Three Signs Someone Should Leave Their Religion

Contrary to popular belief, there are people who are unqualified to be religious.    Most people tend to think that religion is a set of beliefs that you choose to bring into your consciousness.  Then those beliefs lead you to act or behave a certain way.

But it’s not that simple.  Because belief is complicated, and so is the human psyche that absorbs that belief.   And our actions come from just as complicated a place, one that often has nothing to do with the beliefs we claim to have.

The unfortunate result of people who are unqualified to be religious is that they destroy the religion they inhabit.  They become like the bad apple that makes the others go rotten.  They’re an infection.  And even worse, because they wear the garb and the actions of a religious person, people on the inside and outside associate them with religiosity and with their religion especially.

If you have any of the below qualities, I suggest you stop being religious.  I will provide other suggestions for what you can do with your time at the bottom, so don’t worry, there are places for you to go.  But in the meantime, you should understand that religion is based off the will of something higher and beyond us.  It is meant to build communities where truth and higher truth and morality are the bedrock of existence.

In other words, if you have these qualities, you are undermining those communities.  And you should find other ways to spend your precious time.

1. They obsess over authority

Let’s be clear: there are leaders and authority figures in every religion.  They guide us, they motivate us, they remind us what is right and wrong.  We need these leaders just like any community needs authority figures or any family needs parents.

But there is a difference between a love, respect, and humility for the authority figures in the religious world and the obsessive zeal some people throw onto them.

People like this will not make a move without getting the “go-ahead” from someone “above” them.  They will refuse to even consider the possibility that the authority figure may be wrong in certain cases.  They deny even a hint of humanity in these figures.

Often, in my opinion, this comes from a place of fear and complete and utter weakness of personal character.  It is a place of insecurity that believes this person is not worthy.  They believe they are not whole humans and thus they need the guidance of super-human figures to set them straight.

These actions hurt the community of the religion they inhabit because it gives a power to people who should have power not because they were simply granted authority but because they deserve that authority.  It also hurts it because it spreads the myth that religion is not about thinking for oneself (with the help of leaders, mentors, friends, and more).

This alone is enough to disqualify someone from being religious. 

Where they should go: It would be far better if they joined a world where such realities are rewarded and part of inherent belief (whereas most religious texts do not actually condone such self-brainwashing). 

Maybe they should move to a country with a dictatorship where the leader claims to be divine?  North Korea sounds about right.  Or if it is too hard for you to jump from religion to nationalism perhaps a perverse form of religion would serve them well, where the followers obsess over the leaders as much as you do.  I’m speaking of a cult.  Or maybe terrorist organization.  Either way, you’ll have your leader you can turn into an idol, and follow blindly along with an entire community that supports your beliefs.

2. They aren’t willing to fight their own people

As a Jew, I often hear people wondering aloud, “Where are all the Muslims sticking up against the terrorists in their midst?!”

Of course, there are plenty of Muslims who do, but I’m sure there are many that don’t.

But what I find ironic about that statement is that at times, it is yelled from the mountaintops, often more violently than any others, by the very people that would not think for a second to speak up against their own people.

These are the type of people that see a protest against a cultural problem in a community, such as sexism or hiding abuse, and attack the protestors.  So, to be clear, they are willing to fight their own people.  But only the people who have chosen to take up the first fight.  They’re willing to fight the rebels.  Because, to them, a rebel is a danger.  A rebel is worse than an abuser or perhaps even a murderer because they threaten the idealized community these people think they live in.

To a person who shouldn’t be religious, their community is a tool.  It’s a tool to make them feel comfortable.  A tool to make them feel like they live in a world of absolute truth without any real problems, whose leaders can’t make mistakes (see #1), where any supposed problems are really just manufactured by the “outside” or by the rebels.

These people don’t actually care about their community.  They care about how their community makes them feel.  And a rebel, someone who speaks up against the leaders or the issues in that community (unneeded note: all communities have problems), is popping the bubble the “Shouldn’t Be Religious” person has made for themselves.

This is why these folks will do such unthinkable things as literally attack their own people for rebelling.  Suddenly, the rebels are not part of their people anymore.  Because “their people” means the ones who are part of that idealized vision.

Where they should go:People with this issue are especially suited to a cult.   Scientology, perhaps.  One where rebellion is crushed, not accepted, and problems are ignored. 

