Conversations about the religious and spiritual life on the other side of fundamentalism
265:  Let’s Talk About Religious Abuse:  Kathleen Shannon

265: Let’s Talk About Religious Abuse: Kathleen Shannon

Photo Credit: ‘I shall never forget the oft-repeated prayer’ by Jim Surkamp

As my interview with spiritual trauma therapy specialist Kathleen Shannon will indicate, a definition for religious abuse is difficult to nail it down.  But according to Caswell and Swindle (2018) religious abuse occurs within three categories.

  1. Abuse perpetrated by religious leaders.
  2. Abuse perpetrated by a religious group.
  3. Abuse with a religious or spiritual component.

There is a good amount of literature about religious and spiritual abuse and what comes up, again and again, is that firstly, religious abuse is ubiquitous in conservative and fundamentalist faith traditions.  And secondly, religious abuse has a profound effect on personal well being and mental health.

In this interview, Kathleen and I will be talking about the dominant forms of religious abuse which are:

  1. Power-posturing and authoritarianism
  2. Double Talk and hypocrisy.
  3. Lifestyle rigidity and a preoccupation with performance.
  4. Top-down communication and the control of doubt and dissent.
  5. Image control and the pressure to keep everything looking sweet.
  6. The tendency to think that everyone has to wrong but your group.
  7. Legalism.
  8. The extra religious tax on women.

What’s interesting in this interview is that as two people who come from two different backgrounds we soon realise that we have a great deal in common.  Which begs many questions about what is going on society that Christianity that denominations have been captured by a form of church that has great potential to cause harm.


  1. Patti McMaster

    was horribly abused by the church in October, 1991, when Glenn Pace contacted me because I had written a letter to Neil Maxwell trying to find help for my sister and I (we lived Arvada, a suburb of Denver) because we were remembering dogs throats being cut and us drinking the blood. Someone told our bishop what we were saying and he called us into his office sternly telling us that we were talking smack against the Lord’s anointed and our eternal salvation was in stake.. Well, Maxwell gave my letter to Pace, and he called me (middle of September ) and told me, that Roy Wendt, my childhood bishop, had seven testimonies against him and the church was taking action against him. RIGHT!! And pigs fly out my–you know what. Pace called me every week for 3 weeks, when a spokesman from the church, Brother Christianson, called to tell me that I would never talk to Pace again. (His 13 page memorandum had been leaked and the church was scarambling to shut it up. you can imagine, I fell into an even deeper darker hole, while the church sent Pace out of the country on a church assignment. I would contact Pace in 2004, where I suffered more verbal abuse and gas lighting as Pace suggested in a letter back that I could be suffering from False Memory syndrome. Listening to your podcast has helped me nail the final board down in the coffin named F**K You. Much appreciation.

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