Dear Australians #2.5: God’s Authority

One of the aim’s of the Religious Discrimination Bill was to give religious organisations the capacity to operate under the guidelines of what they perceive to be God’s authority, as opposed to earthly authorities, like Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and Sex Discrimination Act 1984.

In the early hours of 10 February, 2022, last minute changes the bill saw the insertion of clauses that would prevent institutions like schools being able to discriminate against staff and students who are homosexual. Nonetheless, these alterations were rejected in the Senate because the bill still did not address transgender issues, thus the government was concerned transgender staff and students may still be vilified.

Some church groups also rejected the changes because it meant they were not getting what they wanted – the right to discriminate against staff and students on the grounds of gender identity, sexual orientation, and marital status. They argue religions should be allowed to uphold their beliefs, traditions, and values, even if these are prejudicial, because God’s authority should be higher than government mandated laws.

God’s authority in America allows discrimination …

If the Religious Discrimination Bill were to go ahead, one only needs to look at American to see the type of discrimination that could arise. For instance, Hillsong demoted a choir director when it became known they were openly gay. The director’s skills and expertise in leading a choir were never in question, rather, it was a case of not wanted to be seen as supporting LGBTQ+. This is the same Pentecostal church Scott Morrison has affiliations with, which begs questioning the possibility that the Morrison government wants the same sort of discrimination to be legal in Australia?

Hillsong is a form of Christianity that claims to love everyone, but if you’re homosexual then you’re not entitled to have positions of responsibility. Perhaps, Brian Houston (who just happens to be a close friend of Morrison) doesn’t know of the history of Castrati!?

Castrati, Transgenderism Approved by God’s Authority

Castrati were singers who had their testes and/or scrotum removed before puberty so they produced less testosterone and, in turn, maintained the capacity to sing high notes as adults. The procedure was usually not of the boys choosing, rather poor parents did it in exchange for money and to profit off their child’s gifted singing abilities. The procedures were approved of by the Catholic Church, an institution established on the premise that it is a mediator of God’s authority.

The trend began in the 1500s to enable choirs the flexibility of singing songs with a full range of harmonies. The mutation of boys anatomy was deemed an appropriate solution to fulfil the “need” of producing heavenly melodies. Castrati were “necessary” because women were banned from church choirs. Further, the procedure could be justified using Matthew 19:12 – a Castrato was an eunuch made for the sake of the kingdom of the heavens.

Castrati were popular throughout Europe and highly valued in Vatican choirs. As effeminate men, many adjusted their identity to suit their circumstances, which in some cases involved homosexual relationships. If they could still achieve erections, they could be sort after by affluent women who wanted an affair with a hairless lover who could not impregnate them.

Castrations were made illegal in Italy in 1861, but the practice was not banned by Papal rule till 1903. Italian doctors are reported to have continued making castrati for the Sistine Chapel choir until 1870.

The last Castrato, Alessandro Moreschi (1858-1922), followed the centuries old tradition of being the director of the Sistine Chapel choir. It is unclear if Moreschi’s castration was done purely to preserve his vocal range or if it was done to cure an inguinal hernia. Either way, the transgender-like procedure he went through was never viewed as being a threat to the morality of Christendom. He was nicknamed the “Angel of Rome” and recordings of his work are now on YouTube.

Religious Freedom or Religious Abuse?

Christianity’s history of supporting transgender-like procedures on religious grounds – Castrati and eunuchs – is a poignant backdrop for considering modern issues of gender identity and sexual orientation in modern churches. Essentially, when the purpose of altering a male’s anatomy to make them more like a woman suited their needs, Christianity approved transgenderism. Moreover, effeminate men were glorified for their feminine singing skills and any homosexual behaviours were largely ignored. Fast forward to today, and Christians can be discriminated against for exercising their free will to be transgender and/or homosexual.

When governments banned castrations, were they discriminating against religious traditions? Or were they putting the welfare of individuals above cruel religious practices?

So too, if governments prevent religions from being able to discriminate on the grounds of gender identity, are religious faiths being discriminated against? Or are the freedoms of individuals being protected from cruel religious practices?

Freedom of religion that leads to religious abuse was a prime consideration that lead to the development of human rights. Why have a bill that overrides this aim?

Castrati is not the same as homosexuality …

The common tread between Christians historically supporting Castrati choir directors and contemporary Christians discriminating against homosexual choir directors is that both situations represent practices that are supposedly supported by God’s authority. Discerning what is God’s authority ultimately comes down to which version of the Bible one reads and how it is interpreted. Idiosyncratic issues of what is “God’s authority” regarding gender identity and sexual orientation is nuanced by historical and cultural contexts.

It could be argued that Pentecostalism formed as a reaction against the practices of other Christian denominations and their practices, like Catholic Castrati, who supposedly misinterpreted God’s authority. Then again, it could be argued that churches who accept LGBTQ+ Christians are a reaction against other Christians, like Pentecostalism, because they have misinterpreted God’s authority … the circular arguments are endless. Not all denominations of Christianity are equal, and even within specific churches, Christian attitudes can vary.

So, if the Bible is the official document that defines God’s authority, why are there so many variations? … Dear Australians #2.6: the Bible’s authority …

This blog is part of a series that I hope will encourage deep, thoughtful, respectful discussions about issues relating to the Religious Discrimination bill. If you’d like to be kept up to date, subscribe to receive notifications of new posts by email.

PREVIOUS BLOGS IN THIS SERIES

Dear Australians #2.4: Jesus and Women

Dear Australians #2.3: Let’s Talk About Sex …

Dear Australians #2.2: Australia and Human Rights

Dear Australians #2.1: We Need to Have a Heart to Heart Conversations About the Religious Discrimination Bill. I’ll Start …

References

Davis, E. (2020). What was a castrato? And what did they sound like? Amp.classicfm.com. https://amp.classicfm.com/discover-music/what-is-a-castrato/

Perrottet, T. (2007). Why Castrati Made Better Lovers. The Smart Set. https://www.thesmartset.com/article0806070116/

Skuse, A. (2021). The Instrumental Body: Castrati. In http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Cambridge University Press. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK571299/

Feature image: Public Domain

Dear Australians #2.2: Australia and Human Rights

WW1 and WW2 prompted the whole world to re-evaluate prejudices and the need for equality. In response to Hilter taking racial discrimination to the abominable level of genocide, discussions of basic human rights began to take place.

Australia had direct involvement in the United Nations formation of defining The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The documents contains 30 articles that are designed to ensure peace, liberty, and respect between individuals throughout the world. No single article is supposed to be taken as priority over another. For example, Article 18, which refers to religious freedoms (below), cannot be used as an excuse to attack someone’s honour and reputation, as defined in Article 12 (below). In such cases the right to freedom of religion is restricted so as not to impede other human rights.

