The Stockholm Syndrome is where love and threat are coming from the same source; it’s a form of hostage taking, and it’s what religions do emotionally with people when they make God the source of love and acceptance if you conform, and exclusion and eternal torture if you don’t (heaven or hell, turn or burn). It’s a source of extraordinary emotional pain in our culture, religious Stockholm Syndrome. It plagues the psyche, often for decades. And it’s everywhere, and almost never gets discussed. It’s near to taboo to discuss it. Discuss it.
Think of the victims. The walking wounded are everywhere. (Maybe this is part of our culture’s fascination with zombies; with being hijacked inwardly.) The religious zombie is someone abused by religion, frightened into conformity with the stick of hell and the carrot of love coming from the same group of friends and relatives, stunting the vulnerable person’s interaction with the world. Religious Stockholm Syndrome causes a person to be in the world, but not really. The world becomes spiritually dangerous. It’s there for you, but also not. And you’re there for the world, but also not. The zombies are in and out. “We are in the world, but not of it.” That’s the voice of a zombie.
And then you bite others, infecting them. You’ve been terrorized and tormented–and still are–but you’ve come to accept the abuse, internalizing the love-threat formula, and now you’re terrorizing and tormenting others with it. (“You’ll be part of a community that will love you forever and will do anything for you, and God will be your loving Father, if you believe, but if you don’t believe, well, I pity your fate, and I’ll be praying for you.”) That’s the bite.
The love-hell formula is abuse all around. It’s wrong, ugly, hateful. It’s a way of controlling people. It disrespects the dignity and autonomy of individuals. If God exists, God is not like that–and if God is like that, then God is wrong. You shouldn’t believe in God, in my view, if this is what it means; if you turn God into Hitler; a devil; if you let a religious community make of you a hostage.