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May-18-2009 08:10printcomments

Stockholm Religion

We are a culture in deep denial, and I’m not talking about global warming.

Stockholm Religion
A theory also known as "Stockholm Syndrome": the term originates from a 1973 bank robbery in Sweden during which the captives assisted, and then later refused to testify against their kidnappers. Photo:

(CALGARY, Alberta) - I am responding to the article by Abeer Mishkhas Khaleej, “Saudi Arabia: Under Age Marriage and the Law” of May 17, 2009.

In 2002 16-year old Bethany Hughes of Calgary was diagnosed with leukemia, which doctors said could only be treated with blood transfusions and chemotherapy. The Hughes’ were devout Jehovah’s Witnesses who did not believe in blood transfusions and, because of her own, parentally inculcated, devout beliefs, Bethany did everything she could, even in her weakened state, to resist treatment, including pulling tubes out of her arms.

Seven months later, she was dead. David Gnam, the lawyer who had represented Bethany and her mother Arliss against the father to prevent medical intervention, reasonably pointed out that as a father he had to take responsibility for introducing her to the faith in the first place. After all, said Gnam, “he was the one teaching his daughter…”

I’ve recently considered a new perspective which I call Stockholm Religion. The term “Stockholm Syndrome” was coined after a 1973 hostage incident in Stockholm, Sweden where, at the end of six days of captivity after a failed bank robbery, several hostage victims actually resisted rescue attempts, and afterwards refused to testify against their captors.

This turns out to be a reasonable outcome from the hostage’s point of view. They identified with their captors as a defensive mechanism, out of fear of violence. (Can you see the implications for religion, here?) Small acts of kindness by the captors were magnified, since finding a reasonable perspective in a hostage situation is, by definition, impossible. Rescue attempts in such a situation can be seen as a threat, because it might appear likely that the hostage could be injured or killed. Religion in modern society is the Stockholm Syndrome writ large.

It is a harsh, but necessary thing to point out that, in reality, children are hostages to their parents. They are vulnerable, both physically and psychically. If parents teach their children that the world is flat, the children will not only uncritically take that on as a personal belief, but they will fight others psychologically, even physically, who disagree, because disagreement is an indirect attack against their parents on whom they are one hundred percent dependent. The correlation is nearly total: If parents believe in a particular religion, their children, as adults, will as well.

What made the connection for me was what some Muslim women say about their wearing head-to-toe coverings. They protested that they wore them willingly out of personal choice. But when you consider the violence, both threatened and actual, against women in Muslim societies, you know why they wear them and why they have to rationalize their actions. To admit that they are coerced in any way, would be an attack against their oppressors—the men who control Muslim society. So, they pretend they have a choice (and are not even aware that they are pretending). What else could most of them do?

We are a culture in deep denial, and I’m not talking about global warming. We need to pull our heads out of the sand and directly acknowledge that the killing of 16-year old Asqa Parvez of Mississauga, Ontario was a religiously-motivated murder and not, as Sahina Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Social Services Association says was “the result of domestic violence, a problem that cuts across Canadian society and is blind to colour or creed.”

Nor should we come to the sanguine conclusion of the National Post editorial that said:“for the moment we should not read too much into this family tragedy.” Au contraire, it is a family tragedy only secondarily and primarily a denial of the toxic role religion plays in our society.

IN 2003, 17-year old Ramandeep Atwal in British Columbia was stabbed to death by her Sikh father because she secretly dated, then moved in with, her non-Sikh boyfriend.

Clearly violence against young women is not solely a Muslim phenomenon or a pathology imported from other cultures. These three examples are from Muslim, Indian and North American religions. They are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of harm done to people at the hands of the family itself as proxy for religious authorities.

In 1851 the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote that “no child under the age of fifteen should receive instruction in subjects which may possibly be the vehicle of serious error, such as philosophy or religion, for wrong notions imbibed early can seldom be rooted out, and of all the intellectual faculties, judgment is the last to arrive at maturity.”

Consider the myths that children in our society are exposed to in their early years: tooth fairy, Easter bunny, Santa Clause and God. No rational adult carries the first three into adulthood but belief in a mythological god persists. No person ever adopts the “true” religion; they adopt the religion of their parents. And with the thousands of gods and religions that have existed throughout history there is obviously no way that one of them could be true.

