Religion as a form of Stockholm Syndrome

"The Stockholm Syndrome is an emotional attachment, a bond of interdependence between captive and captor that develops ‘when someone threatens your life, deliberates, and doesn’t kill you.’ The relief resulting from the removal of the threat of death generates intense feelings of gratitude and fear which combine to make the captive reluctant to display negative feelings toward the captor. The victim comes to see the captor as a ‘good guy’, even a savior."

I found the above on the web a while ago. The phrasing is interesting. It helps explain people’s relationship to God and why, after a horrible accident where they nearly die, but finally survive, they “Thank God” for saving them.

This always puzzled me. If God can save you at the last minute from dying, why can’t he save you before the accident even happens? So, there is nothing to be thankful for, you should actually be angry for God letting you have the accident at all.

It’s like being thankful and thinking that the person who kidnapped you is a good guy because he has decided not to kill you, when if he was indeed a good guy, he never would have kidnapped you in the first place.

And the above analogy to religion doesn’t just apply to accidents. From the point of view of religion (at least Western religion), God is someone who has complete power over our fate; we live and die based on his decisions ("There but for the grace of God, go I"). We are as powerless before him as a captive is before his captor. He decides that we get to live another day and we are expected to be thankful to him, as a captive is thankful to his captor for letting him live one more day. Many express their love for God, just as captives express their emotional attachment to their captors.

It’s like Stockholm Syndrome on a cosmic scale.


* I understand that not all Westerners think that God controls our lives to such a degree

Originally posted October 10, 2011

Original responses:

  • Darren responded: If you did not have the accident you would be none the wiser to be Thankful for God or care that matter if God exists or not. Imagine a world with ‘accidents’ would be care there is a God, or even wonder if there is one.


  1. andrewoneverything posted this