Article 18


Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 12


No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Australia and Human Rights

Australia’s acceptance of The Universal Human Rights was a great step towards ensuring a peaceful nation, as was desired by the writers of the constitution. Further, as a nation we are party to seven international human rights treaties. However, it wasn’t until 1986 that the government formalised policies through The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

AHRC is a comprehensive Act that covers religious freedom as follows (from the department of the Attorney-General):

“All persons have the right to think freely, and to entertain ideas and hold positions based on conscientious or religious or other beliefs. Subject to certain limitations, persons also have the right to demonstrate or manifest religious or other beliefs, by way of worship, observance, practice and teaching. Legislation, policies and programs must respect the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief, unless they clearly fall within one of the permissible limitations”.

Permissible limitations include:

  • protection against brainwashing or indoctrination
  • coercion which would impair a person’s freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice
  • conduct that is required or encouraged by a particular religion or belief that can occur criminal penalties
  • times when there is a need to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others
  • the prohibition on advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence

Whilst AHRC defines Australia’s laws pertaining to human rights, specific civil and criminal charges relating to particular breaches are legislated through several other federal, state, and territory Acts.

At a federal level, the balance between religious freedom and acts of discrimination work in conjunction with the following:

  • Racial Discrimination Act 1975
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1984
  • Racial Discrimination Act 1986
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1992
  • Age Discrimination Act 2004
  • Fair Work Act 2009

The Federal Government’s role of protecting people from inequality and harassment overlaps with individual state and territory responsibilities.

State and Territory Legislation

Each Australian state and territories has the capacity to create and enforce its own anti-discrimination legislations. See table below for summary.

Australian Capital TerritoryDiscrimination Act 1991
New South WalesAnti-Discrimination Act 1977
VictoriaEqual Opportunity Act 1977
Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001
TasmaniaAnti-Discrimination Act 1998
Northern TerritoryAnti-Discrimination Act 1996
QueenslandAnti-Discrimination Act 1991
South AustraliaEqual Opportunity Act 1984
Western AustralianEqual Opportunity Act 1984
Spent Convictions Act 1988

Australia has come a long way in overcoming bigoted views and discriminatory behaviours driven by religious beliefs. Nonetheless, tensions between differing belief systems and/or people with no religious beliefs still occur. Gaps in federal, state, and territory Acts resulted in the option being formed that either adjustments to the Sexual Discrimination Act needed to be made or a specifically designed religious discrimination act created. The arguments surrounding religious freedoms versus discrimination primarily hit upon issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. Ergo, the Morrison government chose to try to implement the controversial Religious Discrimination Bill.

Intertwined with the debate were repercussions of the 2017 referendum that allowed same sex marriages to be legally recognised.

80% of eligible Australians voted in the referendum, with results of 61.6% in favour of supporting same sex marriages. Personally, I am one of the 20% who were eligible but did not vote. The reason being that my original voting slip was stolen from my letterbox and I was not able return the replacement slip in time. (I know the original was stolen because it mysteriously turned up in my letterbox several weeks later, coincidentally, following a conversation I had with a neighbour – I think I stirred their conscience.)

The Plebiscite

40% of eligible Australians voted in the 2017 referendum against same sexed marriages. Given that in the 2016 census 52% of Australians identified as Christians it’s possible they made up a good proportion of the those who objected. Islamics (2.6% of the population) may also have had religious ideologies that persuaded them to vote in favour of only recognising opposite sex marriages.

As a general rule, Hinduism (1.9%), Buddhism (2.4%), and Sikhism (0.5%) don’t have any offical stance on the matter, so their votes could not have been based on faith. Judaism (0.4%) also generally has a progressive view of sexuality, except for fundamentalists, of which there are not many in Australia.

As for any of the 30% of Australians who identified as non-religious or other spiritual beliefs, who may have voted against same sexed marriages, they presumably did so due to personal convictions (or lack of education about sexual orientation).

Based upon the circumstantial evidence of many forms of Christianity having adverse attitudes towards homosexuality and transgenderism, I am quietly confident that it was this sector of the population who predominately objected to same sex marriages.

Of course, not all Christians agree with Biblical inferences that homosexuals are an abomination to humankind. If that was the case, and all Christians voted in the referendum, then the Christian ethos probably would not have prevailed and same sex marriage would not have been legalised. I guesstimate 40-50% of Christians voted against same sex marriages.

Part of Morrison’s selling point of a Religious Discrimination bill was to “bring balance” to religious freedoms. In other words, people who were pissed that the majority of Australian citizens democratically voted in favour of same sex balance, needed appeasing, or more precisely, given the right to discriminate. Somehow, this was going to fill gaps and make things fair for everyone.

Sexual orientation and gender identity issues have an extensive history that extends far beyond Australia’s colonisation and the formation of organised religions like Christianity, and looking at these helps to shed light on current arguments … Dear Australians #2.3: Let’s Talk About Sex …

This blog is part of a series that I hope will encourage deep, thoughtful, respectful discussions about issues relating to the Religious Discrimination bill. If you’d like to be kept up to date, subscribe to receive notifications of new posts by email.

PREVIOUS BLOG

Dear Australians #2.1: We Need to Have a Heart to Heart Conversations About the Religious Discrimination Bill. I’ll Start …

References

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2017). Main Features – Results. Abs.gov.au; c=AU; o=Commonwealth of Australia; ou=Australian Bureau of Statistics. https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/1800.0

Rights in Australia – Parliamentary Education Office. (n.d.). Peo.gov.au. https://peo.gov.au/understand-our-parliament/how-parliament-works/system-of-government/rights-in-australia/

Feature image: Pix4free.org – link to – https://pix4free.org/

Dear Australians #2.1: We Need to Have a Heart to Heart Conversations About the Religious Discrimination Bill. I’ll Start …

Dear Australians,

I’m sure many of you are as relieved as I am that the Religious Discrimination Bill (also known as the Bigot Bill) was not passed, thus preventing religious groups from being given the right discriminate against . However, what some people appear to have missed is that the bill was always about much more than giving bigots the right to legally judge, humiliate, and vilify others due to their sexual identity and orientation. Behind the smokescreen of celebrating sexual liberations, the nuances of religious abuse and coercive practices remain unaddressed.

As a therapist, I advocate the practice of not letting issues hide under the metaphorical carpet. While the Religious Discrimination Bill has been shelved indefinitely, the whole saga brought up a few things we best discuss now before things boil over again. Let’s take this opportunity to reflect and have a heart to heart about what has taken place. I’ll start. I’ve got quite a bit to say so I recommend you make yourself a cuppa …

In response to my first letter to Australians, Dear Australians, We Need Coercive Control Laws Not a Religious Discrimination Bill, I received the feedback from someone who said: “I didn’t even know Australia already had freedom of religion laws”. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this. From police officers to common citizens, there is a lack of understanding of current legalisations relating to religious practices which, once understood, provide insights into deceptive government behaviour that should raise everyone’s eyebrows. Three key points are:

  1. The Religious Discrimination bill was an attempt to undermine the Australian constitution.
  2. Historical events in Australia and Biblical times are not well known or understood.
  3. Freedom of Religion cannot be discussed without also considering religious abuse.

As with many complex issues, in order to appreciate how factors interrelate, examining history explains a lot about how we came to current circumstances. I’ll start with Australian history and why we are a secular nation.