In a March 2006 speech in Toronto former president Bill Clinton talked about the threat to the world from religious fundamentalism saying that, “If we don’t walk away from that, we’re going to tear the world apart.” What is fundamentalism, though? It’s obviously in the eye of the beholder. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t see themselves as a threat because they believe they have the real deal while everyone else is misled or misguided. Ditto, the Muslims, Sikhs, Catholics, Jews,--the whole spectrum of religious variety.

Mr. Clinton almost said it. If it is okay to walk away from fundamentalism, it is equally okay to walk away from religion, per se. He didn’t draw the obvious conclusion that we need to walk away from religion itself as it is now practiced.

Comparing religions through history shows that virtually all faiths rest on a central story of a supernatural deity who suffers on earth, dies, then is resurrected to return to heaven. Scholars have made a list of more than 30 such deities which includes Osiris, Horus, Krishna, Bacchus, Orpheus, Hermes, Balder, Adonis, Hercules, Attis, Mithras, Tammuz of Syria, Thor (son of Odin), Beddru of Japan, Deva Tat of Siam, and many others.

What happened with Christianity is that Jesus, as opposed to all the mythological predecessors, was literalized and treated as an historical figure by the early church authorities. “The consequences of this”, says religious scholar and ordained Anglican priest Tom Harpur in his best selling book The Pagan Christ “were to prove very damaging over the centuries to come.” What was lost was “the deep, timeless spiritual truths behind or beyond the fictional packaging”.

The solution to global religious ineptitude is not the aggressive hostility of atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. The positive alternative says Harpur, is to embrace “a rational, cosmic faith” that “is the only thing that makes sense in our fast-changing pluralistic world.”

This is an orientation already embraced by many scientists, particularly astronomers and cosmologists who, by the nature of their disciplines, already hold a bigger perspective. As cosmologist Sir Fred Hoyle believed, the universe itself possesses “a stunning property not possessed by any of its parts. It is able to reproduce itself and evolve. The collective system is alive. Its parts are just chemicals.” Or astronomer George A. Seielstad who argued that “since we comprehend what it means to be alive, we are the 'sensory organs' with which the living universe monitors its own 'physiology', if you will—taking its pulse and measuring its blood pressure. Without us, the universe is 'blind'. Our 'vision' into the future enables the universe to continue to live.”

Clearly the religions invented by illiterate desert tribesman of the Middle East thousands of years ago have no place in the 21st century.

Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which is why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class—a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue. From 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman, Canada’s top business writer (notably a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting. He gave up journalism in the early 1980s because he had no interest in being a hack writer for the mainstream media and became a software developer and programmer. He retired from computers last year and is now back to doing what he loves—writing and trying to make the world a better place. Write to Dan at this address:

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Still a JW December 12, 2009 9:55 pm (Pacific time)

Jehovah's Witnesses follow the lead of Gene Smalley, Watchtower lacky, who directs the Watchtower's "no blood" campaign that has caused the death of thousands over the years, while they keep redefining it and allowing JWs to take all the parts of blood separately, while never donating any blood themselves

Georgia Elder December 12, 2009 12:48 pm (Pacific time)

Steve Klemetti is an apostate fights the Watchtower goes beyond the things that are written.

Since WW2 250,000 Jehovah's Witnesses have perished from the No blood transfusion ban.

Ga Elder December 12, 2009 12:57 pm (Pacific time)

Blood transfusion to Jehovah Witness is like psychiatry to Scientologist--- *HEMOPURE* (COW BLOOD) Watchtower has approved the use of Hemopure® (bovine hg g - 250/HBOC -201). This is directly in opposition to the Watchtower’s abstaining from blood as taught by them. The followers of the Watchtower are taught one thing and the Watchtower practices another to release it self from responsibility so they publicly state the use of blood is a conscientious matter. The deeply controlled followers seek approval from the leadership which means approval from God to them so they rather let a child die than suffer from disapproval, congregational social repercussions, disfellowshipping, and shunning. The Watchtowerites sincerely believe the conflicting messages.

conscience December 9, 2009 6:24 am (Pacific time)

mr. danny haszard, just let it go man!!! no matter how much you obssess over Jehovah's Witnesses they are going no were and you simply look crazy. how long has this morbit obsession been going on? how long will it continue? how long will you allow yourself to be used as a weapon of digust? when will your mind just rest and let go of this sick reposting the same mess you got from someone else. its not even an original thought of your own....

