The form of religious abuse to gain most attention of late is sexual molestation by Roman Catholic priests. According to a 2002 report by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, nearly 4400 priests—4 percent of all those who had served in the previous fifty years—faced some kind of sexual abuse allegation.
But religious abuse can take many other forms as well. Sometimes it involves the misuse of spiritual authority to humiliate and manipulate people, or to extract money or sexual favors from them (adults are susceptible to this as well as children). In extreme cases, such as the Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate debacles, dozens of people have been driven to suicide.
All these forms of abuse are, sadly, both familiar and obvious. Today we may need to ask if religious wounding extends still further. Is it abusive to expose children to lurid images of hell and the devil, to tell them that they risk eternal damnation for the smallest of sins, to force them to live in terror of a vindictive and sadistic God? Many women feel that religion has inculcated a sense of inferiority and even sinfulness in them simply because of their gender. Still others have been ostracized because of their sexual orientation.
To these cases we can add religious wounding in a milder form—when it is not a matter of victimization but of loss of faith, of disillusionment with spirituality as a whole. If all human beings have a spiritual aspect to their natures, this disillusionment amounts to an alienation from a profound and essential part of oneself. Whether or not they recognize it, these individuals too have suffered religious wounds.
Other speakers at the conference will include spiritual counselor Maurice Proulx, a former Catholic priest who himself suffered sexual abuse by a priest when he was a child. Christopher Bamford, senior editor of Parabola and author of The Voice of the Eagle, will also speak. Richard Smoley, one of the world’s most distinguished authorities on the mystical and esoteric teachings of Western civilization and author of many books including his most recent, The Dice Game of Shiva, will moderate the event. John Guarrine of the Chicago area organization Play for Peace will begin morning sessions with gentle movement practices to help participants ground and balance themselves. The conference will include one-on-one and small-group discussions in which participants will be able to share and discuss their own experiences and to move toward healing.
The organizers of Healing Our Religious Wounds intend neither to restore religious faith nor to destroy it. They seek to heal some of the psychological damage, whether mild or severe, that may have come from religious backgrounds and to help people move toward greater wholeness and integration. For those who do not feel that they have been damaged by religion, the conference will offer ways of avoiding spiritual pitfalls and deepening their understanding of the truths that underlie all faiths.
For more information about this press release or to contact the organizers and/or speakers for interviews please call Nicole Krier at 630-665-0130 ext 355 or write firstname.lastname@example.org.
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About The Theosophical Society: Founded in 1875, The Theosophical Society in America is a non-profit membership organization with over 110 branches and study centers around the country, working for peace, understanding, and responsible living.
Our mission is to encourage open-minded inquiry into world religions, philosophy, science, and the arts in order to understand the wisdom of the ages, respect the unity of all life, and help people explore spiritual self-transformation.