Penal Colony and Church Act

Australia began as a penal colony with convicts being sent from the United Kingdom. At the time of the first fleet, 1788, the dominate religion in England was Protestant Christianity, Church of England. The supreme governor was their monarch, King George III. (The current Supreme Governor of the Church of England is Queen Elizabeth II).

Convicts sent to Australia in 1788 were expected to attend weekly outdoor Church services. The first church building established in Sydney Cove, 1793, was Anglican (another way of saying Church of England). The chapel was burnt down in six years later. The arson attack is believed to have been done by disgruntled convicts who objected to being forced to attend; this many have been inspired by atheistic beliefs or devotion to an alternative form of Christianity.

Most of the convicts were Anglican, however, one tenth were Irish Catholics, with smaller percentages of other faiths, like nonconformist Protestants. Angst between Christian denominations began in Europe during the reformation era (c.1517-1648).

When King Henry VIII founded the Church of England in 1534 many Catholics fled to Ireland, thus preceding English/Irish conflicts were often Anglican/Catholic tensions. A cycle of revolts and tensions persisted between English Protestants and Irish Catholics for many centuries.

In 1798, when a major conflict broke out in Ireland, Catholic rebels were transported to New South Wales.

In 1804, Catholics in New South Wales attempted to overthrow British rule. Consequently, Catholics priests were forbidden from practicing clerical rites in Australia for 16 years.

To help ease religious tensions, in 1836 Governor Bourke introduced the first Church Act. This provided subsidies for land and the building of chapels to Anglican, Catholic, and Presbyterian denominations equally. Members of the Anglican Church objected to the Act because they believed the Church of England should have more distinction over other Christians.

Overall, the Church Act successfully brought about a sense of peace, which was further enhanced with later amendments that made provisions for Jewish, Methodist, and Baptist communities. Despite government support for all religions, segregation took place with Catholic-only or Presbyterian-only workplaces. “No Catholics/Jews/Protestants/Other need apply” was not an uncommon on employment ads. Social expectations of marrying within one’s faith remained the norm. Name calling and derogatory remarks about other’s beliefs was commonplace, even amongst children who were echoing their parents prejudices.

Australia Constitution 1901

As Australia moved towards forming a constitution, the men in Commonwealth government roles had varying Christian heritages. Through a conscious awareness of how conflicts can arise from any one religion dominating others, like what occurred in Europe and Australia’s early colonial days, section 116 of Australia’s constitution stated:

The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

According to Australia’s first census in 1911, 96% percent of Australians considered themselves to be Christian. Thus, it can be assumed that section 116 was aimed at ensuring no “Christian” religion was to be imposed. I highly doubt there was foresight to perceive the great diversity of religion that Australia would have in 2022, nonetheless, its intention come to fruition, mostly.

The high number of Christians in Australia’s early days did not include First Nations people. Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islanders were viewed as being more like animals than people, let alone communities who deserved to have the right to freely exercise their religion. It was not until 1971 that First Nation People were indiscriminately counted in an Australian census.

Between 1860 and 1870 landowners could acquire indigenous workers then force them to work on sugar fields, as pearl divers, on cattle and sheep properties, and other hard laborious positions. If paid, it was only a fraction of what white workers received; some reports claiming indigenous Australians received 3% of Europeans earnings. (Reminder: Scott Morrison has a very narrow view of slavery looks like.)

Mistreatment of indigenous Australians was commonplace and long standing. All the way up to the 1960s, countless Australian aboriginals were taken from their families and incarcerated. Many were forced to live in (Christian) missions or on reserves with freedoms to move around cities and towns only allowed if they had an exemption certificate. These were dubbed “dog tags” and in order to get one, individuals had to promise to give up their culture, language, family, and religious beliefs.

The secular basis of the Australian constitution was not specifically designed to be tolerant of Eastern faiths like Hinduism, Buddhism, or Sikhism, either. From the time of the gold rush onwards, Asians, particularly Chinese, were the target of racial discrimination. From additional taxes being placed upon them if they wanted a gold mining license, to the first Immigration Restriction Act and Regulations of 1861, racism towards “heathens” prevailed.

The government’s white’s only polices, banning immigration from all non-European countries, came into effect in 1901, the same time as the constitution.

As for those who wanted to follow traditional beliefs, like Celtics, or other paganism, section 116 wasn’t designed for them either. The Christian assumption that such practices were demonic prevailed, as evidenced by state laws that forbade witchcraft, sorcery, and fortune telling. In 2005, Victoria became the last state to remove laws prohibiting paganism and occult-based beliefs and practices.

Christianity has a long history of non-tolerance towards alternative belief systems in a variety of contexts. It’s an attitude that supposes indigenous Australians, Asians, pagans, or anyone other than a Christian, have inferior religious beliefs, therefore they don’t really matter. (As I’ve discussed before, Christian supremacy has significant links to Aristotelian philosophy.) Colonialist Australia inevitably inherited some of its attributes of superiority from its English roots, but our constitution is secular, so perhaps our hearts were in the place and we just need to do a bit of reflection?

Australia’s move away from bigotry and hatred has occurred in steps, baby steps … alongside our progression has been an increased global awareness of human rights … stay tuned for the next blog – Dear Australians #2.2: Australia and Human Rights.

Over the coming days I will be publishing more letters to Australians that I hope will encourage deep, thoughtful, respectful discussions about issues relating to the Religious Discrimination bill. If you’d like to be kept up to date, subscribe to receive notifications of new posts by email.

References

Korff, J. (2021, March 29). Creative Spirits: Australia has a history of Aboriginal slavery. Creative Spirits. https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/australia-has-a-history-of-aboriginal-slavery#was-there-ever-aboriginal-slavery-in-australia

National Museum of Australia – Bourke Church Act. (n.d.). http://Www.nma.gov.au. Retrieved February 22, 2022, from https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/bourke-church-act

Places of worship | Religion, church and missions in Australia. (2016, May 17). State Library of NSW. https://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/stories/religion-church-and-missions-australia/places-worship

What most Christians don’t know: Christian Faith is Based on Jewish Blood Magic (Extended version)

Christianity is the most popular religion around the world. It is practiced by approximately 30% of the population yet, surprisingly, many of its devotees are not aware of some of its most basic premises. Lack of knowledge about one’s religion means blind faith, which can lead one down the proverbial garden path. Potential problems include spiritually bypassing issues and being susceptible to manipulation from people who pervert Christianity to suit their own agendas. Knowledge of the historicity of Christianity can overcome naivety and ignorance, and help prevent adverse situations from developing. 

In this discussion I am exploring the Christian faith from the perspective of it being a religion based upon the principles of Jewish blood magic. Future topics will include how Jesus replaced Adam as God’s first born; biblical references to daughters, whores, and women rarely (if ever) represent real females; when Moses once had horns; Jesus created in the image of Apollo and Zeus; and the Romanisation of Christianity.

Before digging into details, we need to go over a few basics about Christianity.