Jazz Player May 20, 2009 8:35 am (Pacific time)

Here's the thing Daniel Johnson...You are in the sandbox with the rest of us. Religious bullies have kicked allot of sand and made life miserable for many. They claim to directly represent our father, who will be here any minute to lay down some order. At least that’s what his letter to us says. Unfortunately the bullies have taken the letter and twisted it to their own ends. They’ve said that if we don’t do things their way we will burn in some eternal hellfire. I know my father would never make that arrangement. He’s kind and loving and merciful. The bullies have painted him as some sort of ghoul! They say if we don’t give in to them we are doomed. Hey, like the Stockholm Syndrome! Now I look at the box and say, "It’s too complicated to just appear from the primordial soup". The way this box is designed speaks to me of a higher intellect one I sort of understand. But like my friend DJ I’m not gonna sell out to the bullies as if they hold some special key to the box. Hey wait, there’s this small group of “believers” over there who claim to have gone back to the basics of what fathers number one son taught before the bullies killed him. They claim to have a good copy of the letter and base their activities on what it says. I think I’ll give that a listen. So I become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Of course the bullies have cast them in a bad light so I face a certain amount of abuse for my decision. But now I have something to help me…a new possession…faith. The assured expectation of realities though not presently beheld… It took a while to acquire. Because it’s based on study and meditation and reason, observation and experience, unlike the so-called “faith” the bullies push…which seems more like credulity…no wonder some call that stuff “blind faith”. Hey, maybe that’s what Dan means by Stockholm Religion…Maybe people just give in to the bullies because they are the dominant ones and claim to hold the only key to life! Yes, that’s what Dan is getting at. Blind adherence to religion based on “blind” faith is dangerous! Dan J is put off by the bullies and their tricky activities... I don't know what he believes deep down but he certainly sees the religious bigots for what they are. He has that part right. The only concern I have is that he has over-reacted and somehow thinks we can run the sandbox without father’s direction. The bullies political and religious are getting more dangerous. As we run out of room in our little box the box is getting more dangerous. Father said a time would come when he would “bring to ruin those ruining the earth”. Have we arrived at that time? It seems Mr. Johnson has seen something real and true and is trying to wake us up before any more damage is done. Thank you Mr. Johnson.

Dissonance May 20, 2009 2:44 am (Pacific time)

Favorite quote: "Feed your faith and starve your doubts." " Just think Jehovah the loving God is holding back Armageddon so apostates will have time to make it back." They are still expecting the end because their rational mind no longer works it has become irrational because the desire for a new world is so potent it overwrites everything else"~ Greendawn Cognitive dissonance:In brief, the theory of cognitive dissonance holds that contradicting cognitions serve as a driving force that compels the mind to acquire or invent new thoughts or beliefs, or to modify existing beliefs, so as to minimize the amount of dissonance (conflict) between cognitions. An example of cognitive dissonance is the phenomenon known as buyer's remorse, in which a consumer becomes conflicted, after the fact, with the issue of whether or not their decision to make a purchase was, indeed, a wise one. Example:The car of my dreams was sold to another bidder,just as i made my bid,ahhhh,it was probably a lemon anyway.

Avinash Machado May 20, 2009 1:28 am (Pacific time)

Just because people do bad things in the name of God or religion, does not mean that God does not exist.

Sune May 19, 2009 3:28 pm (Pacific time)

The name for your syndrome is rather inept. What people trying to fan flames in that story don't realise is that Clark Olofsson (pictured in the photo) was something of a folk hero akin to Ned Kelley in Australia for example. The depiction by the typically inept media who just don't give a hoot about the truth is what you'd expect.

Gina Melton May 19, 2009 1:12 pm (Pacific time)

The basic premise of all fundamental and ultra orthodox religions is that God is going to kill everyone else and save them, the "chosen ones". There is NOTHING special about this idea, it permeates all religions born of intensely tribal people. Religious sibling rivalry, fighting about who Father loves best! Every little tribe of humankind ever thought it was the "real" humans and everyone else were dehumanized, demonized and someone to be gotten out of the way. It's nothing new or spiritual, it's just people who were two hairs from ape fighting over everything from women to land to what God birthed them. Why are we hanging on to religious laws conceived of in the Bronze Age, the most barbaric time in human history? I think religion is intrinsic to human nature as is spirituality, but for heaven's sake, a little UPDATE into the 21st century, please. Believe me, it's so much nicer here.

