Every time I deliver a speech on Mental Toughness, someone comes up to me and asks if it’s really possible to reprogram years of middle-class beliefs into world-class beliefs. The answer is yes, and the best example of programming in the history of the world is organized religion. Man made (not God made) religion has been used to control the masses through fear for hundreds of years. People are programmed to believe in whatever man made religion they’re born into and driven into lifelong, brainless obedience through the threat of burning in hell for eternity. This programming begins almost immediately after birth, and by the time the child is ready to head off to college, he/she has 18 years of fear based programs embedded in his/her consciousness. The overriding message is, ‘ Have blind faith in our organized religions interpretation of God or you won’t will suffer unimaginable, excrucating pain for all of eternity. Don’t think for yourself, just practice blind obedience like your parents, grandparents and great-grand parents did. And it works. The masses are terrified to question their faith and are told never to discuss religion in mixed company. Critical thinkers have studied this phenomenon for years behind closed doors and marveled at it’s effectiveness. The point of the example is if entire cultures can be programmed with man made fabrication, what are the odds you have the power to reprogram your mind to think world class thoughts? People are doing it every day. And they’re doing it through the use of love and abundance based langauge, leaving fear based thoughts to the robotic masses.  Listen to this post and I’ll look forward to to your comments. ( 4:58 )

Steve Siebold
Author and Professional Speaker since 1997. Past Chairman of the National Speakers Association's Million Dollar Speakers Group. Author of 11 books with 1.4 million copies in print.

12 thoughts on “The Mental Programming of Organized Religion”

  1. What is it about religions’ and Christianity that lures large numbers of people into church every Sunday? Does going to church and religion bring people to a euphoric state? Maybe church gives Christians a secret tax reduction? If the bibles lessons, which the pastor of the church often preached, offered certain ways to deal with our personal issues, and dilemmas should we listen to those lessons and take them to heart? Or should we make decisions for ourselves and question those whom rise to the occasion to give orders. I am sure that there are some full blown Christians who make their own decisions and still go to church for the spiritual aspects of it, but there are some who refuse to make decisions for themselves and look at church as if it is a opportunity to turn off their brains. The people who believe that the book tells them everything that they need to know effects every person in this country by making decisions based upon the bible and not their true feelings about the situation at hand. Every decision that anyone makes should be their own not one of the bible.

  2. Steve,

    It’s not out of FEAR but out of LOVE that most all Christian I know of are drawn to believe in and love God and then are motivated to follow the principles of the Bible. It’s not out of fear to going to Hell, but out of a desire to go to Heaven, to know a loving God better, and to live a more full life.

    Love, NOT fear is what drives me personally to know God more and to follow His principles or the Christian “religion” as you call it. For some great insight into how this works in the Christian faith see this link: http://executableoutlines.com/se/se_so.pdf

    Dale Fletcher, M.S.
    Faith and Health Connection

  3. I completey concur with your thoughts on this matter. The three most common things that mold our thoughts and manipulate them are religion, politicians, and the media.

    The reason that many people do not agree with you is because they have been “brainwashed” by their religion-based upbringing.

    I personally believe that there is a higher being or self that we have difficulty in comprehending most of the time and in this regard I believe in religion and the message of love that is preached. However, whilst most religions appear to come from the same source, they tend to have different interpretations and outlooks.

    How can a religion that preaches love of God, self and others incite followers to kill disbelievers?

    I hold the hierarchy of religions responsible for the distortions that have occurred from the inception of religion and the elimination of anything that disagreed with their particular doctrine. If their beliefs are so good and true they should hold up against any contrary beliefs.

    I could go on and on about this subject and preach the benefits of spiritualism in contrast to religion but I shall not.

    A good book to read with an open mind is “Conversations with God” by Neale Donald Walsh of “The Secret” fame. This certainly makes a person think differently about entrenched views.

  4. All…
    God in the Old Testament is an angry, jealous, vengeful God full of wrath and quick to condemn and punish. In fact he sounds a lot like my upstairs neighbor, Harry… so why would I worship a being who’s emotional make-up isn’t much more evolved than Harry’s?
    While it’s true that the church does not burn people at the stake or condemn people to Hell for eternity anymore (like Copernicus) and through the years it has bent some of it’s rules and regulations to adjust to changing times, I agree that the basis of it’s teachings is fear.
    Yes, there are some congregations, not in the mainstream, who focus more on the positive teachings, and yes there are some enlightened, spiritually motivated priests, ministers, and rabbis who use the pulpit to inspire the best in people.
    That said, I don’t see the mainstream doing much to encourage an individual’s personal connection to the Almighty. I don’t see religion reminding the faithful that the moment called NOW is the only true point of power anyone has to make a difference in the world.
    Organized religions are like some very large charitable organizations in that; like the money collected by charities, too much of the “spiritual capital” invested by people in organized religions has to go to maintaining infrastructure and has nothing to do with helping the people the organization was created for.

