Religious abuse of children

July 26, 2014 • 12:24 pm

UPDATE: Reader Mark Sturtevant noted that some of the circumstances surrounding this video are described here, which also shows some other videos. He comments in the thread below.


RememberTheTime99 has a series of videos about religious people indoctrinating their kids in faith; this short one (8.5 minutes long) was published on Friday shows a bunch of new footage of revivals, people being “slain in the spirit,” and other such horrors.  An excerpt from the notes:

Evangelical Christians around the globe are increasingly holding large children’s revivals where they practice a disturbing ritual called “anointing by the holy spirit,” “being slain by the holy spirit,” “catching the holy ghost,” or “falling out.”

It is intimidating, physically coercive, deeply stressful, and emotionally manipulative. Children are under tremendous pressure to cooperate, to mimic the adults’ bizarre behaviors, and to avoid being judged unworthy, disappointing, or worse, under satan’s spell.

The older children and teens are under great peer pressure to fit in. The youngest simply don’t understand they’re supposed to fall over. Their purity and honesty shines through.

Some of these kids undoubtedly think it’s a huge game: “Fall backwards when the Big Man touches your head.” But others show real emotion, and many grow up into the deluded adults who behave the same way in this film. Look at the Mind Predator with the little blond girl 6.25 minutes in.  He just wants the kids to fall backwards in Jesus’s name.

It’s brainwashing, pure and simple. The kids have no choice. Is there anyone who wouldn’t call this abuse?

And, of course, there’s not a Ground of Being in the house.

h/t: Bo

60 thoughts on “Religious abuse of children

  1. I could only watch 45s of this. It was too painful.
    My religious upbringing was more mainstream, but when I was a teenager I was invited to a charismatic church, and told to show up early because they were going to “pray” before the service. I had no idea what I was going to see. My brother and I went, and we thought the people were insane. At the time I think I thought they were demon possessed, as it was the only explanation I could think of. Now I’m pretty sure they were either delusional or faking to fit in. But standing in a circle with those folks, watching them act crazy all “praying” gibberish at the same time… It was somewhat traumatic.
    A few years later, disillusioned with the lack of the supernatural in my denomination, for some reason despite that high school experience I decided to take the charismatic movement seriously and prayed to receive the gift of tongues. Nothing happened, needless to say, but I did feel pressure to fake it, and I did for a while until I realized how stupid I was being. But I was an adult, trying to be rational. These are kids are being brainwashed.
    A little bit of critical thinking is in order, any little bit at all.

    1. I imagine that if the people in this video saw members of another religion behaving this way, they would blame it on demonic possession.

      1. That would be really interesting – maybe they could also explain why their church leaders are “speaking in tongues,” but the rest of these guys were just spouting gibberish.

    2. I agree, this is hard to watch. Fortunately I wasn’t raised christian and never had to deal with anything like this, but it is still hard to watch. I will never understand how people can react this way to nonsense like this. Even if I wanted to fit in, I could never imagine doing any of this, even as a child.

    3. I was unfortunate enough to be raised in these sorts of churches. My grandmother was the lay-pastor of one of these kinds of churches.

      As someone who had to grow up in this environment, I can say first hand, that it is terrifying initially, the noise, the screaming, is so overwhelming. Eventually you learn to fall simply so they dont crowd you and focus on you for ages. The speaking in tongues is a constant backdrop, barely heard over the crying or laughing. What is worse though is when you’re at a small church, less than 20 people all focused on you, at least in the mass crowd there is a lot of distraction all around.

  2. In the mid-sixties, The Catholic Church, at least in NYC, set up what was called Encounters which were horrifically manipulative weekend retreats for high school kids, in my case, girls. Picture this: the word ‘encounter’ would be whispered around us girls, oh, a very special retreat, for very special girls, who can only go on invitation. One ‘in’ girl sponsored me for an interview, and I was accepted.

    At the end of the weekend (which activities were interspersed with us being told how special girls were, so soft, so caring, so sweet, how we should make ourselves pretty, etc.), we apparently were ready for an extraordinary encounter. Broken up into smaller groups, we were led into a darkened room, lit by candles and draped in heavy velvet. The air was heavy with incense and intrigue. Immediately I went on psychological guard and stood aside, as far as I could from the happening.

    A priest than emotionally lectured that Jesus loved us so much that he suffered, look at the crucifix, see what he endured for you. Before I knew it, each and every teenage girl except me swooned on their knees, suffocating with guilt, choking on tears, begging forgiveness from Jesus for their lack of appreciation for what he did for them. I remained in the shadows, watching and observing.