Daniel Johnson May 19, 2009 12:05 pm (Pacific time)

Jazz Player: I'm not advocating that the govt do away with religion. That is not possible. What I am advocating is that the govt STOP supporting religion, which is in line with your Constitution and Bill of Rights. And yes, I am casting a slur on existing religion. BTW, this is not a new thing for me. Writing has always been my avocation, no matter what "job" paid the bills. My first piece critical of religion was published in 1973. Trevor Spencer: If you were to read "Pagan Christ" by Thomas Harpur (himself an ordained Anglican) I think you would come back with a different comment than the one you offered. He is not an hysterical critic like Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, et al. He presents a reasoned, factual argument.

Frank May 19, 2009 11:53 am (Pacific time)

To:Jazz Player,Jehovah's Witnesses 'don't play well with others' at all,they suffer and commit all of the same 7 deadly sins as everyone else.This is part of the Stockholm Syndrome/cognitive dissonance symptom of high control cults like JW and Jim Jones,they lose objectivity think they are the elite and that's that. BTW,It's the Jehovah's Witnesses that proclaim 'the end of all *false* religion' and left a tract at my door with this very title.

Jazz Player May 19, 2009 9:36 am (Pacific time)

Mr. Johnson wants the government to do away with religion. Hitler and Stalin already tried that one Mr. Johnson. If everyone on this planet were Jehovah’s Witness we would have a world full of good neighbors willing to give and help one another. Instead of peace and kindness Mr. Johnson endorses a government crackdown. Mr. Johnson recently changed career paths and needs to stay busy and so he intellectualizes. He applies his base mathematical world view to the very messy world of real life. Ludicrous.

Trevor Spencer May 19, 2009 7:31 am (Pacific time)

I absolutely agree that attacks on anyone in the name of religion, and it's a fact that women are the usual victims in this regard, are unacceptable, as is allowing a child to die for her parents religious beliefs which they had inculcated into her. However, the writer seems to be using these 3 examples as a platform to cast a slur on all forms of religion rather than extremists like the Jehovah's Witnesses and some Muslim groups. The suggestion that Jesus was a historical figure is actually based on more than the writings of the early Church fathers or the Bible. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus also refers to him in his writings. Whatever the origins of Osiris, Orpheus etc, there is no doubt that Jesus existed, and neither is there any doubt of the effect of believing in Him on his true followers, who do not include religions like the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and other cults, who'se doctrines are nothing better than half-truths at best, and more often outright lies.

Jerry Jones May 19, 2009 5:26 am (Pacific time)

Readers should be aware that there have been many, many fully documented cases similar to the "Bethany Hughes" case. SUMMARIES OFOVER 1400 JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES MEDICAL LAWSUITS and OTHER COURT CASES The following website summarizesover 900 U.S. court cases and lawsuits affecting children of Jehovah's Witness Parents, including over 400 cases where the JW Parents refused to consent to life-saving medical care for their dying children: DIVORCE, BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS, AND OTHER LEGAL ISSUES AFFECTING CHILDREN OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES The following website summarizesover 500 court cases and lawsuits involving Jehovah's Witness Employees and their Employers, including dozens of court cases involving the refusal of blood transfusions and other health and medical issues unique to JW Employees: EMPLOYMENT ISSUES UNIQUE TO JEHOVAH'S WITNESS EMPLOYEES

Observer May 19, 2009 2:33 am (Pacific time)

STOCKHOLM SYNDROME is similar to BATTERED SPOUSE Syndrome. With high control groups and cults it's the same dynamic of the abusive control freak with a mean streak,except it's on a large scale. The same issues come into play,[If i am a better servant fawn,curry favor,maybe my tormentor won't beat me up as much]. It's a variation of the passive/aggressive,'good cop/bad cop routine'. This same dynamic has been observed in dogs and other critters that are abused,they sometimes become more attached and dependent on their master.

Samuel Davis May 18, 2009 11:18 pm (Pacific time)

At its core, the Jehovah's Witnesses refusal of blood transfusions is based entirely on faith, not on science (as their own "Blood Brochure" is very specific about). Bloodless surgery as a *preference* may be more popular than it once was, but that is not the issue at hand. The *doctrine* and practice of letting someone die rather than allow the use of blood in life-threatening situations is the real issue. And at its core is the blind adherence to the dictates of an organization of men. The "blood issue" is the JW's Jonestown Kool-Aid. It is their baseless test of loyalty to their Society. Despite the fact that it makes little sense to a silent majority of them anymore, they think it proves their faithfulness to "God's organization" People who die refusing blood, or who let their children die,are considered heroes. The Watchtower has teams of lawyers to protect itself from wrongful death lawsuits.