The Basics of Christianity

Christianity is a religion that began approximately 2000 years ago based on the teachings of a character known as Jesus Christ, as described in a document called the New Testament. There are (and always have been) many variations on how to interpret Jesus’ teachings, although a generalisation can be made that all Christians are united in the belief that their saviour, Jesus Christ, came to earth (literally, spiritually, or symbolically) to forgive sins so as it was possible for people to enter heaven.

The New Testament consists of several chapters that give accounts of Jesus’ life and that of his early followers. It contains a lot of supernatural themes such as miracles being performed and visions of the future. The New Testament also contains a continuation of themes presented in the Hebrew Bible. The Christians call the Hebrew Bible the Old Testament and these text consist of stories that date back to the first or second millennium; Jews refer to these stories as the Torah. Both Jews and Christians alike believe in the one God who is all powerful, incorporeal, and eternal (this is the same God that Muslims believe in too, but that’s another story). Christian’s believe Jesus was the Son of this God, Jews do not. (Muslim’s believe Jesus was a prophet but not the Son of God, again, that’s another story).

From a young age, Jesus was reported to have a comprehensive understanding of God; on one occasion he became separated from his family and was subsequently found explaining Hebrew scriptures to Jewish elders in the Jerusalem Temple (Luke 2:41-52). The above painting depicts the moment twelve-year-old Jesus was found by his anxious parents, Mary and Joseph. Painting by William Holman Hunt, The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple, 1860. Source: Wikipedia Commons

While Christianity has strong links to Judaism, it also has significant influence from Greek culture because a lot of the places where it originally developed were Hellenised areas of the Mediterranean, for example Alexandria, modern day Turkey, and cities such as Athens, Corinth, and Thessalonica. The English title of “Jesus Christ” comes from the Greek Iesous Christós, which is more common than the Hebrew, Yeshua The Messiah. In both cases the names mean the Son of God (Jesus/Iesous/Yeshua) the Anointed One (Christ/Christós/Messiah) but the fact that Christians call themselves Christians, not Messiahians, reflects a veneer of Greekness that dominates the religion. This presentation can sometimes disguise the underlying Jewish theology. Identifying that which has been hidden is vital to understanding aspects of the religion, such as the role that Jewish blood magic has on defining Christian faith …

Christian faith is based upon the principles of Jewish blood magic 

Magic is the power to influence events through the use of mysterious forces. To achieve magical outcomes, physical substances or actions are often carried out in a ritualistic manner that symbolically or supernaturally indicate magic is being performed. The use of blood to carry out magical spells is evident in many Jewish traditions, in fact, Judaism was established in reference to blood magic in the form of human sacrifice. 

The First Blood Magic Ritual of Judaism 

Abraham, the first Jewish prophet, had clairvoyant communication from a supreme God who told him to offer up his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice. Abraham was loyal to this invisible God and prepared to carry out the act but at the last minute a new instruction came into his mind saying the sacrifice is not necessary. Abraham and Isaac, joyous that their obedience and loyalty was rewarded, killed a ram and gave thanks to God. Ergo, Judaism may be perceived as having began with the killing of a sheep. 

History channel, A scene from “The Bible”, 2012: Abraham (Gary Oliver) prepares Isaac (Hugo Rossi) for the sacrifice. Source: Read the Spirit

The notion of killing a child to get on the good side of the spiritually divine is the antithesis of Judaism; however, it is known to have been a common practice in some ancient and not so ancient cultures. For example, in recent years, a ten-year-old girl in India was allegedly sacrificed to heal a paralysed man, and in the Greek epic, The Iliad, Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter, Iphigenia, to appease the Goddesses Artemis and, in turn, achieve victory in the battle of Troy. Other examples of human sacrifice can be found in Inca, Aztec, Ancient China, Nordic countries, and more. Likewise, child sacrifice was a cultural norm within Abraham’s homeland of Mesopotamia, where some (but not all) groups of the Phoenicians (also known as Caananities) routinely offered their children’s souls up to the Gods.

From Abraham onwards, Judaism rejected human sacrifices and denounced them as a practice that was necessary to achieve the favour of deities. Having said that, blood sacrifices were still believed to be important and Jews developed ritualistic animal killings to appease God and influence events.

The significance of blood as a magical substance is, presumably, connected to our ancestors’ understanding that blood carries life, as explained in the Old Testament:

… the life of every creature is its blood

Leviathans 17:14, New International Version

In regards to the specific significance of sheep’s blood, the symbolism is nuanced. One interpretation is that the ram symbolises the zodiac sign of Aries, therefore, they are an indicator of astrological significance. Another interpretation is that the birth of lambs each spring represent new life and hopes for prosperity after long winters. On a pragmatic level, Abraham was a shepherd, hence, a ram was easily accessible from his flock.

The Passover

Sheep sacrifices emerged as a prominent theme in the Old Testament story of Exodus. Jews, at this point in time, were reported to be living in Egypt and were under the Pharaoh’s oppressive rule. God communicated with a prophet called Moses and gave him instructions for a blood magic ritual. (Backstory to Moses is that he was born a Jew and was saved from infanticide by being placed in a basket that floated on the Nile till he was found and subsequently raised by the Pharaoh’s family. These circumstances were different to Isaac’s but may be seen as a continuation of the idea that when God saves a Jewish first born male from death it means they have an important life mission … in Christianity, God also saves Jesus from infantile death.)

Getting back to the sheep’s blood, Moses received a clairvoyant instruction that all Jewish households were to ceremonially slaughter a lamb and paint its blood on their doorposts and lintels. The lamb’s blood becomes a physical indication that a magical force field is protecting their families from an Angel of Death. Like in the story of Abraham, the sheep’s blood represents a life saving substance; all first born sons in houses with lamb’s blood painted above their door had their life spared while those without were killed. In recognition of this historical event that led to Jews being freed from Egyptian masters, an annual festival involving the sacrificing of a lamb was established; this festival became known as the Passover.

Unknown, The destroying angel passes through, 1880. Source: Wikipedia Commons

Coincidentally, it was at the time of year when Jews celebrate Passover, that Jesus was crucified and died. Thus, a correlation of sheep’s blood and a first born son being killed in a manner that was coordinated by God has an archetypal significance that flowed through to Christianity. Note, the archetype in this instance is not a Jungian archetype that suggests symbols are universal across time and cultures; rather, the archetypal connection between sheep’s blood, first born males, and God’s saving grace, is an archetype in the Ancient Greek sense that the original form is a prototype that evolved over time. Hence, the Christian significance of sheep’s blood, first born males, and God’s saving grace is different to the initial presentation in the story of Abraham in much the same way that an archetype (prototype) of a car has evolved from being a chariot driven by horses into a mechanical motor that is described in terms and in horsepower. 

The New Testament account of the Passover is described as Jesus’ Last Supper. This differs from traditional Jewish celebrations of Passover on account of the emphasis being on Jesus blessing bread and wine:

… [Jesus] took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” .