They could also move to a secular suburb, the kind that values success and conformity over free thinking and creativity.  They’d have quite a bit of power on the PTA, for example.  Really, it’s all the same, so I encourage such people to take their pick.

3. They talk about their religion a lot

This one may sound surprising.  After all, some of the greatest leaders in the religious world tend to have Torah (or whatever holy book) words coming out of their mouths at all time.  In fact, it’s quite often seen as a virtue.

I obviously agree with that, and I wish I had more Torah I could bust out at any moment.

There’s a distinction between actual holy words being spoken, and words that are used as a tool for rationalization.

The way to tell the difference is this: a holy person knows how to apply the words of divinity they know so well into real-world, down-to-earth circumstances.  They also use those words as a source for their point of view.  In other words, it comes from within them, and it guides their moral compass.

In my experience there are very few people who truly live this way fully.  In Hassidus, we call them Tzaddikim.

The people who I’m talking about are the ones who do it the other way around.  They use religion and, more importantly, religious identity, as a self-serving tool for achieving their own ends.  Often, this is subconcious. But it is done nonetheless, and quite often.

These are the type of people that will remind you, “The Bible says this” when they debate you, as if there is one absolute position, as if there is no room for debate, as if there are no other alternatives.  They do this because to them, a holy word is not about inner change but about their attempt to control their environment (and you).

By bombarding others with their supposed knowledge (with, even if strong, is clearly not multi-faceted or creative), they attempt to turn themselves into a sort of authority figure, and often the people like you and me, who can’t quote things at will, are left blubbering because we’re just simple folks trying to do the right thing.

The truth is that if you start examining their words, and you look up all their quotes, you see just how much more complicated whatever truth they just threw at you is.  You see that they were building you a house of cards, ready to crumble at the moment it is touched and prodded.

What’s even more sad about this is that it is a form of intimidation.  Imagine someone telling you in extreme, black-and-white terms, that you are a horrible, sinful, bad person.  Imagine them telling you that if you don’t change, you are hurting (or angering or however they word it) G-d.  Imagine them telling you that there is no room for debate, and that any view you have is invalid in comparison to their lengthy treatises.

That’s intimidation.  That’s almost a threat.  It’s spiritual blackmail.

The worst part of all is that most of us are not willing or able to examine every article they throw at us, so we often will fall for their weak theology.  We feel insecure in our own knowledge, and so in that way their attempts at control work.

This leads to a culture of intimidation, a culture where people do not question but who listen to the ones who spout out the most “holy words” they can in one sentence.  A community of people who live in fear of being called out, even worse, in public for their supposed sinfulness, as proven by such and such quote.

Where they should go: The people who use words as a tool to control others have quite a few options at their disposal.  One is to lead a cult, although that is not for everyone, since you’d have to also believe you actually are an authority, which contradicts #1. 

A better option, perhaps, would be some sort of protest group or rebellion.  There are a variety of choices in this field.  They could choose an activist group that is built on empty slogans and who go out onto street corners and repeat slogans others yell at passerbys (not that all activists are like this).  You could even join an actual rebellion in a far-flung country, if you’re willing.  One where there isn’t a clear direction, but a lot of anger, slogans, and conformity.  ISIS maybe, if you’re in the mood.


Now, to be clear, I do not mean to say that people should make these choices permanently, but I think that the above three qualities are what poison communities, and they are the reasons so much gets twisted and confused in the religious world.  While they love to blame the secular world for criticizing their communities in the media, they are often the source and reason for this criticism.  Their actions are what we Jews call a “Hillul Hashem”, a desecration of G-d.

It’s unfortunate, because most of these folks don’t realize the damage they are causing or even that they live in their own prisons of conformity and even idol worship.  It’s most subconcious.

That is why I think it would be good for them to take a break, and go join a cult or ISIS or a suburb.  They can apply their subconscious insecurities and damage to places that accept such ways of thinking, not places that are meant to be beacons of light and truth.

My guess is that eventually they’d get sick of it, because to actually live in the community they are imagining would be hell (although, unfortunately, it seems some people prefer hell, which is much more predictable than reality).