POLICE May 18, 2009 10:40 pm (Pacific time)

Notice to Moderator:Remove Jehovah's Witnesses stalker Danny "Haphazard" (He/she is doing a an insult parody comment on the meaningful Danny Hazard poster below) immediately and watch out for more malicious JW member post they are worst than Scientology.

Reader May 18, 2009 10:35 pm (Pacific time)

The poster Danny "Haphazard" is a defiant Jehovah's Witnesses TROLL who is stalking Danny Haszard the first poster below. This Jehovah's Witnesses TROLL post an off-topic comment about war deaths in Europe to deflect from the thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses deaths from church dogma, What a cruel cult!

Daniel Johnson May 18, 2009 2:54 pm (Pacific time)

Anonymous: Re her control over her own body...reread the point made by Schopenhauer which is as true today as it ever was.

Franklin Harrison May 18, 2009 1:46 pm (Pacific time)

The Watchtower society Jehovah's Witnesses organization actually employs three psychological tools to maintain control and subjugation to their policies and rules. 1. Fear 2. Humiliation 3. Exaltation Fear of being lost or destroyed in the upcoming, pending great battle of Armageddon where the possibility of suffering a horrendous death according to them, is a very real fear. Such a fate awaits anyone who is not counted among JW's! Those who are considered spiritually strong are exalted to an elevated status within their respective congregation. Brothers can advance to the lofty position of ministerial servant, elder or overseer at which time they command the respect of all in the congregation. Sisters can achieve a highly respectable status as well, though they are not appointed to a position. Those who spend considerable time in the field ministry, pioneering for example(spending a predetermined amount of time door knocking)are considered very strong spiritually. Those who are deemed unfit or unrepentant non conformist can suffer the punitive measure of disfellowshippment. For most JW's, this is a fate worst than death, to be avoided at all cost. The psychological impact this can have on an individual is immeasurable. Most JW's will do anything in their power to avoid this type of humiliation. So it is very easy to become psychologically locked into a specific action(work) with the expectation of a specific reward.

Anonymous May 18, 2009 11:28 am (Pacific time)

You have used this story as a platform for simply pointing out the fallacies of religion. I get the impression that you feel this young girl was a "victim of religious indoctrination." I was hoping that, instead of attacking the young girl's belief system, you would address this from an issue of human rights. Didn't this girl have the RIGHT to refuse medical care for her own body?

Katrina Smith May 18, 2009 10:34 am (Pacific time)

Thank you for boldly linking the Jehovah's Witnesses no blood transfusion doctrine with 'inculcated stockholm syndrome' that is the truth!

Vic May 18, 2009 10:27 am (Pacific time)

Great article....Thank You !

Danny Haszard May 18, 2009 10:09 am (Pacific time)

Jehovah's Witnesses blood transfusion confusion Simple fact-The Bible does not prohibit Blood transfusions.If you are bleeding to death it is more dangerous to refuse a blood transfusions than to take one. Bloodless surgeries are great if they can be elective.1/3rd of all trauma deaths are from blood loss. Jehovah's Witnesses elders will investigate and disfellowship any Jehovah Witness who takes a blood transfusion,to say the issue is a 'personal conscience matter' is subterfuge to keep the Watchtower out of lawsuits.. Jehovah's Witnesses children die every year worldwide due to blood transfusion ban.Rank and file Jehovah's Witness are indoctrinated to be scared to death of blood FYI 1) JW's DO USE many parts aka 'fractions' aka components of blood,so if it's 'sacred' to God why the hypocritical contradiction flip-flop? 2) They USE blood collections that are donated by Red Cross and others but don't donate back,more hypocrisy. 3) The Watchtower promotes and praises bloodless elective surgeries,this is a great advancement indeed.BUT it's no good to me if I am bleeding to death from a car crash and lose much of my blood volume and need EMERGENCY blood transfusion. Remember the Jehovah's Witnesses use thousands and thousands of pints of blood donated by others.They use 60% of the blood volume as broken down "fractions" then go on Bible thumping rants about how dangerous and sinful blood transfusions are. ( JW do allow organ transplants which has more risk than whole blood transfusions so their arguments of disease transmission is bogus) Know this,the reason that JW refuse blood is because of their spin on the 3000 year old Biblical old testament,modern medicine will eventually make blood donations and transfusions a thing of the past.When this technology happens it won't vindicate the Jehovah's Witnesses and all the deaths that have occurred so far. The Watchtower's rules against blood transfusions will eventually be abolished (very gradually to reduce wrongful death lawsuit liability) even now most of the blood 'components' are allowed. They are such hypocrites!

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