Luke 22:20, New International Version

Leonardo Da Vinci, The Last Supper, 1495-98. Source: Wikipedia Commons

The Christian reasoning behind the foregoing of a Passover lamb is based on the belief that Jesus was the final sacrificial Passover lamb; a human sacrifice that ended the need for all future animal sacrifices. Dr Richard Carrier, renowned expert on the historicity of Jesus, explains that ancient logic perceived blood, with its life carrying properties, to be the most powerful substance available for magic purposes. Animal blood was good, but not strong enough to make spells last forever, so they need to be repeated, often yearly. Human blood was understood to have stronger magical properties, and Jesus was not just any human sacrifice, He was the son of God! Therefore, Jesus’ blood was the most almighty substance of them all! 

Thus we have the transforming of a Jewish tradition into a Christian one. The writings of second century christian, Justin Martyr, further explains that when the Jews anointed their houses with lamb’s blood they were giving an external display of their faith, whereas when Christians anointed themselves with the wine (symbolic blood) of their sacrificial lamb (Jesus) they were displaying their faith internally. By recognising the transformation of physical acts from a real lamb with real blood, through to the symbolic lamb and symbolic blood, it can be understood that Gospel accounts of Jesus saying that his disciples must eat his flesh and drink his blood (John 6:51-58) were spiritual concepts. Arguably, anyone of Jesus era who understood Jewish theology would have also understood the Christian adaptation, however, concerns from outsiders that christians were practicing cannibalism were not completely unfounded given some religions literally practiced human sacrifices.

Whether one believes that Jesus was a real human who walked upon the earth or a spiritual character within a mythological tale, the simple fact remains that Jesus’ death is a continuation of faith in Jewish blood magic principles. Christian texts refer to Jesus as being the Lamb of God (John 1:29/36). And the disciple Paul says:

“For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed”

Corinthians 5:7, English Standard Version

Jesus being God’s Son, moreover, his first and only son, made Jesus’ blood very powerful. How powerful? Powerful enough to take away the sins of the world for an eternity.

The Yom Kippur 

Christians claim Jesus’ death represents a magical event that facilitated the forgiveness of sins that could allow faithful followers access to the eternal bliss of heaven when they die. This idea can seem confusing to outsiders. Actually, it can be confusing to insiders too. As a child raised in Catholicism it never made sense to me that someone’s death meant anything I did wrong, from lying to my parents about not eating the chocolate in the cardboard through to maliciously harming another person, could be forgiven if I simply had faith in Jesus. Nor did it make sense that if Jesus didn’t die then I would be spending my afterlife burning in the depths of hell because of my sins, and being born was a sin, so there was no escape. I was told these sorts of things so many times that I accepted that I was supposed to be grateful for Jesus dying for my sins as a truism irrespective of comprehending why. My father once made the flippant remark that Christianity was based on Jewish blood magic, but it was not until relatively recently when I learned of the Yom Kippur that everything really made sense.

The Yom Kippur, is the most important holy day in the Jewish calendar; it translates into English as being “Day of Atonement”. The focus of this festival is to cleanse oneself and one’s community of sins and transgressions. Traditionally, two goats were used to perform the ritual. One goat would be ceremonially prepared to represent the sins of all the community before being set free and driven out of the village (often by being pushed off a cliff). This goat, (the scapegoat) represents the relinquishing of sin and transgressions. Conversely, the second goat would be ceremonially slaughtered and the sprinkling of its blood signified the magical act of God forgiveness; this goat was referred to as the Holy of Holies or the Goat of God.

Illustration of the Holy of Holies from the 1890 Holman Bible. Source: Learn Religions

By referring to New Testament accounts, Jesus’ death can be seen as an enactment of the Yom Kippur in many ways. For instance, Jesus did not try to escape his fate of being turned over to Rabbis and Roman soldiers who charged him with crimes he had not committed. Once in custody, Jesus Christ was trialled in contrast to a person called Jesus Barabbas, a criminal (not all Bible’s state this other man’s name as being another Jesus, but older versions do and it’s an important detail). Jesus Barabbas is set free, thus symbolically representing the scapegoat, while Jesus Christ is condemned to death, thus symbolically representing the Holy of Holies; an innocent man dying to redeem the sins of the world. 

As previously mentioned, human blood was more powerful than animal’s, and the blood of God’s Son was the mightiest of them all, therefore, Jesus’ death, as a blood sacrifice, was powerful enough to cleanse the entire world of sin for an eternity … And as an added bonus, it was even powerful enough to retrospectively save all humans who died before Christ’s era (1 Peter 4:6).

Given that Judaism condemned ritualised human sacrifice, it is not that surprising to note that the New Testament deflects the blame of Jesus’ death by placing most of the accountability onto a group of people that most Jews despised the most, the Romans. Further, the Rabbis who were affiliated with the story of Jesus’ death are depicted as being corrupt. These details allowed early Christians to not completely ostracise themselves from Judaism, conversely, the storyline has all the hallmarks and appeal of a classic Greek tragedy.

How could Jesus be a Passover lamb and Holy of Holies goat?

According to Christian theology, the Passover and Yom Kippur are sacraments that Jesus brought to fulfilment. Having said that, Jesus being symbolised as a lamb is more prominent than Jesus being symbolised as a goat. Patricia Kasten suggests a reason for this could be that goats had a tarnished reputation due to their affiliation with pagan deities from rival religions, like the Greek Dionysus and the Egyptian Khum. Kasten adds that while goats and lambs shared equal respect among Jews of antiquity, lambs had more of a broader positive appeal that may have been advantageous to converting Gentiles. Goats could also be seen in more of negative light due to the role of the scapegoat being more prominent within the community context of Yom Kippur celebrations; it was community members who chased the scapegoat to its death, whereas the ritual slaughtering, burning, and splattering of blood from the Goat of God was done in the privacy of the temple by the high priest.

The synthesis of the Passover lamb and the Yom Kippur goats being blood rituals associated with Jesus’ was explained by Justin Martyr as follows:

“The mystery, then, of the lamb which God enjoined to be sacrificed as the passover, was a type of Christ; with whose blood, in proportion to their faith in Him, they anoint their houses, i.e., themselves, who believe on Him. For that the creation which God created—to wit, Adam—was a house for the spirit which proceeded from God, you all can understand. And that this injunction was temporary, I prove thus. God does not permit the lamb of the passover to be sacrificed in any other place than where His name was named; knowing that the days will come, after the suffering of Christ, when even the place in Jerusalem shall be given over to your enemies, and all the offerings, in short, shall cease; and that lamb which was commanded to be wholly roasted was a symbol of the suffering of the cross which Christ would undergo. For the lamb,(1) which is roasted, is roasted and dressed up in the form of the cross. For one spit is transfixed right through from the lower parts up to the head, and one across the back, to which are attached the legs of the lamb. And the two goats which were ordered to be offered during the fast, of which one was sent away as the scape [goat], and the other sacrificed, were similarly declarative of the two appearances of Christ: the first, in which the elders of your people, and the priests, having laid hands on Him and put Him to death, sent Him away as the scope [goat]; and His second appearance, because in the same place in Jerusalem you shall recognise Him whom you have dishonoured, and who was an offering for all sinners willing to repent, and keeping the fast which Isaiah speaks of, loosening the terms(2) of the violent contracts, and keeping the other precepts, likewise enumerated by him, and which I have quoted,(3) which those believing in Jesus do. And further, you are aware that the offering of the two goats, which were enjoined to be sacrificed at the fast, was not permitted to take place similarly anywhere else, but only in Jerusalem.

