
Freedom is a very strong value for most people, but freedom can be misleading in many ways. You may appear to be free on the outside, especially if you “come and go” as you please, but if you are repressed by any type of controlling organization, no matter how well-meaning, you may be living in a virtual prison with invisible bars.
Although this article is written for anyone experiencing religious repression, it is not intended to point fingers or judge spiritual beliefs. Rather, the intention is to identify the serious repercussions of repression, while also enlightening a path to freedom. The first step is recognizing the dynamics of organizational repression and how it seamlessly operates through a system of disempowerment.
Repercussions of Repression
No doubt, many religious organizations use various forms of repression in order to control church members so that they obey the religious doctrine, but the irony is that repression does not stop people from indulging in “sinful behavior” and, in fact, it often results in the exact opposite. Statistics and direct experience clearly demonstrate that the more rules and consequences society has, the more “illicit behavior” develops. Although this applies to any religion where repression is pervasive, and we are not just talking about any one religion, the statistics found in Utah, USA exemplifies the cost of religious repression.
Although Utah is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, it is actually most known for its predominant religious culture. On the surface, there is a strong emphasis on family values, morals, and ethics – most people are kind and appear relatively happy, but if you look at statistics, you quickly discover that appearances are drastically deceiving, and, in fact, countless “white picket fences” cloak dysfunctional dynamics that top the national average.
Even though over 60% of Utah’s residents are Latter-Day Saints (members of the Mormon Church) and Mormonism forbids the use of drugs, including alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and even tea, Utah has one of the highest rates of prescription drug addiction in the USA, as well as related deaths caused by opiate overdose.
The church also strongly emphasizes family values, and yet Utah’s domestic violence homicide rate is 13 percent higher than the rest of the nation with domestic violence homicides accounting for 47 percent of all homicides in Utah in 2015. Utah’s child abuse statistics are also among the highest in the country, and, in fact, statistics show that more children are sexually abused in Utah than any other US state.
Taking all this into consideration, it is not surprising that a study by Mental Health America ranked Utah the most depressed state, which explains why Utah has the highest rate of anti-depressant drug use in the USA. Sadly, a devastating symptom of Utah’s excessively high prevalence of depression is the tripling of its youth suicide rate since just 2007. And, if all that is still not enough, with similarly high statistics on rape and sexual assault, Google search trends have ranked Utah the #1 porn capital of America, which is quite astounding when you consider that the Mormon religion condemns any sexual conduct outside marital relations, including pornography and even masturbation.
Although there may be ways to rationalize these statistics, they inevitably point to a serious issue that demonstrates the repercussions of repression. Many other studies conclude that the fall-out of repression commonly results in some form of escape that inevitably leads to an underworld of shame and secrecy, involving drugs, sex or other addictions, and often manifests as anxiety disorders, depression, and suicide.
As we explore the dynamics of religious repression, please remember that we are not singling out any one religion — we are talking about any religion that promotes judgment, obedience and therefore, disempowerment.
Watch out the video on recovering from religious repression and the journey to freedom