    At the end, when we filed past the priest to get outside, being the last one, I stopped and said to him, that it was disgraceful and disgusting what happened in there. He gave me a cursory glance, trying to read that particular bag of behavior that I represented, and said, sweetly, oh dear, they are just not as intelligent as you, and we have to do that sort of thing for them.

    1. Yes… I’m seeing several Catholics posting how Catholicism does nothing like this. They’re obviously unaware of their own Charismatic branch which does falling out and glossolalia.

      And as you note, they use retreats that draw heavily on the oppressive and emotionally manipulative EST movement 0f the 1960s.

      As a high school student, a priest took me with him to one called “Search for Christian Maturity.” They had secretly gone to the family and friends of every attendee, collecting “palancas” — letters saying they love us. After a day of emotional testimony, and trust exercises like being guided outside blindfolded, we were sent off alone with our mysterious packet, not knowing what it was.

      When time was up, people returned to the room, most in tears. We were dramatically told to take that feeling of being loved, multiply it by a thousand, and know that this is what it feels like to be a Christian all the time because of the love of Jesus. We were putty in their hands for the rest of the retreat.

      The priest organized a series of these for area high school kids and talked me into being the youth organizer. I’m embarrassed to say it was a power trip and I did; it made me very popular. The first time I gave testimony, I started crying, and I saw that most in the room started also crying in empathy. The next retreat when I gave testimony, I didn’t cry — no one else did either, and the event was less successful.

      Guess what I did the retreat after that, and all those thereafter? I faked tears each and every time, hating myself but saying it was worth it because I was doing good. I know the priest knew exactly what I was doing. He was probably doing it too.

      Within a couple years I was in college and a humanist, cringing in shame at recalling my part in such fraudulent emotional manipulation.

      Catholic “Search Retreats” still go on:

    1. Yes, I played it through just to see that, and a couple others. I get her. A young Doubting Thomas that one!

      1. Clearly child abuse. If those adults had brains, they would be ashamed. The really little ones look bewildered at best and damn scared at the worst. So sad. That little girl who wouldn’t fall down made me chuckle, though. Sorry, couldn’t help it, but I got a visual of Spanky (Little Rascals) popping that big goofball right in the nose!

    2. That little girl is exactly the person that is going to read a book by Hitchens or visit this web site and realize that she is not alone in her view of the world and that it is perfectly OK not to believe the lies that have been told to her all her life.

      Her child abusing parents and other authority figures in her life are exactly the literalist believers that the fuckwit Michael Robbins claims do not exist.

    3. My favourite is the girl at 3:30. You can see her thinking: “Ok, If I have to fall then let’s pull my hair to the side. Can’t have the Holy Spirit catch me with my hair in a mess, can we.”

  3. I think indeed quite a few are faking to fit in (as charles calls it): at 3.16 the girl looks backward to make sure she’ll be caught and at 3.32 the other little girl puts her hair in place: give-away signs, methinks.
    Indeed the girl at 6.25 is really good, several follow her example of refusing to fall over backward. Brings tears to my eyes…
    Oh yes, this is abuse, big way.

    I think it was Dawkins (but I might be mistaken) who first had the guts in our PC-pregnant present culture, to compare religious abuse with sexual abuse. He used the example of convincing a child that a dying friend of the wrong faith would burn in hell, but I think this too is worse than minor sexual abuse (to which I was subjected as a child).

  4. It made me think of Franz Mesmer. How much neurological research has been done to try to explain this ability that some people have to cause others to lose their minds by the power of suggestion alone.

    1. This is exactly what i was thinking. The process is very much like what hypnotists do — use coercion to get people to act dumb. It works best in groups.

      1. Men go crazy in congregations
        But they only get better
        One by one – Sting

        Or less poetically:

        Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one. – Charles Mackay (author of “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds”)

        1. Contagious collective hysteria – a phenomenon well-known and fully exploited by many a charlatan “guru” of various religions and of political groups.

  5. When I was a kid my family held weekly sessions to cast demons out of us. Demons that had been cast out one week were always replaced by others by the next–our sinful natures kept the door open, or so I was told. We got on our knees while an adult named every behavior they didn’t like: demons of laziness, disobedience, rebelliousness, selfishness and the like were ordered to leave us in Jesus’s name. It is difficult to describe the combined feelings of confusion, fear, discomfort, anger, and spookiness. Even as a child raised with these creepy and bizarre teachings, part of you knows it doesn’t make sense. A tiny bit of you waits to wake up from a weird dream. Children are too often experimented on by parents who are fanatical about indoctrinating them, and it does have a lasting effect. It is very sad.