Either way, I hope they leave.  And I hope they come back.  But mostly, at this stage, they need to leave.  Because our communities, the religious ones, no matter what religion, need healing, need to stop being distracted by their nonsense.  The secular press needs something better to talk about.

We could all take a breather, couldn’t we?  Here’s hoping.





14 responses to “Three Signs Someone Should Leave Their Religion”

  1. Chana Avatar

    Great essay. It’s time someone spoke out against the cancer in our community which are these people masquerading as religious when all they are is really jealous, angry, insecure and poisonous.

  2. Barry Avatar

    Maybe think about adding a 4th category. The person who discovers that the community and way of life they adopted is in fact incompatible with their own deeply held values and instead of leaving, begins to try and remake that community in their own image.

    If you really can’t stand such a large percentage of the people who make up your community, to the point where that’s all you can talk about, you’re probably in the wrong community.

    1. Elad Nehorai Avatar

      This is the minority, by far, thank the Good L-rd.

      1. Barry Avatar

        When I say “remake in their own image”, I mean the immediate impulse to go right to the SJW playbook of generating mass outrage whenever there is a societal problem you want to see fixed.

        In our communities, we can’t really afford the collateral damage that strategy causes. So no, don’t “keep your mouth shut”, but maybe, before going for the nuclear option, consider trying to fix the framework that already exists. That framework is currently in shambles, but maybe if you, and others like you who understand the real problems we’re facing decided to focus their energies on repairing the foundation of our society, we could see a real change.

        Doing it the way you’re advocating right now, even if successfully solves this particular issue, will only end up doing more damage that we’re going to have to deal with down the line.

        1. Elad Nehorai Avatar

          Oh man, so many things to respond to here:

          1. There was no “immediate impulse”. This is an issue that has been festering in this and other communities for quite some time, and it just so happened that this particular situation caused such an outcry that it resulted in a protest. I did not organize the protest, although I support it and joined it. But to say people “jumped” is just plain wrong, and also, I feel, an attempt to lump people into the “SJW” (aka facetious label) category for the convenience of not looking at their very valid concerns.

          2. I find it absolutely FASCINATING that you consider a small, peaceful protest “the nuclear option”. I suppose in communities where keeping shoving things under the rug is the norm such a thing would be considered nuclear, but it’s almost impossible for me to comprehend that someone would say that. This is people simply coming together and talking about things publicly and saying that they DO want to fix the framework that already exists. If you had been at the march or heard what Itta has been expressing, instead of labeling us/them SJW then perhaps you’d understand that.

          3. This idea that bringing up festering issues to the surface by talking about them publicly (whether in a blog post, protest, or any other area of expression) is somehow causing “more damage” is any easy way out, an excuse to not act. It’s what people say when they don’t want to face what’s in front of them. I’ve heard this a lot since this march idea came to the fore, people using the children as an example of why it shouldn’t happen. Of course, at the march itself, a child of an Aguna spoke about how important this march was, and there were others there who didn’t speak but you could see their pain and their willingness to fight for what was right.

          This idea of “more damage” is a myth, and a damaging one. It’s what I refer to in #2. It’s what stops us from reaching TRUE peace and ACTUALLY solving problems. It’s what causes people to stop acting and assume problems will just work themselves out. People are suffering every day because of these problems, and it is the people who enable these problems with their silence that are causing the “larger” problems, not the people who have taken action.

          1. Barry Avatar

            First of all, thanks for responding. I appreciate the chance to engage in a substantive debate with you on this and I apologize for the initial hostile tone of my comments. I also want to make clear where I stand on the actual issue so you don’t assume the worst about me. I agree in principal with the goal of the march’s leadership group and I do not buy the “there’s always two sides” argument, just like I don’t buy the argument that child abusers shouldn’t be exposed to protect the image of the community. I passionately believe in open discussion and debate about the painful issues that our community faces.

            With all that being said, It must be acknowledged that because we are religious Jews, these discussion and debates must be conducted at, and held to a different, more careful standard. There are actual halachos that govern public conversation that should guide us in these matters and practically, we cannot operate on the same patterns as the blogosphere or the twitterverse because the people on the other side of the screen also live down the block from us.