~ Dialogue with Typhon, Justin Martyr, c.150CE, pg. 34

(Side note, the above passage brings to light several additional points not specifically covered in this article, such as a lamb being “type” of “Christ” and that “Adam” was “a house for the spirit”; these themes shall be picked up in a subsequent articles.)

In our modern era of technology, mass production of goods, fast food outlets, etc., it is easy to be removed from the significance of symbolic gestures that our ancestors more readily interpreted. For instance, Justin’s depiction of a lamb being roasted and roasted, on a skewer that goes through its body from head to toe and across its limbs, as being like Jesus’ body nailed to a cross, does not necessary come to a contemporary person’s mind like it might if a person who was living 2000 odd years ago.

The Significance of Human Sacrifices in Depth

To the modern mind, human sacrifices are an unethical, criminal act; moreover, it is unfathomable that parents would contemplate sacrificing their newborn, only child, first son, or any offspring at all, for the betterment of others (for example, in a magic spell designed to ensure next year’s crops grow well, or to cure a paralysed man, or to facilitate victory in an upcoming battle with a rival village). Nonetheless, to fully appreciate the Christian faith in relation to Jesus Christ being a human sacrifice, one needs to examine how our ancestors’ thought differently.

Nowadays we use scientific methods to explain phenomena, like tracking weather patterns and analysing war strategies with sophisticated technologies, however, up until relatively recently, it was usual for people to believe in the supernatural. To our ancestors, especially those who lived a few thousand years ago, every event was attributed to magical forces and/or spiritual deities, therefore, if one believed they could affect outcomes by manipulating unseen forces, then they may do so. In some cases, sacrificing one’s life to alter these unseen forces was deemed necessary.

Researchers of human sacrifices suggest that because bygone eras had a high child mortality rate, parents may have had reduced emotional attachment that allowed them to give up their children. While complacency towards death may have played a role, personally, I’m not convinced of this theory. If children were perceived as a commodity in which reaching adulthood was a prize, surely parents would have had some hesitancy? Besides, there are reports of Phoenician parents screaming in objection to their children being sacrificed against their will. I wonder if, in at least some cases, mentally ill individuals with no empathy (like psychopaths and narcissists) rose to the rank of religious guru within ancient tribes. Then, once in a leadership position, these cruel-hearted people dictated the murder of children and humans to satisfy their perverted desires? Then in doing so, murder and abuse were made culturally acceptable.

In the beginnings of Judaism, which inadvertently is also the beginning of Christianity (and Islam), Abraham does not call out the atrocity of killing children directly (like later generations of Jews did). Nonetheless, his promotion of animal sacrifice instead of humans may be viewed as an important component towards developing a human consciousness in which socially permitted murders were forbidden. (All of this is assuming the story of Abraham is true, if not then Jewish elders who created the narrative can be credited with successfully promoting the end of child sacrifices.)

Generally speaking, human sacrifices, of adults or children, were not culturally supported in Roman provinces during the era that Christianity was established in (one of the reasons the Romans are reported to have attacked the Phoenicians in Carthage was because they detested their practice of child sacrifices; and, generally, Romans did not view deaths in gladiator sports to be sacrifices to the Gods). Sacrificing animals was another matter. Like in Judaism, it was very culturally acceptable to sacrifice animals to spiritual deities. Other religious groups that are renowned for their ritualised killings are the Dionysus cult (Greek), Mithras cult (Roman), Zoroastrianism (Persian), and numerous others. In the Christian story of Jesus we have a synthesis of these two considerations; Jesus’ death was tragic, therefore, was not a deliberate human sacrifice, nonetheless, it’s effect was consistent with beliefs surrounding sacrificial deaths of animals, namely the Passover and Yom Kippur.

Another aspect of in the history of human sacrifices that is worthwhile to consider is the notion of a soul living after death. In the past, less so than now, many cultures perceived the incorporeal world to be as real as the corporeal world. Physical death was part of life and honouring the soul as a separate entity that could live on in an afterlife was a common. Further, like on earth, it was believed possible for souls to have spiritual missions after death, or they could reincarnate, or something else; for example, in Ancient Egypt servants may have been killed so they could continue working for their Pharaoh in the realm of the dead. In Christianity, Jesus had the spiritual mission of defeating Satan and opening the doors of Heaven to all believers; these were act not deemed possible to achieve while living on earth in a physical body.

Regardless of ethical backgrounds, our shared human ancestry contains many examples of violent acts in which people and animals were ritualistically killed to fulfil spiritual rites and beliefs. Christianity is not the only religion to forgo ongoing flesh and blood offerings, however, the dominance of the religion has contributed to the abolishing of animal sacrifices in many circumstances. The transformation of magical processes that were initially conducted with real flesh and blood, through to magical processes being conducted through the symbolic bread and wine, could be likened to horsepower being used to describe the power of a car even though there are no horses literally pulling the vehicle like in previous models.

Matthias Grünewald, The Small Crucifixion, c. 1511/1520. Source: National Gallery of Victoria

Summing Things Up

The reasoning behind Jesus’ sacrificial death (as opposed to, say, dying of old age) being a symbol of forgiveness and life-saving act for the faithful only makes sense if viewed through the understanding of Jewish traditions, namely the Passover and Yom Kippur. Christian believers typically add to these theologies that in dying, Jesus was able to spiritually descend to lower parts of the world (Hell) and capture an oppressor (Satan) before ascending up to heaven. (These concepts can be viewed as having an alignment with Ancient Greek mystery school doctrines, i.e., Hell was originally called Hades by Hellenistic Christians, but that’s a story for another time.)

Jesus’ death would have been morally condoned by his contemporaries if it occurred as an outright human sacrifice, however, because the circumstances had tragic elements, it was perceived as being a fateful series of events that were ordained by God. Christianity’s approach to Jesus’ death transformed the significance of flesh and blood sacrifices, hence, many Christian denominations symbolically represent Jesus’ through bread and red wine (referred to as the Holy Communion or Eucharist). Instead of animal sacrifices conducted to maintain God’s favour, reverence continues less violently thanks to the power of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice and magical life sustaining blood.

Essentially, in early Christianity we see the theology of Judaism synthesised through the magical acts of Jesus in such a way that difficult rituals that involve real flesh and blood were transformed into symbolic references; supernatural acts became spiritualised: 

They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 

1 Corinthians 10:3-4, New International Version

In turn, this spiritualisation of Jewish theology provided a basis for an intellectualisation of God. Connecting to deities through the mind has strong links to Greek values, for instance, according to philosophers like Plato, the intellect, nous, or universal mind, is the highest of all spiritual components. (Again, the finer details of this connection are best left for another time.)