        1. The United States of America. People don’t know what goes on behind closed doors in many middle class and upper middle class homes in the name of religion. Educated, otherwise reasonable people can engage in very questionable behavior when ‘God’ says so.

      1. They had demons to cast out of each other as well: lust, gluttony, that kind of thing. When they would work on the kids they would name a suspected demon type, say rebelliousness, and then watch our eyes. Whatever look we had was taken as confirmation of the demon’s presence. Kids should not be taught that evil spirits live in them. Everything enjoyable is an open door to evil spirits: books, music, television, movies, certain kinds of people, jewelry, even something as stupid as red nail polish. It is a rationalization of fears and paranoia, dressed up as spiritualism and piety.

    1. We did that, too! Not with family, but with my church small group. We prayed to cast demons out of people’s houses and ourselves.

      1. OK – 3rd try…

        When my ex was starting out as a doctor, he did many Emerg/ER/Casualty shifts. One night he came home around 3AM and told me a story I thought I must have dreamed up.
        (To be continued)

        1. Continuing…
          This woman came into Emerg with her evangelical preacher, who was shouting Devil get thee behind me/her/us. The preacher fortunately realized that the problem was beyond his ken. Seems the woman believed that she was being raped by the devil and was taking precautions. When my ex asked her to undress there was all this clanging. She had inserted a couple of knives and a pizza cutter(!!) up her, presumably sharp ends out. The poor thing ended up in the psyche ward. For years I couldn’t see a pizza cutter without thinking of her..

          1. It’s surprising how powerful these Christians believe the devil is. I was brought up with religion, but I was taught that the only “power” the devil had was the power to tempt you to sin. He didn’t possess people, let alone rape them. Believing in this nonsense would have been seen as a lack of faith in God.

    2. That must be very scary – being told each time that you had done something that maybe you didn’t even know or think was wrong, that you had done it because an evil entity had entered your body and controlled your actions. There’s no good excuse for telling a child that.

      Of course, for adults, that’s a convenient excuse – “The devil made me do it!”

  6. One of the videos about this was innocently posted on Facebook by a camp counselor with the intention of using it as a promotion for their church bible camp. The link quickly spread to other sites, and these went viral as they filled with negative comments and were copied over and over. The original site had been taken down, but the damage is done. The whole sordid story is here. It seems that many of the parents, and the camp counselors are in siege mode right now, trying to defend the indefensible.

  7. I should point out that not all evangelicals engage in this. Falling out, as well as other manifestations of the HS like speaking in tongues, is exclusively Charismatic. I grew up evangelical Southern Baptist and Wesleyan, and even I thought the Pentecostals were freaky (not bad freaky, fwiw, but definitely not “mainstream”).

    1. I also grew up in a similar tradition that looked down on charismatic churches. Nevertheless, I painfully recognize all the emotions and manipulation and mind games in that film from personal experience. While we didn’t fall out and vibrate on the floor or make funny sounds we were pressed and pressured into confessions, into prayers and tears and guilts and ecstasies. Psychologically it was the same tortured mind game, just a little less interesting on film.

  8. Just to let you know there is hope out there, please enjoy the following promotional video of Camp Quest TEXAS 2013:

    Now, more than ever, our kids need a secular alternative for summer camps.

    Check to see if there’s a Camp Quest in your state – if there isn’t, contact the national Camp Quest and see what it would take to start one in your state.



  9. Absolutely shocking for the European that I am. Most of these kids are physically pushed into falling. I also have noted that in the many videos I have seen of preachers offering healing and the people falling down, there never is anyone who is morbidly obese – it would be far too difficult for one person to catch them to break their fall and just as difficult to help lift them back up again. The whole thing, and especially the glossolalia, seems totally fake to me. I also see mass hysteria there.

    Kids should never be exposed to and expected to join in such madness.

  10. I wonder how they justify their contention that it is the Holy Spirit who is causing all this. In the good old times of the Inquisition such behaviour would warrant a trip to the dungeon.

        1. The confession has already been written. What we need is your signature. Well, your mark.
          OK, let’s be blunt : we, the questioners, can dislocate every long-bone joint in your body, and break every bone in your hands (including those really difficult-to-break ungual phalanges, and still we’ll have a priest to hand to assist you with making your mark. and don’t worry, you will confess ; we will not let you die before you do. And the witnesses will be honestly sure that you truly deeply wish to sign that confession.