            In my last comment I said this:

            “When I say “remake in their own image”, I mean the immediate impulse to go right to the SJW playbook”

            Your response made me realize that I in truth had no idea whether any other options were tried, so I apologize and retract that. What remains true is that this march was ripped straight from the Progressive Left handbook, with all it’s attendant problems. This was not a “peaceful march” and it was in fact the “nuclear option”, or as close to the nuclear option as you’ll find in our community. A peaceful march would not have gone to The Besht and would not have made it about the individual who was tried and convicted of all manner of wrongdoing by a collection of heavily biased parties and concerned citizens. All due respect to Mrs. Roth, but she does not have the authority to declare somebody guilty. The march was designed to be confrontational and to draw as much media attention as possible; it was designed to serve as a “are you with us or against us moment”.

            A truly peaceful march would have enunciated a clear platform and a call to action along with a demand that those in a position of authority come out and address their concerns.

            And yeah, there is real damage done. The “think of the children” moral appeal comes in for well deserved mockery a lot of the time, but sometimes, it’s valid. It is very bad for our children to see the adults going after each other with the kind of venom and hate that we’ve seen with this issue. Our kids are on facebook and our kids read your blog and our kids definitely see a crowd of angry people protesting outside a shul.

            That doesn’t mean we ignore issues and it doesn’t mean we don’t form activist facebook groups. What it does mean is that we step back and never allow the conversation to get personal, unless there is an immediate danger to others and we have the ability to remove said others from that danger. The risk of us possibly ruining the life of an innocent person, even if the possibility that he is innocent is extremely remote, cannot be taken unless it is literal pikuach nefesh.

            If it is only possible to generate enough attention to an issue when it is made personal and salacious, well, that should tell us something too.

            Thank you again for engaging.

        2. Alex Blair Avatar
          Alex Blair

          What is the “SJW playbook”?

  3. Aryeh Laufer Avatar
    Aryeh Laufer

    well done- humorous and so true..

  4. Hymie Avatar

    Sometimes people flirt with these ‘categories’ without actually joining them, or realizing how close they are to that line. This is an excellent eye-opener for those of us who might be nearer to the edge than we realize.

  5. Princess Avatar

    I think it is dishonest to make the, “few bad apples claim,” when usually the system protects/encourages/rewards the bad apples. As far as the slavish devotion and idolatry of a leader(s) it appears that there are two players in this destructive codependent relationship. The secretly insecure leader thrives on the dependency the weak, needy person provides. We are to strengthen the hands that are weak. In general, religious and other social groups reward conformity and freely practice shooting the messenger, which I prefer to call, “beating the donkey.” 🙂

  6. Firestoned1 Avatar

    This is a very good theoretical piece. A very good general opinion. The problem is, the specific event upon which this piece is based was inherently flawed.

    First, the event was a knee-jerk reaction to a specific unfortunate occurrence within the community. Yes, there were people who also wanted to bring about awareness in general, but there is no doubt that this event only happened to the aforementioned occurrence. The problem is, this “occurrence” in question did indeed have two sides to the story, as I happen to be privy to very solid information from both sides. It’s complicated, but if each side would make their argument before a reasonable jury right now, I can assure you that you would have a hung jury.

    Second, I completely disagree with the premise that the Aguna crisis needs more awareness. All Jews, especially Orthodox Jews, are very aware of the Aguna crisis. I have yet to hear of a Beit Din rule in favor of a man refusing a Get. I know stories of men beaten and threatened for refusing to give a Get. I have seen men thrown out of Shul and publicly shamed. The story of the Epstein thugs is now world famous. (Of course Epstein was also a crook, but that does not alter the fact that people have used his services many times). The Jewish Press, as well as other Jewish publications, openly publish the names of men who are under Siruv. In short, no man that I know of “gets away” with a Get refusal. After all is set and done, there is only so much anyone can do to force a man to provide a Get short of torture or death.

    So what was this event really about?

    It was all about the woman who sadly passed away without receiving a Get. It was about her, not about awareness.

    Hopefully this will help you understand why the people who were privy to ALL the facts completely disagreed with this event.

  7. Alex Blair Avatar
    Alex Blair

    This describes my experience with a self help group(of which I was a member for 16 years) perfectly: I only left ‘by accident'(long story)…..fear kept me there, way past the point it had ceased to help, and had in fact caused harm, some of which I still deal with, many years later.
    So helpful…..thank you

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  9. gold backed ira account Avatar

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