Below are some questions for you to ponder, to see if you may be or have been in an unhealthy church. They are yes or no questions.

Are you under the influence of a destructive group or belief system?

    • Does your group discourage doubts, criticism or ideas that differ from their belief system?
    • Do you tend to rationalize whatever the group does even when it goes against your sense of right and wrong?
    • Do you often feel exhausted from lengthy group activities, meetings and projects?
    • Does your group have its own unique words, cliches, slogans, chants, prayers and doctrinal phrases that reinforce the group viewpoint?
    • Are doubts viewed as a lack of faith, dedication, commitment or disloyalty?
    • Have “your thoughts” become “the enemy?”
    • Do you often find yourself doing more and more things in the group, or because of group peer pressure, that you would not have done on your own?
    • Does your group publicly humiliate or criticize members?
    • Does your group have a system of punishments and rewards for behavior?
    • Group paranoia: Does your group obsessively think other groups or people with different beliefs are out to get them?
    • Does the prospect of leaving your group seem scary, difficult?
    • Do you feel the need to leave in secret?
    • Have you been told something bad might happen if you leave?
    • Does your group/belief system think they have/are the only or highest truth, or have the solution for the world’s problems?
    • Are your leader’s ideas or belief system considered beyond reproach or sacred?
    • Do you follow a particular individual or belief system that requires unquestioning obedience and loyalty?
    • Do members of your group feel specially chosen, superior, exclusive, elite?
    • Do you feel the need to save or convert others to your belief system or ideology?
    • Is your group secretive to outsiders about its inner workings, teachings, activities or beliefs?
    • Does your group equate purity and goodness to being in your group, and impurity or evil to those outside your group?
    • Do you place your group’s mission or agenda above your own goals and ideals? Do group interests come before your own interest?
    • Do you find yourself thinking in a we-they, us-versus-them mind set?
    • Does your group/system have a clear outside enemy?
    • Do you see less and less of your family and friends who do not belong to your group or who do not subscribe to your group’s belief system?
    • Does your group use frequent public testimonials, confessions, or sharings that reinforce the group’s mission or agenda?
    • Is communication within, into and out of your group controlled or censored in any manner?
    • Does your group criticize, shun, abandon or demean individuals who leave the group?
    • Do members seek approval or get permission from group leader(s) for personal life choices?
    • Do you feel pressured to attend meetings, events, lectures, seminars? And do you feel guilty if you don’t attend?
    • Do you feel pressured to give a portion of your income to the group, or spend money on courses, books or special projects?
    • Are the group’s financial needs more important than your own economic well-being?
    • Does your group discriminate against anyone regarding race, gender, belief, or sexual orientation?
    • Does your group have a totalitarian structure: a strict, top-down centralized control?

Do you wonder if you have been in a destructive group?

  • Do you have difficulty forming new friendships and intimate relationships?
  • Do you have low self-esteem, poor self-image or loss of identity?
  • Do you have difficulty making simple decisions and choices?
  • Do you often feel depressed, anxious and nervous?
  • Do you feel isolated, lonely, guilty, cynical?
  • Do you feel like you are just now growing up, becoming a mature adult?
  • Do you have short-term memory difficulties?
  • Do you feel you have nothing to believe in?
  • Do you often feel anger and rage towards the group?
  • Do you have nightmares or unpleasant dreams?
  • Do you find it difficult or impossible to stop mental or other group ritualistic practices?

Copyright 1998 by John D. Goldhammer and Prometheus Books. I believe this is from his book, Under the Influence.