The relevance of Jesus Christ being a sacrificial lamb that fulfils of Jewish in blood magic purposes is a matter for each individual to decide. For some, the significance adds to their pious faith that Jesus is the true global redeemer of sins whose gift of self sacrifice is wanton of praise and gratitude. For others, understanding the continuum of Judaism to Christianity can insight cynicism that both religions are bogus, built upon fraudulent accounts of clairvoyance. Either way, to believe or disbelieve, full knowledge of the theology that supports faith enables one to live with truth and integrity.

To summarise, Christianity is a religion based upon the premise that a 2000 year old Jewish ritual, that involved a human sacrifice, was effective. Christians today still believe that the blood magic performed by someone called Yeshua in Hebrew, Iesous in Greek, and Jesus in modern English, will ensure they have an afterlife of bliss, and those who don’t will burn in hell until Yeshua/Iesous/Jesus reincarnates. This event is called the second coming … which is a little confusing because modern Christians generally don’t believe in reincarnation … and yet if Jesus is God’s only son and Christians (in particular fundamentalists) also believe that the Jewish creation myth is true, then Adam is also God’s first son … how can God have a first son called Adam and an only son called Jesus? This conundrum brings us to the second topic of discussion: Jesus as Adam, which shall be discussed in my next article.

Reference list

Agatan Foundation 2018, The Crazy Facts You Didn’t Know About The History of Christianity by Richard Carrier, YouTube.

Evans, L 2021, An Expert Explains Mythicism with Dr Richard Carrier, http://www.youtube.com.

Holloway, S 2019, The origins of the ‘scapegoat’ | Jewish History & Culture, Sydney Jewish Museum, viewed 21 September 2021, <https://sydneyjewishmuseum.com.au/jewish-culture/the-origins-of-the-scapegoat/&gt;.

Jarus, O 2017, 25 Cultures That Practiced Human Sacrifice, livescience.com, Live Science.

Kasten, P 2017, The final judgment gets the goats, The Compass, viewed 23 September 2021, <https://www.thecompassnews.org/2017/11/final-judgment-gets-goats/&gt;.

Kohler, K & Jacobs, J n.d., BARABBAS – JewishEncyclopedia.com, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com, viewed 21 September 2021, <https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/2477-barabbas&gt;.

Martyr, J 150AD, Dialogue of Justin Philosopher and Martyr, with Trypho, a Jew. Public domain. Formatting by http://www.basilica.org. Copyright free.

Parsons, J n.d., Behold the Goat of God!, http://www.hebrew4christians.com, viewed 21 September 2021, <https://www.hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Fall_Holidays/Yom_Kippur/Goat_of_God/goat_of_god.html&gt;.

University of Oxford 2014, Ancient Carthaginians really did sacrifice their children | University of Oxford, http://www.ox.ac.uk.

Spiritual bypassing and religious abuse: The Reason Why Everyone Needs to Be Trauma-Informed

“Since the beginning of time, spirituality and religion have been called to fill in the gaps that science did not understand.”

~ Dan Brown, Angels and Demons, pg.43

Alan John Miller, is the cult leader of a group called Divine Truth. He convinces his disciples that he is the reincarnation of Jesus; that’s right, this charismatic Australian believes he is the big Christ man himself. From the authoritative stance of being the Son of God, Miller gives advice to his followers that inevitably leads them into forsaking their family and friends. Coercive and controlling behaviour like this is common amongst cult leaders, but from watching the investigative documentary (see link below) it occurred to me that much of Miller’s manipulation would be ineffective if victims or potential victims understood the basic principles of trauma. 

About three minutes into the 7NEWS documentary, we see footage of Miller addressing a hall full of Christians who are searching for answers to some of life’s difficulties. Miller tells them that addictions are standing in the way of their relationship with God and that by speaking his truth he can heal their emotional wounds. A few seconds later we see a white board which illustrates his approach.

Source: 7NEWS Spotlight. (2121). The Messiah: meet the Australian man who says he’s Jesus and his followers | 7NEWS Spotlight. http://Www.youtube.com. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0-ustkfE9w

The journalist aptly points out that Miller, or Jesus as he prefers to be called, is speaking New Age pop-psychology. The notion that addictions have some spiritual cause, moreover, that one can overcome “sinful” or “evil” temptations through the mysteries of a “Holy Spirit” has little grounding in light of contemporary neuroscience. I am very open to the notion that there is a metaphysical world that our ordinary senses cannot identify. However, I am equally open to the notion that there are things in our physical world that once appeared to be supernatural can but now be scientifically explained, hence, “gurus” who could once get away with spreading misinformation cannot do so as easily. 

There is an expanding school of thought that addictions, and most mental health conditions, are caused by trauma. Gabor Maté (author of The Realm of Hungry Ghosts) and Bessel Van der Kolk (author of The Body Keeps the Score) are in my top five favourite researchers who actively work to educate society about the link between trauma, addictions and mental health issues. 

At the core of understanding trauma and how it affects thoughts, emotions, and behaviour is the vagus nerve. This all important nerve begins at the base of the brain and runs down the spine. It branches off throughout the body and is the major highway for sending signals to and from the brain and throughout the body. Burnt your finger on the stove? It is through nerves in your fingers that link to the vagus nerve that pain signals are sent to your brain. Commonly, the signal sent back will be to remove your finger from the heat source. All this can happen in an instant. You may also apply learned behaviour, like placing your finger in cool water to stop the burning process. Alternatively, you may scream, call for help, or become confused and not know what to do. Neurologically, the difference between a calm or heightened reaction is how much access to cognitive functions you have. When presented with threatening situations, the nervous system directs all its energy into survival, hence digestion stops, heart rate increases, and energy is pulled away from non-essential higher order cognitive processes, thus thinking is affected. 

Several factors contribute to how a person reacts to trauma, namely, how, when and why the trauma occurred. Reactions are also heavily dependant upon prior life experiences. If one has had experiences of nurture and support then their reactions are more likely to be calm and measured. Alternatively, if one has been raised in an environment where crying in pain from being burnt is not acceptable (sadly, this happens), emotions like fear can overwrite other reactions. A person’s survival instincts generally fall into the categories of fight, flight, freeze, and fawn. 

Now imagine you’ve been hurt emotionally. If one knows strategies that will elevate the pain through healthy behaviours (like going for a walk, meditating, or seeking therapy) then cognitive functions may prevail. But what if these things aren’t known? What if crying for help does not work? Unfortunately, many people, especially young children, find themselves in this position. When emotional pain is unaddressed, the person’s vagus nerve still sends signals that there is a problem, however, when the desire for relief is not addressed, it gets stored in the body. That is where addictions emerged. 

Maté defines an addiction as any behaviour that provides temporary relief but causes harm in the long run. Aside from the obvious harmful addictions of drugs, smoking, alcohol, and some sexual activities, a person could develop an addiction to seemingly less harmful activities like shopping or excessive exercise. From Van der Kolk’s work, the message is clear; trauma stays in the body till issues are addressed. Breaking the cycle of trauma responses is hard, especially if the nervous system’s pattern of adverse responses was set in childhood. Essentially, children who grow up in abusive environments can become accustomed to anxiety states being normalised, therefore, it can feel strange when their body is learning how to relax without the use of addictions. Adopting one addiction for another can be an endless cycle till healing takes place at a nervous system level.

