Narcissism and Religion: A Perfect Match
“I would hate to have friends over, especially around dinner time. Before every meal my father would preach to us. This wasn’t simply the saying of Grace. He would go on a tirade for ten minutes and this ranting would always include a request for God to show my mother the error of her ways.”- D. Muniz
This ‘religious’ theme in Narcissism comes up a lot. I am often surprised by the copious amounts of messages I receive on the subject. While they may seem like opposite ends of the spectrum, it does seem that religion and Narcissism really are a perfect match, but why is that?
“In order to find his equal, an Irishman is forced to talk to God.” – Line from the movie Braveheart
Let’s look at two fundamental characteristics of Narcissism, as outlined in the DSM IV:
•They have a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
•They believe that they are “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
Religion can be appealing to a Narcissist for a number of reasons. As a preacher a Narcissist would have followers, power, attention, admiration, importance in the community, special privileges and their behavior would be above reproach. You don’t have to look very far to see Narcissistic leaders in action. There’s a long list of insane cult leaders, including, David Koresh in Waco Texas, or Jim Jones, in Jonestown, who forced his followers to drink Kool Aid laced with cyanide, Osama Bin Laden, and all those creepy 70 year old polygamists, who marry 14 year old girls. Narcissism can easily be found in the clergy, preaching in religious establishment around the world and you can even find it when you turn on your television on Sunday mornings.
I am not saying that all religious leaders are Narcissists and I’m certainly not saying that all religious Narcissists strive to be preachers, but there is something very alluring about religion to a Narcissist.
For a Narcissist, it’s all about the allusion. If I am religious – if I can quote scripture – than I must be good – because people that read the bible are all good and if I am good and I know the word of God, that means that if you disagree with me, then you must be wrong.
Narcissists can be exceedingly charming as well. Their charisma and ability to manipulate is perfectly suited to a public occupation, bent on luring the masses.
The difference is that every truly great spiritual preacher has an innate ability to provide a scenario, which we can all relate to, which provides us with valuable life lessons, that we can incorporate into our daily lives – they are teachers, showing us how to grow and be better.
A Narcissist that quotes scripture, in contrast, uses it for very different reasons. It’s never used for the purpose of spiritual teaching, it’s used to manipulate and prove that they themselves are righteous and that you, who are not as special, not as gifted and not as deserving, should follow and trust them.
I’m sure that there are some Narcissists that do feel lost and go in search of God, but due to the nature of their impairment, the true essence of spirituality will always elude them.
We all know people that go to church every Sunday, but who in their everyday lives, are absolutely horrible people. These truly superficial individuals only care about how they are perceived and miss the message entirely.
My Grandfather was a very religious man. He even had a book published on religion and children. I almost go into a hysterical fit when I think of the vein, cruel little man that cheated on his wife and terrorized his entire family. He was a monster and damaged my mother, who in turn passed that damage onto me, but he wrote books on God and children – it’s almost comical.
Beware the Wolf
The very last Narcissist I dated was a boomerang-somatic Narcissist. After I ended my involvement with him, for the third time, he informed me that he had found God. He went to church every Sunday quite faithfully. He studied the Bible and even had scripture tattooed on his biceps. The only problem with that, was that his behavior hadn’t changed one iota.
Imagine how reassuring and disarming it would be for a new target, that the man that was sweeping her off her feet was religious. Quoting scripture and acting righteous are behaviors that easily evoke trust in others, because most of us still believe that religious people are generally good and trustworthy and behave in a moral and kind manner.
What his new target won’t realize, until it’s too late, is that these tattoos are just part of his costume, his façade, that is meant to fool and lull you into lowering your defenses.
For me, religion isn’t the same thing as spirituality. Religion is man-made. It is not about God, it’s open to interpretation, wars have been fought in its name, people have been put to death because of it. Religion excludes people, it makes us all believe that we are separate – where spirituality is inclusive – no one is left out, it brings us together and makes us all believe that we are one.
It baffles me sometimes when I watch the way that seemingly “religious” people treat others. To me, being spiritual is just about being kind and kind to everyone, even if they don’t look like you, or believe what you believe. It’s about walking the walk of your convictions, because all talk – especially religious talk, is cheap.
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