I call it Faux-Stockholm Syndrome

Creating a Sadistic Captor

I remember the first time I became aware of god. I was 4 or 5 years old, in church attending a “Sunday school” class and I was coloring a picture of a man in a cute little boat loaded with animals. He looked so happy and sweet, the animals all had smiles and I colored a bright rainbow in the sky. That’s when we started to learn who this man was; it was Noah and his ark. My teacher told us how god told Noah that he was the only good person left on earth and that he needed to get two of every animal onto a boat that he had to build. After the world was flooded, Noah and the animals all lived happily ever after.  Innocently, I asked, “What happened to all of the other people?”  The teacher smiled and she said, “they were bad and god punished them.” Wow, I better be good…

It’s Only a Ghost

Clearly that story of Noah is the shortened “child” version. There’s way more to the story than that, however, it was terrifying. We’ve seen the news stories about Patty Hurst, Elizabeth Smart and groups of people held hostage who suffered from Stockholm syndrome. This syndrome is based around Freud’s idea that people identify with their aggressor. As humans, we try to avoid stress and anxiety. It is instinct for a person to choose life over death. Because of this, we will do whatever is necessary to live. If put in a high stress situation in which a person feels their life or the life of others could be lost, they can quickly adapt to their new captivity and start to see the lack of aggression as a sign of love from their captor. In turn, they excuse their captor’s behavior and actually defend them; they will help them with what they want and even end up loving them.

I see the ‘idea of god’ as a captor for many people. Believers may not agree by saying god never “kidnapped” them but in essence, the IDEA of god did. His message is clear and obvious; you can’t survive without his mercy. You don’t deserve life; it is a gift he’s giving you for a short time and he will take it away when he pleases. God also says, “I am all omnipotent (all powerful) (Genesis 18:14; Luke 18:27; Revelation 19:6) and omniscient” (all knowing) (Psalm 139:2-6; Isaiah 40:13-14).  If you buy into this, there’s only one chance for your survival. You better be good or else. When he doesn’t hurt you like you know he’s capable of, it’s him expressing love for you. In turn, you love him for his great mercy. A ghost has officially captured you. I call this, “faux-Stockholm syndrome.”

Can You Ever Escape?

Many who are indoctrinated into religion as a child don’t run away. They are given plenty of opportunities to leave god behind but they don’t. Why not? Elizabeth Smart was 14 when a man who wanted her for his wife kidnapped her out of her home. She had several opportunities to run away or get the attention of the police but she didn’t. When asked why, she explained that he was always around, she had only seen her captor be successful and he threatened to kill her and her family if she tried to run. (Golgowski, 2013)

Sounds a lot like the ‘idea of god’. He’s always around, he’s always successful and he will kill your soul for eternity if you leave him.  What happened to Elizabeth Smart is tragic and is not to be compared to the ‘idea of god’ and what it does to people. The man who raped and tortured Elizabeth Smart is a beast of a different color. However, I will mention that he believed god graced his actions and he was religious.

Can a victim of this faux-Stockholm syndrome (religion) ever escape? Yes they can, but it takes them asking questions about their indoctrinated beliefs. This can be quite scary for this particular victim. They will have to understand the world around them in a different way, see the flaws in the word of god (the bible) and accept the fact that the ‘idea of god’ can’t hurt them. Then, and only then, will they be released from their ghost captor.

Photo Credits: penguincakes


  • Golgowski, Nina. 2013. Daily News. Accessed from Internet

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