Ultimately, healing requires soothing the nervous system which, in turn, means working with the vagus nerve because it’s a major component of our anatomy that links the brain with all other parts of the body. There are many approaches that can be used to achieve this; no one size that suits all. Breathing exercises, trauma-informed yoga, art therapy, psychotherapy, journal writing, are a few examples of what some people find useful. Miller does not use any of these. 

In the spirit of new aged psycho babble, the documentary shows Miller encouraging people to enter into a state of anxiety, that is, a state in which their nervous system is activated. He achieves this by requesting they find trauma in their family history (not a difficult request). At the 4:30 min mark there is a difficult to watch scene in which Miller asks a person to “connect” with their childhood rage of being oppressed by their mother. We see the man shaking and trembling as he recalls his past. Miller stands by, almost excited by the emotional pain he’s elicited. He offers no emotional support, comfort, or suggestions for how the man can emotionally or cognitively process the event. Due to the absence of addressing trauma at the nervous system level, the exercise can be perceived as re-traumatising and, in turn, it places Miller in a position of power over his followers. One could even suggest that they shift their addictive behaviours from drugs, shopping, or whatever, onto being addicted to his approval. 

To add complexity to the situation, there is almost value in Miller’s approach to childhood trauma, that is, when the man trembles while recalling a time in his childhood where he felt unsupported, it is reminiscent of Peter Levine’s work (another of my fave psychologists). Levine has done extensive research on the role of the nervous system and anxiety, and he reports that shaking is an effective means of releasing stored energy from past trauma. However, Levine’s work is an evidence-based psychotherapeutic practice that incorporates psychoeducation. Moreover, Levine is not a cult leader who tries to get people to commit to his total control. In contrast, when Miller evokes activation of the nervous system he is not doing so in a therapeutic manner. Miller does not explain the body-mind connection through autonomical functions, rather, he explains things in terms of his interpretation of the Christian Bible. After all, he is the messiah, Jesus, right!?! 

Given that Miller may by successfully activating the vagus nerve through his techniques, it is understandable that some people find relief and therefore attribute this to Miller having some divine qualities. However, Miller’s full process of deliverance from addictions stops short of being effective therapy. There is no directed resolve of stored emotions, just the instruction of feeling them, which is not enough. Triggered but unresolved trauma energy can do more harm than good. Essentially, I see the situation as being one in which a lack of understanding of how the brain and body functions in response to trauma is being used to manipulate people into giving up money, dreams, and relationships, moreover, doing so fulfils Miller’s self-declared grandiosity. Given Miller’s narcissistic tendencies, I am highly sceptical of his overall approaches being in line with evidence-based therapy. Research about people who have been in cults, suggests they are more traumatised by the leaders’ control and manipulation than anything they experienced prior to joining. 


Abuse tendencies that are promoted through religious ideologies is being recognised as such a significant issue that the term spiritual bypassing has been coined. This refers to spiritual explanations that dismiss or belittle real trauma. For example, “it was the will of God” or “what doesn’t kill you makes us stronger” or to just “let things go”. Such directives are more likely to encourage dissociation than healing. Dissociation (distancing oneself from reality) can feel euphoric, therefore, spiritual practices that encourage it may appear (at surface level) to be “real”, however, dissociation is actually a serious mental health concern.

"To many people, spirituality becomes a sort of crutch used as a way of standing back up again in the face of life’s turmoil – and sometimes this is necessary. We all need support at some time or another in our lives. But the problem comes when spirituality is used as a drug for which we become dependent on in order to bypass the darker elements of our lives."

~ Aletheia Luna, What Is Spiritual Bypassing? (Beware of These 10 Types)

Miller’s approach to Christianity blends half truths about psychology with his personal narrative of Jesus. It is a classic example of partial-truths being more dangerous than outright lies. 

"In any given psychiatric hospital at any given time, there are probably several Jesus Christs. A colleague once told me of a group psychotherapy situation at a state hospital in which there were three Jesus' in the same group."

~ Alan Gettis, The Jesus Delusion: A Theoretical and Phenomenological Look

Contrary to stereotypes of destructive cult leaders, they do not necessarily have adverse mental health conditions like schizophrenia or bipolar. In the case of Miller, it appears he has some sort of basic delusion disorder (I cannot give an official diagnosis). The narrative he’s created is not very original; believing oneself to a Messiah is common. Mental health clinics around the world do not have a shortage of people who believe they are Jesus. Unsurprisingly, western countries are more likely to see people who believe they are Christ, while in other locations, individuals with delusional disorders may believe they are another grandiose personality like the Buddha, or a Scandinavian God, or whatever is a significant religious influence in their culture. 

Besides the potential for narcissism and delusional disorder, Miller demonstrates sound cognitive functions. Thus, there is some need to re-evaluate stereotypes of cult leaders. Further, in line with the school of thought that suggests that most mental health issues have a basis in trauma, one may ask what is Miller’s trauma? Perhaps if he received adequate support for whatever this was he would not be in the current situation of re-traumatising others? 

In conclusion, any religious ideology that makes claims about healing trauma warrants scrutiny. Within Australia, the issue of cult leaders, spiritual advisors, and some personal coaches, presenting misleading psychological advice often goes unrecognised. While Freedom of Religion is important, it is equally important to recognise when self-proclaimed leaders are using pseudoscience psychology that leads to spiritual bypassing and religious abuse. Continued education of trauma may save a lot of people from becoming victims of “Messiah’s” who do more harm than good.

References

7NEWS Spotlight. (2121). The Messiah: meet the Australian man who says he’s Jesus and his followers | 7NEWS Spotlight. http://Www.youtube.com. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0-ustkfE9w

Aletheia Luna. (2021, February 2). What Is Spiritual Bypassing? (Beware of These 10 Types) ⋆ LonerWolf. LonerWolf. https://lonerwolf.com/what-is-spiritual-bypassing/

Brown, J. (2019). Grounded Spirituality. Enrealment Press.

Cox, C. (2019, February 25). Types of Delusions. WebMD; WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/delusions-types

Dan Brown Quote: “Since the beginning of time, spirituality and religion have been called to fill in the gaps that science did not underst…” (n.d.). Quotefancy.com. Retrieved July 2, 2021, from https://quotefancy.com/quote/1018478/Dan-Brown-Since-the-beginning-of-time-spirituality-and-religion-have-been-called-to-fill

Gabor Maté. (2018). In the realm of hungry ghosts close encounters with addiction. London Vermilion.

Gettis, A. (1987). The Jesus Delusion: A Theoretical and Phenomenological Look. Journal of Religion and Health, 26(2), 131–136. https://www.jstor.org/stable/27505915

Levine, P. A. (1997). Waking the tiger – healing trauma : the innate capacity to transform overwhelming experiences. North Atlantic Books.

Rosen, S. (2014). Cults: A natural disaster — Looking at cult involvement through a trauma lens. International Journal of Cultic Studies, 5, 12–29.

van der Kolk, B. (2015). The body keeps the score : brain, mind and body in the healing of trauma. Penguin Books.