Is religion used for control?

So last week I saw the film Joker, great film, about what happens when people are failed by society, and flip. Of course, from the woke crowd, the film has been attacked virulently, for supposedly ‘promoting violence’.

But that’s not quite what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about Christians baptising these irrational beliefs for themselves, like with this DesiringGod article here:

I take a strongly negative view of the article, it is clear to me that it is clearly baptising the far left reaction to the film into a Christian context. For me, it is clear why, many Christians enjoy issuing ‘fatwas’ on things not just because they like morality, but because they like control.They like ‘prohibiting’ things, because it means they are exercising control over peoples lives. That is plain to me.

So I will begrudingly admit that this atheistic critique of religion may have something going for it. But none of this means religion is inherently like this.

None of this is to imply that ‘anything goes’.

I haven’t seen the movie and don’t plan to, but I have also noticed the trend of “villain movies” lately (such as Maleficent). On the one hand, I sort of agree with the article that glamorizing evil is a problem, but at the same time I’m glad for more complex portrayals of characters, because good and evil are not always as cut and dried as we’d like. From a Christian perspective, all humans share a sin nature, but also bear God’s image, and this tension does not always express itself is simplistic ways.

Still, I would not call this “baptizing” the far-left reaction. This is pretty typical conservative Christian in my mind. Good vs. evil is a common theme in the Bible, where righteousness and wickedness are contrasted in many places such as Proverbs. If anything I’d see some far-left reactions as “secularizing” common religious rules and taboos.

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I have seen the Joker movie and what I got out of the film is that when people push other’s to the edge, they will snap and not care about who is in their way. Now, on a Christian point of view, it goes the issue of sin and people trying to solve issues on their own outside of God, which always leads to more chaos then less (but of course in the film Arthur embraces the chaos and makes it for what it is.).

Then I’ll give another example, from recent news. I see Ray Comfort has been attacking Kanye West as a fake christian

Some do. But the reality behind the rules is love. We don’t obey them because we are subjugated, but because we have been adopted off the rebellious streets and out of prison and into a loving family, and want the reward of Father’s smile.

I can’t speak to whether or not Kanye West is a true Christian, but there is not a shortage of examples of Christians behaving badly, and of those claiming to be Christian.

I think in these cases it’s a lot more complicated than just simply wanting to exercise control. And it could be difficult to go ahead and identify motives for such behavior. For example, I think many Christians who make such sentiments do so because they genuinely believe that God has commanded XY or Z. And so for them, while maybe there could be an element of them wanting to control others it’s more so they want to see what they believe God‘s will to be done on the earth. And it could even be out of what they think are good motivations like love for God, his word, and love for other people in the sense that they believe by following such things they are genuinely doing what is best for the other person even if done in Tough love.

Plus I think there can be a sense of security that many people gain by having clear black and white understandings or perspectives on pick any topic. It is much easier to navigate and to quickly reinforce group identity and find security in that by people who agree.

I think in general it would be a very shallow way to simply characterize religion or religious people as wanting to control others.


The rules are laws of love. They are encapsulated most concisely in the two greatest commandments,

…and less succinctly in the big Ten. Yes, they are all laws of love.

True. That is not the most noble of motivations and not really a Christian one (and maybe even an anti-Christian one), but it does help explain reactions by many in church culture, not granting that they are all Christians.

Here’s a short article on Kanye West in a Christian magazine (let me know if you hit a paywall and I will post the pertinent part of the page):

    Wary welcome


Two more from another Christian magazine:

To go back to the OP, of course there are Christians and Christian groups that use religion to control others (or to attempt to). There are also narcissists who use religion to gain an entourage, and politicians who use it to gain power. But that could happen in any capacity where human relationships are built, so it’s sort of inevitable, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind as we form opinions about who we listen to and why.

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This is certainly a good question. However, you only have to look at the largest, most controlling dictatorships of all, like communist Russia and China, which were atheist, to realize that it seems pretty basic human nature to want to control. It seems that the new atheists decree that religion should be got rid of is sort of like presuming to be a gardener and planning to get rid of all the dandelions by chopping off their heads. It never gets rid of the root problem, which is human nature. Similarly, the desire to control can bloom and act out in any area of power, such as a dictatorship or in a faith. Our nature is made to survive, but we also have vices and problems that come out of that. The desire to control mayspring from insecurity, and we all have that. Thanks.

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