  5. Having lived in several countries and states, I couldn’t agree more with Steve as to the effectiveness of programing of the mind. He examples religion, but we have seen throughout history that politics (a major part of religion) can swing the thoughts of groups of people into a tidy funnel where all truths are only the ones that the funnels allows. Even if they may be ilogical to most minds. For some reason (and I think it is a very well honed, learned technique) some people seem to have the power to influence minds. If we can use the same techniques to reverse the funnell, many will result with expanded minds to embrace life’s challenges effectively and continue to grow without set limits.

  6. To everyone that commented on this post:

    I appreciate all of your thoughts and comments on this very sensitive subject. What a great discussion! I agree with almost everything thats been said, including the idea that what I said about organized religion being fear based was a generalization. It’s good to hear there are people attending church getting a love and abundance message. I will say I believe organized religion ( in whole ) without fear as the primary motivator would not survive. Small pockets of sophistcated church-goers, like the people who commented on this post, will ignore the fear and focus on what empowers them. BUT…the masses MUST be motivated by fear to hold organized religion together. History has proven this over hundreds of years. The foundational premise of organized religion is to ” fear God”. Then the religious leaders tell us we should love God. How can you love an entity you’re terrified of? I love you, but if you don’t follow my laws you’re going to burn in hell for eternity? This is a mental toughness debate because never in the history of mankind have so many blindly followed something without any critical thinking. If you’re interested in reading what one critical thinker has to say on the topic, read a book called The End of Faith, by Sam Harris. Whether you agree or disagree with him, this man is a critical thinker who has done his homework. His agruments are well thought out and his research is extensive.

    I hope we can keep the dialogue going on this important topic. Thanks to everyone who has participated so far.

    Steve Siebold, CSP

  7. Steve,
    There are a number of organized churches today (some are even international in their membership) that do teach love and abundance without the fear factor thrown in to keep their parishioners on the straight and narrow. But, there are also many who use the old fire and brimstone method. So, lumping all of them together as fear based would not be accurate. You’re point on fear based programming verses love based programming is well taken, however.
    By its very nature any attempt to control the thinking and actions of others has to be based in fear and as a result fear is frequently used to gain that control. Love and abundance thinking recognizes that we should take full responsibility for our own thinking and actions and provide the freedom for others to do the same.


  8. I believe the key word here is fear and the word I am going to use en-route is manipulation. I’m just beginning on my mental toughness journey in the ‘deliberate’ sense and I’ve read Steve’s book- 177 Mental Toughness Secrets- which touches this topic in a very good, concise manner. What has become clear to me early in my journey is that manipulation is not only the domain of just magicians and hypnotists. It is an everyday process or effect, depending on how you look at it; and it is not always a bad thing.
    Most people think of manipulation as a bad word. It denotes control, deception, bullying, add others you can think of. Most people forget that we are manipulating ourselves all the time. However, to the world class it seems to me that they also see this word in a positive way. A world class person realizes that they can manipulate themselves and therefore create themselves by deciding what to accept and what not to.

    I think that a world class person can be part of an organized religion. The difference is that the world class individual is there because they made a ‘clear decision’ to be there.

    A world class person may even tailor there religious needs to suit their vision; though I would argue that the vision would have to be rooted in their religious consciousness to maintain mental clarity (if the vision goes against the rules of their religion, they have to consider the position of either to avoid deluding themselves).

    A middle class individual will practice a religion merely because everybody around them does. I have fallen prey to this many times in the past and I have seen it in other people. Doing it to fit in, manipulating themselves by thinking that they ‘have to’ be a part of this. Of course they ‘have to.’ Their parents did, community did, president did etc. If I am part of a religion, people think I must be a good person, not immoral or selfish like a lot of the people I see on the street or on TV -those robbers and hookers. I go Church every Sunday and people tell me I am one of the good ones who has not given into the way of the flesh. Apart from that hour each week, I live like my secular neighbor but somehow I am a better person. Do I love it? Well I like it and I have always done it so that I can avoid pain and suffering in my life. You know if it ain’t broke , don’t fix it?

    That’s the middle class when it comes to religion, and it most likely gets reflected in the other areas of their lives, because it’ll be the same habit of respond to a ‘should,’ as opposed to a ‘want;’ and it is a conflict between the two that will maintain that middle class hold.

    The manipulation of your thoughts maybe from others and yourself but in the end the buck stops with you. In my opinion there is only self manipulation, the manipulation received from others works through persuasion but in the end you have to accept it. If you cannot trust yourself to make decisions other people will make them for you.