          1. Because any discomfort that you may feel would be mild compared to what SATAN!! will do if we fail to persuade.
            And any pleasure we feel in selflessly saving your immortal soul is not sadism but merely His reward for the administering of His Precious Gift™

  11. Thank goodness I never experienced this kind of garbage as a child. But I do recall attending a Lutheran youth conference and felt that same group-think urging me to be emotional and cry while praying or listening to stories of others’ experiences. I tried to join in, but it didn’t feel at all comfortable. That sense of discomfort still hits me when I’m in a group that I think is trying to manipulate my emotions. (For some reason theater productions are usually just fine–maybe because I know their admitted raison d’etre is to manipulate).

    By the way, that conference was held in Virginia Beach during the winter (in the early 80s). It ended up being fun because we got snowed in. Huge drifts kept us in the hotels and town for days longer. They had trouble feeding us and some kids trashed the hotels. I never went back because I figured nothing could top that fun.

  12. Um… okay, speaking as someone who experienced this as a child, I do not personally feel that charismatic rituals were abusive to me. I have no doubt that they can be when coerced and if others have felt abused by this, I’m not going to discount their experience. But I think, before everyone speculates about what these children are feeling and how traumatized they may or may not be, one would do well to talk to someone who experienced it and see what it was like.

    No, we weren’t all faking it. I’m sure some were, but some weren’t.

    It could be a rewarding experience. I’m sure for some it wasn’t, but for some it was.

    No we weren’t all pressured into it. Some of us were and some of us weren’t and it depended on the situation. I was always free to choose for myself if I wanted to go up to the front or not.

    And finally, I’m now agnostic. I believe that these experiences were pretty much hysteria induced by particular bizarre circumstances. I have a pretty big chip on my shoulder about Christianity and a laundry list of ways that it damaged me emotionally, psychologically, and even physically. But these rituals don’t even rank on the list. If they had any damaging effect it was negligible compared to the damaging effects of being told you are worthless without god, being told that you must save other peoples’ souls or they will go to hell, being told that you must obey your parents under any circumstances, being told that your personal wants/desires are sinful, etc. THESE things were damaging. I feel like taking a pot shot at charismatic weirdness is kind of a cop out. Sure, it looks bizarre, but it’s not half so bad as the more “normal” stuff that exists in Christian doctrine.

    Interesting to talk about, sure. But abuse? I don’t know. I think it’s much more nuanced than most people might realize. If anyone is curious about these experiences, I’m happy to elaborate on what parts I think were okay and what issues I DO have with it. I just hate to see this conversation turning to a straw man attack without at least discussing what it’s like to experience this from the other side.

  13. Jerry, author Adam Laats has responded to your post. (

    He “teaches history and education classes in the Graduate School of Education and History Department at Binghamton University… he has published widely about the history of conservatism in America’s schools. His first book, Fundamentalism and Education in the Scopes Era: God, Darwin, and the Roots of America’s Culture Wars (Palgrave Macmillan 2010) examined battles over religion and schooling in the 1920s.”

    He posted “Atheist pundit Jerry Coyne, for instance, puts it this way: ‘It’s brainwashing, pure and simple. The kids have no choice. Is there anyone who wouldn’t call this abuse?’ These behaviors seem bizarre to me as well. But I don’t call it abuse. The adults in this video, to my mind, don’t appear to be victimizing children, but rather trying to share an authentically held belief with them. That’s a big difference.”

    In the comments, he continues: “that sort of behavior MIGHT include coercion and abuse, but I don’t see any in the video itself…”

    No coercion?!

    I asked him how he’d feel about an identical nonChristian video. He replied “How would I feel if MY daughter was in a video like that? Very angry. But that’s the point: These people are not my children; I don’t assume a right to know what is best for them… How do I feel about young children drinking Mountain Dew? I think it is a terrible idea and I would be horrified if my toddler did so. But do I think that parents who give their children Mountain Dew should have those children taken away by the government? No.”

    To my reply “It’s very disturbing to hear what these adults are doing to these poor kids dismissed as comparable to giving them soda pop. Attaching the label ‘religion’ to rituals that otherwise would be widely condemned should never be an excuse for them.”

    he answers: “Why does it disturb you?”

  14. The people in this film show all the classic signs of mental illness and I find it very difficult to understand why they haven’t been declared unfit as parents by the authorities. The preasts, or whatever they call themselves should in my opinion have a few vital organs removed surgically.

Leave a Reply