    This is not necessarily a bad thing, unless, you consider fear a bad thing. I do agree fear is a powerful emotion to use to control the masses because the masses delude themselves out of fear- escaping reality, espousing truths as stone-wall facts. It always bad luck, bad people, bad spirits, the position of the stars, or the devil..a force from outside coming to destroy. It’s never the individual but something else; the reason why life cannot improve is because someone or something is out to get them. The person is not responsible for his own condition.

    Also,the possibility that there is no safety net, comfort zone from the world in which they exist, petrifies the middle class. So limiting thoughts are created in a desperate attempt to avoid pain and hence growth, causing inflexibility in a world where it is so important to able to change.

    While I will accept there is overlap, I am not convinced of a strong relationship between class of thinking and religious or moral viewpoints. A middle class religious man and a secular one, are likely to make mediocre leaders through indecision. The world class have clarity, through being honest. But honesty does not mean goodness, it simply means honesty. What seems clear is that the world class commit entirely. So in any fight that I find myself in, religious or not, I want the world class on my side. In the end its either do or do not..

  9. I am in absolute agreement with your perspective Steve. I think you have identified a perfect example of mind training as used by “Organized Religion”.
    I have always believed that Spirituality is about deepening your connection with God,( A Higher conciousness, The Universe, Whatever you ultimately describe it as) And I see spritiuality about personal responsponsiblity as I am the one connecting with a higher conciousness. And I have a theory that humankind has a challenge with personal responsibility.
    I see Religion as being about following the edicts of God as defined by someone else who spoke with God. While we know the Bible is a great book and has some really good examples of what living a religous life is all about, but I don’t think that people realize that it has been rewritten several times throughout the middle ages to give more power to the church.
    So I am all about deepening my connection with God and don’t need a middle man, who may be working off of an interpretation of God’s word . I really don’t think that is what the higher conciousness had in mind and I really don’t need someone to negotiate my relationship with God.

    So again I absolutely agree with your perspective that Organized religon has been used as a mental programming tool. There is a reason that it has been described as “the opiate of the masses”

  10. You have some truth mixed with error in my opinion.Does some religion,especially that which you state has”controlled”America since it existience,squash “world class thinking”? Yes, some religion does,but in the USA our whole existence as a nation comes from the 2nd paragraph of the Declaration Of Independence, where people have been “endowed with unalienable rights by their creator”…The restraint of the Judeo-Christian tradition in the US has created the freeest nation ever.The morality issues of the 10 commandments and the “golden rule” and having to give account on how one lived their lives , in a judgement after death ,adds restraints to the basest of human behavior.The scripture that says “with God all things are possible”illustrates the highest level of world class thinking.Our freedom lies in the restraints placed on our behavior in order to function in a free society instead of a totalitairian society. You are correct when you state that “man made”religion is harmful. Man made religion can be traced to many of the ills of mankind. Even Adolf Hitler found “scriptural basis ” for his treatment of the Jews along with the tacit agreement of the churches of Germany. Those ministers who confronted him using the Bible as the basis of there argument and thus condemning his actions were sent to the concentration camps as well. Love & abundance are from the Judeo-Christian traditions of the Bible & Torah. Every society in western civilization that has based their society mores on those values have prospered. So is there love & abundance in religion mores specifically Christianity or Judiasm? Yes. is there some notion of fear and retribution if we do wrong and go against those principles of true religion? Absolutely. Between the extremes we find our society and its our own choice whether we want to participate at the world class level.Believe in the goodness of God where nothing is impossible,and fly “world class”

  11. I have to disagree. “Organized Religion” as an entity cannot be condemned any more than “The Government” or “The School System” or “Law Enforcement”, all of which have flaws but serve a valuable purpose. I don’t walk out of church on Sunday with feelings of fear or scarcity – just the opposite. What I hear from the readings and sermons is that it is our obligation to achieve, to use our gifts to create abundance and to embrace our fellow man. At no point have I heard that poverty is good or wealth is bad. At no point am I told I don’t give enough.

    Our priest gave a homily during Lent last year in which he urged the parishioners NOT to give up candy or chocolate or alcohol, but to give up hatred and anger and pettiness. Is that not World Class thinking?

  12. Good of you to unapologetically break down the reality of organized religion. Middle age brains are wired for habitual thinking and behaviors – but they can be rewired. It requires a willingness to grow and expand recognizing the power of an open mind. The alternative is a unplanned / unwanted paradigm shift. Paradigm shifts occur all the time when life shocks us with a new reality. I embrace the position to willingly change my mind at any time with the introduction of new facts.

    – JRS

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